Focusing on the relationship with your new boss–from the
start–is key to long-term success. If you’ve never done it before,
giving your boss feedback can be nervewracking. Still, many, if not
most strong relationships are based on openly sharing advice and input.
That kind of communication relationship weathers the storms of personal
disagreement and corporate difficulty. So here are four tips for
building a relationship with feedback and advice at the center.
- Start early. Most new bosses try to have
one-on-ones early in their tenure. Pay close attention to her input,
guaging her willingness to listen and openness to relationships. Be
attentive to the smallest hints of concern that she may voice. Make a
few comments and ask a few questions that telegraph your desire for a
relationship and willingness to give unsolicited input. Research
clearly reports that your ability to enhance the ego of your boss is a
key success factor.
- Determine her willingness to listen. Since silence
is open to many interpretations and meanings, define early on how your
boss uses silence. Is she paying attention to what others are saying,
formulating her own response, accepting or rejecting ideas? Keys to a
real listener include her use of questions, definition of terms,
clarification of input, as well as summary application of a speaker’s
insights. Pay close attention to her “turn-taking” skills. Does she
talk, listen intently with silence, talk again, listen more with
questioning? If not, be wary and very carefully filter your messages to
her respectfully, always assessing her response until you get a better
handle on her expectations and liking.
- Schedule your feedback. Always set up the meeting
with your new boss. And do it within the first four to six weeks of her
tenure. Tell her that you’ve got a couple important issues you’d like
to talk about. Be ready to give and explain a very positive
contribution she’s making to the organization. Detail it’s success.
Then suggest one change or new action that would make her more
successful. Explain your rationale, give an example, and suggest the
positive consequence. Never, never take her by surprise until she lets
you know that she’s comfortable with “walk-ins.”
- Gauge her reactions. Contrary to conventional
wisdom, the best of us are more often wrong than right when it comes to
assessing a person’s reactions. So pay close attention to how she goes
about problem solving and making decisions. How much info does she
need? Listen to assess her ability to determine the consequences of her
behaviors. And pay attention especially to her self-awareness. Can she
admit error, talk about her thinking and laugh at herself. And after
you’ve dished out positive and negative feedback, check in by
occasionally asking, “Does this make sense?” Or, “Did that work?”
The majority of bosses are completely lacking in both interactional
skills and self-awareness. That’s neither condemnation of bosses nor of
business/technical education. Relationship skills were not required in
the 20th century industrial economy. Indeed, giving and following
orders in a controlled environment required little relationship
intentionality. In the New, Global Economy relationship skills are the
ultimate distinguishing characteristic of the successful. Technology,
the so-called hard science is rather easy to learn especially because it
is largely controllable and predictable. In contrast, many struggle to
learn the so-called soft power skills where the ability to control and
predict consequences is far more difficult. Even today, few business and
technical colleges and universities are up to the demands of the world
environment. And you’ll often find, much to your dismay, that many
managers and execs are clueless. So be wary as you go about managing
your boss. But don’t fail to do it.
Relationship building is never an event, but a long-term campaign.
It can be costly, but as I’ve emphasized in an earlier blog on managing your boss, it’ll also provide job opportunities, resources, links to the rest of the organization, and often a very good raise.