When YOU’RE the New Boss: Keys to Starting on the Right Foot

It’s important to start off on the right foot with a new boss.

And if you’re that new boss, it’s up to you (at least in part) to make the inroads to getting to know your team.

First impressions count—but you’ve been up to your eyeballs in figuring out your new job, meeting other higher-ups, and sorting through the mass of paperwork left by your predecessor.

Happy business colleagues sitting together at meeting in boardroSo how to break the ice early on, while you’re swamped with other also-important work?

There are a few things you can do that will make an enormous impact on your employee relationships—and they’re pretty easy to do.

Keep a smile on your face.

Or at least remove the frown. “Recognize that people do draw some impressions about you pretty quickly,” says Karen Dillon, coauthor of the HBR Guide to Office Politics. And it’s on you to make sure those first impressions are positive.

Your team is just as busy working as you are, so there’s no need to put a pouty face on even when you’re juggling a lot.

Not to mention, your positivity will spread. Showing on-the-job enthusiasm can be contagious.

Buy a “welcome” lunch.

If that could hit your budget too hard, buy coffee, or pretzels or donuts at for a mid-afternoon snack. Put it in a place where employees congregate (i.e., not your office) so they can nosh with ease.

Any new boss who helps get rid of the 3 p.m. munchies will be revered.

Don’t just focus on what you need.

Put yourself in your employees’ shoes, advises Michael Watkins, chair of Genesis Advisors and author of The First 90 Days. “Ask yourself, ‘How can I help them get up to speed faster?’”

Better yet, make it a point to ask your employees. You might be surprised when your employees tell you no one ever asked them directly what they need to do their jobs better. They could bring your attention to an ongoing need or concern they’ve been working around that could really change how well they work.

Showing that you’re aware of their needs and can help secure them goes a long way in establishing trust.

Look for common ground.
Try to find out a little bit about who your people are, their interests, and their track record, says Watkins. Peruse social media for their profiles (even if you don’t “friend” them), or take a peek at their work areas.

Common interests like a favorite sports team, travel, or hobbies are perfect ice breakers, obviously. But exploring some deeper connections—such as sharing the same hometown, having elderly parents you’re caring for, raising teenagers—can be the glue that helps you mold lasting relationships.

Employees might be wary at first, but establishing a common bond—no matter how small—can make a huge impact on how employees approach you.

Share your (favorite) communication style.
Let employees know your preferred method of communication for different types of issues. And give them time to adjust; if the former manager was strictly email, your phone calls and pop-bys might put them off, at first.

By being up-front about how you like to communicate, and being flexible to accommodate their preferences, you’ll win favor and encourage open lines.

And What to Avoid at All Costs…

Don’t lay it on too thick.
Employees will be able to see through a new manager’s excessive boasting or kissing up pretty quickly, and you run the risk of looking fake. And once employees get that impression it might never fade.

“Don’t try too hard to curry favor [with employees] immediately,” says Watkins. “But [don’t] stay in the background either.”

Your eagerness to make an impression should be to show active interest in your employees and a desire to get along — but don’t go overboard.

You’re in charge now, so don’t be shy about taking the first step in establishing “new-boss” goodwill.

Is there one piece of advice you followed when you became a manager? Share in our comments section!