A manager writes:

I am a senior director with just a few years to go to retirement at a large organization.  The organization recently merged with another smaller organization offering the same services. The director of that organization initially reported to me. Then, when our CEO retired, the director was promoted to become the new CEO.

While the new CEO knows a lot about the services we provide, he has little experience at this scale of operation, and is using the leadership practices he found effective in the smaller organization where he didn’t have a senior management team. In the interest of being ‘open and transparent’, he is now directly engaging with the managers who report to me, which sometimes undermines my role. Recently, for example, he responded to a suggestion communicated by one of my managers in a ‘reply all’ e-mail by saying it was a ‘great idea’. Had he consulted with me first, he would have learned there were problems with the suggestion. I don’t want his job, but I don’t want him to do mine. Suggestions please.

Answer:

Managing your boss is a bit like dancing; let him know when he steps on your toes. It is best to handle this promptly but without frustration or anger. Take it as a learning experience for your new boss and for your team.

Manage your boss

Meet with your boss to thank him for his interest, and to inform him of your concerns with the suggestion made by your manager. Let him know you will be discussing the suggestion with your team, and that you will update him after your team meeting.

Manage your staff

Meet with your managers to discuss the recent communication, and pros and cons of the specific suggestion. Reinforce with your managers the communication protocols that have worked well for you up to now, and that your expectations are to keep them in place.

Now, consider how to approach this in the long-term

You say you don’t want him to do your job. There are a few reasons for his behaviour you might consider rather than immediately settling on one: It may be you are right he has a leadership style more suited to a smaller organization, or it might be he is not getting the information he needs from you in a timely way, or it might be he is unsure of the requirements in his new role, and he is defaulting to what is most comfortable for him.

I suggest the following:

In your next discussion with him, focus on his key responsibilities by asking him what his specific goals are over the next period of time, discuss the priorities and risks of these, and suggest what you and your team can contribute. Importantly, let him know how your team works together and the protocols you use to communicate with each other.

Hopefully this exchange will help to draw the boundary between your respective responsibilities and styles. While you have a responsibility to respect and help your boss, he has the corresponding responsibility to respect your role as well.

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