Building relationships and establishing trust are key elements to success in any organization, especially for recent grads. One of the most important relationships to build is the one with your manager. Often in the haste to get into the task at hand, learn the job and meet the other folks in the workplace we overlook this important career-launching step.
Like any personal partnership, the relationship with your manager is about mutually meeting one another’s needs. And, like any other relationship, it will start out with a rosy glow and become tested as stress, pressure and human nature intervene.
It might also be complicated. Working for someone significantly older, not located with you or from a different culture might be intimidating. That’s even more reason to make relationship building a high priority. A good understanding of each other will help you weather the inevitable, and improve the quality of your work life.
Here are some ideas to get started:
1. Understand what his assets are.
Get a sense for what your boss brings to the table and how you complement one another. Discuss your respective strengths. Know where you have overlap, and allow him to see where you bring strong points that could be helpful to him.
2. Know her goals.
Your job is to make your boss wildly successful. Make it your mission to know her goals and how her performance is measured. Key in on the most important deliverables she needs and expects from you in order to achieve those goals.
3. Clarify how she wants to receive information.
How does she want to get information from you? Does she want to know the bottom line up front, or does she want to check your math? Does she want spreadsheets or slides, in a binder or as an email attachment? Does she want it two weeks before the deadline or the day prior?
Knowing how and when you’ll need to provide information sets expectations up front that will keep you from being (unpleasantly) surprised later.
4. Set up regular meetings.
Figure out how and how often you and your manager will meet. Will communication be face to face, phone, Skype or email? Advocate for a weekly touch base (in person if possible) for getting feedback and making course corrections. You can meet less frequently, and virtually, as you gain more experience.
6. Discuss how you’ll make decisions.
Clarify who makes decisions, and what the process is. What decisions will you make, and in which does your manager need to be involved? What data do you need to provide in advance of those decisions? Is he quick to make decisions or does he analyze excessively before committing? This will help you avoid making any wrong assumptions as you are starting out.
7. Talk about your working styles.
A typology assessment (such as Myers-Briggs) could be helpful in understanding how you each prefer to work. You may also want to discuss social styles, communication styles and how you’re going to handle conflict. What about stress? Is he an exploder, or does he simmer?
Is he a micro-manager or will he under supervise? Does he work nights and weekends and expect you to as well?
All of this will help you understand your boss’s idiosyncrasies (and vice versa) so you aren’t thrown off course wondering why he acts the way he does. And, you’ll be less likely to take style differences personally.
8. Get to know them as a person.
I’m not advising you to become best buds with your boss. But learning who they are, where they came from and what experiences shaped them can be helpful. It’s through conversations such as these that we build meaningful relationships so that we can communicate openly and work effectively with one another.