How new managers become successful managers

Sample Chapter

Chapter 13

How To Select Your New Boss

A four pronged boss selection strategy

Have you had an experience where you found out after starting in a new role that your boss was not all that you thought he or she might be? Or maybe you are in the process of applying for a new job right now? (Probably not a good idea to show this chapter to your current boss!)


Jane’s new boss


Jane had been out of the country for over a year and returned home to start a new job as a physiotherapist in a family run business. She was excited about the new role as the husband and wife team who ran the practice had been asking her for some time to join them as a full time employee.


During the first week, Jane did not have as many patients as the other physiotherapists, so she was asked to work less hours. This seemed fair as it does take time to build a personal clientele. However in her second week, it became obvious that Jane’s expected full time job was to be part time. Her bosses were setting her up to work part time hours. She also started to get a bit uneasy about her new boss’ management styles. Firstly they seemed unwilling to talk about her hours. Then, she found her patient files had been examined without asking her, nor had she been given any subsequent feedback, either positive or negative. Jane is someone who likes to be involved and communicated with. Her ideal job had started to lose its shine.


When applying for a new job, you are rightly concerned about putting your best foot forward and making sure that you are selected. However, sometimes we neglect the fact that selection is a two way street – they select you as an employee and you select them as an employer.


How desperate are you for a job? Even if you are desperate now, is a job with a bad boss better than waiting and working through more interviews until you find the right boss? After all, if you accept an offer of a job with a bad boss, statistics tell us you will soon resign.


At the time of writing, the employment market currently favours the employee, so you have a great many options open to you. Take your time. At the end of this chapter, there is a comprehensive checklist to assist in your selection process.


Unfortunately, the consequences of not selecting the right boss only become obvious once you are in the new role. My research clearly shows that people rarely leave an organisation, they leave a boss. It is therefore vital that when you apply for a position, you not only look at the organisation and the role, but you also interview your boss with as much thoroughness as he or she interviews you.

How do you interview your prospective boss, particularly when the focus of the employment interview is the other way round?


1. Decide on your selection criteria


Well, before you even get to the interview, it’s very useful to jot down what your selection criteria are for an effective boss. You should do this in much the same way as you would if you were a manager selecting a new employee.


When you have drawn up your selection criteria, place them in priority order. This is so that you can make a sound and realistic assessment of your potential boss’ ability to manage you in the style which best suits you.


Once you are clear on your criteria, weave them into the selection interview.


2. Look for clues during the interview


You may get some idea of how your future boss operates by the way the interview is conducted. For example, how comfortable did you feel during the interview? What impression did he / she make on you?


3. Find out what your prospective boss’ ideal employee looks like


When the interview gets to the “Do you have any questions?” stage, here are some questions you might like to ask. The aim here is to get him/her to describe their ideal employee to you.


For example, you might ask; “You’ve probably had some very good employees working for you. What is it about them that made them so good?” Of course, you can also ask about his or her poor employees as well. Put the two together and you now have a very good description of what your prospective boss might call “ideal”.


The answers the boss gives will be about the things he or she looks for and how they judge their employees. Most importantly, their answers will show how he or she manages their employees. Look for signs during their answers that tell you about your selection criteria, such as autonomy, responsibility, initiative, communication and so on.


4. Assess your prospective boss against your selection criteria


You should have a question ready for at least each of your three most important selection criteria. For example, if “autonomy” is a key need for you, your question may be something like “Autonomy is important to me as I find it very motivating. Can you please give me an example of how you manage the level of autonomy you give your people?” Or perhaps if “training” is important for you, your question might be ”I like to learn as much as I can about the job and the organisation. Can you please give me an example of the training or coaching you provide for your people?”


In all of your boss selection questions, keep asking for examples to illustrate. Examples describe what the boss does and says with his/her employees. With enough examples, you can develop a very good idea of your prospective boss’ management style.


Finally, if your interview throws up some doubts in your mind about the prospect of a positive relationship with your prospective boss, my advice would be to “pass” on this role and look for another opportunity. Try not to become too seduced by the excitement of the role, the salary or the conditions. Ultimately, all of these will pale by comparison with the ongoing relationship you have with your boss.


Keep in mind that it’s a selection interview – for both of you.


HOW TO IMPLEMENT THE IDEAS IN THIS CHAPTER

How to select your new boss


Steps to take . . . Ideas to consider . . .


1. Decide on your Boss Selection Criteria


  • Think back to previous good bosses that you have had. What made them good for you?
  • Conversely, think of the reasons why some previous bosses have not been so good. Avoid these at all costs.
  • How much autonomy do you like in your job?
  • How much feedback do you like to get about your performance? How do you like this feedback given?
  • How much responsibility do you like to be given?
  • Are you a very practical person, or more creative? How should your boss manage this?
  • How do you like to be trained and coached?
  • How do you like your boss to communicate with you?
  • Finally, place your criteria in priority order.

2. Look for clues during the interview


  • Did it start and finish on time? Is this important to you?
  • How courteous was your prospective boss? Did this have an impact on you?
  • Did he/she allow you the opportunity to put your point without talking over the top of you? How well listened to did you feel?
  • Did he/she discuss examples of previous employees in a confidential manner?
  • Did he/she explain the performance requirements of the role? Did you gain a very clear idea of what will be expected of you in the role?
  • Was the room layout formal or informal? Did this matter to you?
  • Finally, from the examples and explanations given, what management style do you believe your prospective boss has? Does this match your ideal?

3. Find out what your prospective boss’ ideal employee looks like


  • Ask “Can you tell me about some of the better employees you have had? What made them so good?”, or
  • What do you look for in an employee?”

4. Assess your prospective boss against your selection criteria


  • Make sure you have three questions that relate directly to your selection criteria.
  • Also make sure to ask for examples that relate to your selection criteria.
  • After the interview, assess your prospective boss’ responses against your selection criteria.

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