How to make a good first impression
This question has come up more frequently than any other lately, so I thought I would address it here on my blog.
When you meet your new boss for the first time, it’s good to have a plan.
First think about what you are trying to accomplish.
Here’s a list to get you started:
- Stand out
- Don’t be annoying
- Be helpful
- Be welcome for the next meeting
Your first meeting should not be to tell them about everything you and your team do, want and need.
Think about how your new boss feels in this moment.
Start by putting yourself in their position.
How would you feel if you were new in this job, meeting dozens if not hundreds of people, trying to learn what you need to learn as fast as possible, and trying to share your point of view in a credible way?
What would be most useful to you, and What would be most annoying to you?
It’s important to remember that your meeting and conversation is one of a gazillion that he or she will be having while coming up to speed. And it’s also important to remember your boss is a human, who is probably tired, stressed and also trying to make a good impression.
DO’s and DONT’s
First, here are some DONT’s:
Don’t: Provide a long anything. Long meetings, long descriptions, long documents. It’s exhausting and not useful. Your story is only important to you in this moment. Don’t share too much.
Don’t: Make urgent requests or demands. They just walked in the door. It’s not the time to ask for stuff.
Don’t: Insist they explain their thoughts or strategies if they are not ready. Let them share as much as they want, but don’t push them for more information in the first meeting.
(By the way, I’ve had people do all of these things when meeting me as their boss for the first time. It was indeed annoying, and not useful.)
Here are some DO’s:
Here are DO’s to help you stand out in a positive way and add some value in that first meeting.
Be well informed
Don’t go to this first meeting without doing some homework.
Never ask your new boss for information about them that is readily available online. That is just wasting their time.
Do your best to learn what is important to your new boss before the meeting and use that as the context for everything you say.
Ask their assistant, ask others who have talked to them. Look online to learn their key accomplishments, and opinions and see if there are common themes they have written about.
Now you’ve already got some information from having done your homework, but it’s also good to ask them about their plans and thoughts.
Ask, “What are you thinking is most important right now for moving the business forward? What are the biggest issues you see? What are the most important things that need your team to understand right now?”
If they are ready to talk about it, ask good questions but resist the urge to voice any disagreements in this first meeting. Resist the urge to tell them everything that you know.
This first meeting is about building rapport.
If you have concerns about what you are hearing, take notes, then go away and think about how you want to react or respond. But don’t do it in this first meeting, just listen.
Share your information efficiently – Translate
Once you know what is important to them, from your homework and your initial conversation, then you can translate how you talk about your work and your role to connect to something that is important to them.
For example, if you learn that they are driving to improve profit margins in the legacy business in parallel with a specific, innovative new investment service quality, tune everything you say to be part of one of those things.
Whether you are in Marketing, R&D, Supply Chain management, Sales, Finance…
Whatever your function, your story about what your team does should have the frame of the business drivers your new boss cares about.
What you share should not be a list of things in your function, full of your project names, jargon and acronyms. In this example what ever you say about your work should have the frame of improving profit margins on legacy or supporting the new investment.
And make sure to be brief!
Whatever you share, put it on one page. The time it takes to thoughtfully turn a huge pile of information into one page will be very worth it.
Don’t add weight
(Don’t give your new boss problems or questions in the first meeting)
If you have been anxiously waiting for your new boss to arrive to make decisions or resource approvals, don’t use this first meeting to ask.
The goal of this first meeting, like any other first networking meeting is to get invited back for another meeting.
If you start asking for things in the first meeting you are adding weight to the load your new boss is already carrying, which is heavy by definition.
You are much better off to share your plans in an inspiring way, translated and connected to the initiatives they already know about and care about. Then ask if you can have another meeting to discuss key elements of your plan later.
A wise mentor of mine taught me, you need to have the first meeting before you have the second meeting.
Unless your new boss asks you in that first meeting, “Is there anything specific that you need from me?”, don’t start asking in the first meeting.
(take weight away)
Offer to help. You can ask, “As you start this new role is there anything I can do to help you? Is there information I can collect for you? Are there any tasks that I can take off your plate?”
If you make your first impression as someone who is well informed, is already investing energy in the initiatives your new boss cares about because you talked about your work with the right frame, and offer to help, instead of giving them extra work, you will be seen as someone who doesn’t add weight. You’ll be seen as someone who takes weight away.
And as someone who doesn’t add weight, you will be invited back. You will stand out. You will be someone your new boss has time for.
MASTERING EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS
If you would like to get some specific strategies, scripts and templates for communicating effectively with executives, (your boss and others) you can check out my Executive Playbook on Mastering Executive Communications.
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It’s part of my Professional Development Program, The Executive Mentoring Group, but this Playbook you can get for free.
I wanted to offer this one Playbook at no cost to everyone because it is such an important topic, and because getting it right or wrong can have such a big impact on your success.
This playbook is part of a Free Trial to My Executive Mentoring Group. This is a great time to start the free trial if you are interested in this topic because the current playbook this month which is also included in the trial is on Managing Your Boss.
You’ll get important insights, along with pracitcal tools and scripts to make a good impression right away, and to manage this important relationship in your career growth.
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)