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Nurse Leader One of my professional colleagues called me recently to discuss what she described as a personally challenging situation.  She is a senior director over several departments in a large medical center.  Her Chief Nursing Officer had recently retired and was replaced by a new leader with a totally different style and approach.  “I am having problems adjusting” she confessed.  “Things were so easy in terms of my relationship with my boss and now they are not.”  She reported that she was not the only one experiencing these new challenges but had begun to wonder if it might be time to seek another position.

This nurse leader’s dilemma is not an uncommon one.  Most nurses and nurse leaders confront a situation like this at some point in their career.  The higher that you move in any organization, the more likely it is that you will experience it. Managing yourself well in this situation is very important.

1.  Be Realistic

Working with a new Boss can be challenging.  It can feel like you are starting over.  Most new leaders come into organizations with their own ideas and vision about what they would like to accomplish.  Some new executive nurse leaders may also have received specific direction from other leaders in the C-suite about things that are working and what is not.

2.  Shift Your Mindset

You have to shift your thinking and realize that you are now dealing with a new person.  If you had a strong relationship with your old boss, there is a tendency to compare.  You need to recognize you are now dealing with a different person whose work style and personality may be considerably different from what you have been used to in the past.  View the transition as simply another professional challenge. Your ability to accept it, better yet, to make the most of it, will enable you to stand out.

  1. Be Proactive in Setting Up a Meeting to Discuss Expectations

Your new leader may schedule a meeting to share information and set mutual expectations.  But if this does not happen, take the initiative to ask for such a meeting if necessary. It can be helpful helpful to find out if an incoming leader has different goals for a department or for your role.  Clarifying expectations about communication is important including your new leader’s preferred communication style (email, phone, in person, text).  Don’t be distressed if projects that your last leader viewed as high priority may have suddenly lost their urgency. This often happens with a leadership change.

4.  Monitor Your Own Reactions

Robert Half, an expert in Human Resource Management, advises that you keep in mind that the success and quality of the relationship is heavily dependent on your own mindset and actions. If you’re welcoming and supportive, you’ll set the stage for a positive and productive partnership one that can be instrumental in helping you achieve your long-term professional goals.

There will be situations that despite all your best efforts, the chemistry is not good and your relationship with your new leader hinders your ability to be effective.  Sometimes, new leaders have a strong desire to bring in new blood into the organization or colleagues that they have worked with in the past.  If this happens, you need to be wise enough to know when it could be in your best interest to seek other professional opportunities.

In most cases, working with new leaders presents more promise than anguish. If they’re reasonable and you’re willing to adapt to the new situation, there’s no reason that your ability to contribute and thrive in your position might be even stronger than with your previous leader.


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