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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

February 23, 2017

My company just hired a new GC. What can I do to make sure that I get off to a great start with my new boss?

Julie Q. Brush

When a new sheriff comes to town, it creates an air of mystery as well as anxiety among the town’s inhabitants. Who is this person? What kind of manager is this person? What is s/he like? Will I like my new boss? Will s/he like me? What will I need to do to succeed? Regardless of your current state of emotion, wanting to be proactive to ensure you get off to a good start with your new boss is the right instinct. The first thing of which to be mindful is that your new GC will be overloaded and crazed starting Day 1 of his/her tenure. So bear this in mind as you kick things off. Below are my suggestions to guarantee your best start:

Send a Welcome Message.

Sometimes GC candidates will meet with the current legal team in the interview process…sometimes not. But once your new boss is on board, the first thing you’ll want to do is send a brief note introducing (or reintroducing) yourself as well as extending your welcome to the team. This is a thoughtful gesture that will make a lasting impression and start the relationship out on a positive note. Below is an example:

• Hi Susan, Welcome to Company X! I wanted to reach out to welcome you to the company and let you know that I’m looking forward to working with you. I joined the Company X two years ago and work in the commercial group as a key partner for the sales organization. As you get settled, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. All the best, Laura Smithly

Provide The Lay of The Land.

No matter how prepared a new GC may think s/he is, nothing is more valuable than learning the lay of the land from the people already residing on the land. So upon your first meeting, come prepared to provide the GC with information about the department/organization that you believe to be valuable. This is easier said than done – as you do not want to be perceived as negative, a busybody or a gossip. So take the time to assess what is essential.

Work Hard.

It’s a given…or at least it should be. But now’s the time to turn on the afterburners on your work quality, responsiveness and attitude. You will have one chance to make a first impression and how you are perceived in these upcoming months will set the tone for the rest of your career at this company. So make the effort to work as hard as you can and excel in all of these areas.

Be Reliable.

It’s one of the most underappreciated qualities out there. And also a quality that very few professionals possess comprehensively. So when you do encounter such persons upon whom you can rely…to do what they say they are going to do, do something well, do something on time, be on time, be accountable, go the extra mile etc. you can bet they will be a success. So be that person. Demonstrate your reliability and you’ll reach the front of the line.

Be Positive.

While this may be a stressful time for you, it’s also a stressful time for your boss. And employees who are high maintenance, complainers or pills will not go over well at this time. People like being around people who are “up” – especially during busy or stressful times. So be positive and exude a can-do attitude and you’ll start things off on the right foot. It’s a good rule to live by anyway – new boss or not.

Make His/Her Life Easier.

To say that your new boss is busy is an understatement. S/he is trying to master a steep learning curve while being pulled in 100 directions. So do anything and everything you can to make his/her life easier. And proactively offer to do so. Volunteer for projects, make sure your work is completed on time, provide extra insight and information that would be helpful, find the answers to your own questions (i.e. don’t inundate your boss with endless questions without trying to solve your problem first), go the extra mile. Whatever you can do to help…do it. Once your boss gets acclimated, things will settle down. But your efforts now will pay dividends later.

Read The Tea Leaves.

Some people call it emotional intelligence. Some call it intuition. Whatever you want to call it, it is important to sharpen your antennas and notice what’s going on around you as your new GC kicks into gear. That will help you react and respond appropriately. Is s/he behind a closed door? Irritated? Stressed? Micromanaging? Asking for help? Needing a favor? Inquiring about lunch companions? As you read the tea leaves, determine whether certain actions are or are not wise and use good judgment with your actions.

Generally speaking, people do not like change – and resist it in one form or another. Enter a new GC and your work environment suddenly changes in a big way and becomes more complex. With so much on the line, getting off to a good start is imperative if you want a good working relationship and a continued opportunity for career success. The first several months will be crunch time to achieve what you seek. So during this time, follow my lead and I guarantee you won’t only be off to a good start…you’ll reach the best of finishes.

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