How to hit it off with your leader… Five tips on creating great working relationships.
Updated: Sep 5
I've missed using this forum to share the last three months, while it simply was not my intention to keep my fingers away from my blog so long, a line from Viola Davis' memoir- Finding Me soothes my neglect, "while you are living, life happens'. And boy, does life happen. I changed jobs in March :-). Long story short, after being off on vacation in October of last year, I knew I needed a change, I needed better systems, process, and leadership. I started a new job at the beginning of March and went back into office after two years of working from home. I lamented and gave myself anxiety about having to go back to office for an entire week before I started, funny thing is - I absolutely love it. I really do enjoy going back in, getting dressed and wearing some form of make up (eyebrows and lipstick) on the daily, chatting with co-workers and having face to face meetings! Who would have thought? So - between getting into a new routine to be back in office, learning the nuances of the new role, getting back to the gym - I have missed this space.
I did not have the best experience towards the end of my tenure at my last job, most of it was directly related to the management/leadership style of my direct head, brilliant human, but new to leadership and managing a team. True to my nature, I needed to identify techniques on how I could have managed the relationship better and take that insight into my new role.
I discussed the challenges in detail with my professional mentor at the time who provided great advise, I also went a bit further and scheduled four counselling sessions to gain a different perspective to guide me through.
Here’s what I learned and have put into practice since March:
1. Tame your expectations!
We often go into companies and expect things to be a certain way, people to behave how we think they should and our leaders to live up to our ideals. When things fail to meet our perceived expectations, we get disappointed and react accordingly. In setting our expectations and not having them met, we shut ourselves out of the actual experience and miss the lessons and the opportunities of what is.
We all have expectations, tied to our value systems which is normal, however ensure they are not rigidly set that we are unable to appreciate the culture of what we stepped into because it does not look like what we thought it would have been.
2. Listen and Observe more than you speak.
Stepping into a new role often is accompanied by anxiety. We’re anxious to make our mark and get things done! Of course, we should be, but we’re not necessarily Christine Columbus and the company has managed to be in existence before our arrival so, take time to listen and observe keenly the internal processes and the culture. Listen to your co-workers and your leader and pay attention to the items emphasis is placed on. Where there are gaps make notes to discuss them with your leader at the opportune time when your feed back is requested.
3. Be adaptable and Flexible
Companies are dynamic and every organization will do things differently. That does not make one better than the other. Be adaptable to do things in different ways than you are used too. Try not to compare your last company with your new one especially openly. P.S let’s break the culture of ‘Where I am coming from…..’
4. Set and enforce your boundaries early.
I know this is a tough one, we want to be perceived as the workaholic – I can get everything done- call me anytime newbie. If you know that won’t last after probation, do not do it. It will make your work life more difficult later and lead to unsustainable habits which can cause burn out. Establish clear boundaries from the onset. Try to ensure habits you display at the start of your new role are sustainable throughout your tenure.
5. Continuously seek feedback from your leader - This is a game changer!
You are the most significant factor in your success; however your leaders’ input will grant you opportunities within the company perhaps difficult to accomplish on your own. Regularly schedule sessions with your leader to seek feedback on the areas you are doing well and on those you require improvement. Together with your leader create an action plan to work on your short comings using SMART goals. Offer genuine feedback if requested.
It can be daunting to find great leaders especially in cultures that promote individuals based on technical abilities and not necessarily soft skills, i.e, our culture values IQ over EQ. While some companies are realizing the shortcomings of this and are actively pursuing techniques to improve the quality of their leaders, in the interim I urge you to use these strategies to forge a dynamic and meaningful professional relationship with your current leader.