Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

So, You Got A New Manager

Office Space

In 20+ years, I’ve had well over 20 different managers. Some were for a few years. Some for a few days (seriously). I don’t remember when the “change” stopped impacting me. But, in the last 5 – 8 years I can’t recall ever being bothered by organizational change. I simply started to embrace and understand that the best organizations are always in a perpetual state of change.

While organization change has become as persistent as breathing air, how it manifests is quite different in every organization. Some organizations handle change with the same nonchalant behavior of shifting from heat to airconditioning based on the season. For other organizations, the change is as chaotic as recovering from your house being flooded.

Part of managing change is understanding what’s fixed, what’s variable, and what you can control. Over the years, I’ve found that my ability to recognize those classifications has helped me adapt to and navigate through change. The closest and most directly impactful element of change will be your new manager. I don’t have all the answers, but I have found that understanding the following, makes all the difference:

  • Priorities: Seems simple, but what are your manager’s priorities? What do they value? What “things”, projects, initiatives, etc. do they want to focus on? This is the starting point category for navigating the change. Why? Once you know the priorities, you can start to realign your work and your team’s work. You can start to think through your own organizational changes based on the priorities. It, all starts here.
  • Philosophy: I think when I usually hear the word, “philosophy” it comes across as nebulous, ambiguous, and simply not concrete. In this case, philosophy is very specific. What is your new manager’s philosophy? Do they value speed over quality? Do they believe in a centralization model or a hub and spoke model? How about insourcing or leveraging partners? What about multiple agencies or a single agency structure? Understanding the philosophy will help you understand why your new manager is making certain decisions, pushing hard on certain areas and punting on others.
  • Pace: How fast does your manager want to move? Are they of the “move fast and break things” mindset? Or are they of the “measure twice and cut once” mindset? Do they want you to take a hill and fill them in after the fact or do they want a detailed plan of how you’ll take the hill…and updates at each milestone? How much change do they want to take on today, tomorrow, in year 1, etc.? If you aren’t wired to understand the pace their setting, you can find yourself behind and underdelivering or ahead and creating alignment challenges.
  • Pulse: I intentionally listed this one last. Not because it lacks importance, but because if you don’t nail the other 3, this becomes semi-irrelevant. Simply put, how often should check-ins, 1:1s, and meetings take place…and…how will you know you’re on track, exceeding expectations or leaving a lot to be desired? One of the best managers and leaders I’ve ever worked for said, “the more senior you are in an organization, the less time you get with your manager”; she was spot on. It’s also why ensuring you have a clear understanding of the “pulse” is so critical. If you don’t understand how you’re performing and you aren’t interacting with the right cadence, it becomes nearly impossible to have a productive relationship.

I’m not saying or suggesting that the 4 P’s above are perfect or representative of everything you need to know and do when you have a new manager. However, I do believe that if you can have conversations that help you better understand your manager’s priorities, philosophy, pace and pule you’ll be far better positioned to be successful.