Diagnose your boss

It will help considerably to understand your boss’s personality type, especially if you know your own type, and have an understanding of how different personalities work together. There are lots of personality typing formulations, most of them based on the Jungian personality types (eg Myers-Briggs typology) but it’s not necessary to go into this level of detail about it. Basically, you just need to know the best way to deal with your boss to get the best from them. Try this simple summary of the most common personality types, and how they interact.

Work through your job description with your boss, watching and listening carefully for clues about how your boss operates. Is he a detail man, or does he operate in broad brushstrokes? Does she stick to a topic or go off on tangents? Is he practically-minded, dealing in realistic options? Is she an ideas person, using you as a sounding board? Does he have a theme or favourite project he constantly returns to?

Pay attention to how your boss takes on board information. Does she refer to data a lot, dealing in detailed spreadsheets and hefty reports? Does he sketch things out for you on a piece of paper? Is her mobile always ringing, and does she send you off to a lot of people to find things out? Does he keep detailed notes of your meetings?

Get to know your boss as a person – take time if the door is open to chat a little about her career history, her family, her interests and how she got to this point in her career.

How does your boss expect you to operate?

Work out what your boss values in an employee. She may expect you to be largely autonomous, or she may want to be kept in close touch with everything you do. She may like hierarchy observed, or she may want you to interact freely with her colleagues and seniors to get things done. She may like to see all your deliverables before you publish them, or be happy that you just get on and send them out.

What made you successful as a manager in your last employment was an alchemy of your abilities, the environment, your boss and your team. Don’t assume that those things will be the same here. Cultural mores and traditions may be wildly different in this new organisation, and part of your role is to manage down the potential irritations that may arise from these differences.

Understand the pressure points

It is useful to stand in your boss’s shoes for a while, and understand the pressures he or she faces. Ask for a copy of your boss’s professional objectives (there may be personal objectives, too, but you do not need to see these unless the boss particularly wants to share them with you) and ask the boss to walk through them with you. This will give you a good idea of the organisational pressure points this person must address, and what part your role and objectives play in this.