Imagine this. Your organization is undergoing a transition. There are new goals, new infrastructure, and new people. A significant change is that your team merges with another to form a distinct business vertical. The outcome: you have two managers now. One of them is fresh to the organization itself, and the other you know of, but haven’t worked with directly. Your challenge: to build a good relationship with both these managers soon.

How do you make this happen?

According to Karen Dillon, co-author of Competing Against Luck, “Recognize that people draw impressions about you pretty quickly. And it’s on you to make sure those first impressions are positive.” Taking this further, Michael Watkins, chair of Genesis Advisors recommends asking ‘How can I help them get up to speed faster?’

Here are three core practices for you to bank upon.

  • Seek interesting commonalities. Robert Cialdini, famed psychologist, says, finding common areas of interest or skills with people serves a powerful psychological purpose, and creates trust instantly. Sharing information about ourselves, a practice called self-disclosure, is reciprocal. And building this foundation with your manager is beneficial. The way to take this to the next level – make it interesting. Both of you may enjoy running. But do you have a memorable marathon story? Or running for a cause? That’ll stick!
  • Learn their communication style. Some managers like meetings documented. Some prefer connecting over calls. Others prefer multiple in-person check-ins through the day. When you ask them about their communication preferences and work around it, the message you send out is that you want to be effective. Knowing this information will help you avoid misunderstandings that could complicate your work. However, be aware of your boundaries too, like not being comfortable with work calls post 9 PM!
  • Offer solutions readily. A manager is, of course brought in to lead. But when new, it’s overwhelming for them too. Instead of listing your concerns and challenges from the start, take on the approach of helping them. You can even offer to take something off their plate, which will give you the opportunity to showcase your work. It’s those interactions that will leave a lasting impression, says Watkins. “When you can help accelerate their learning process, help shape their strategy and goals, it positions you favorably.”

In her book, Karen Dillion shares one of the most impactful interactions she had with a new team member. “Because I had met so many people that day, Cheryl just handed me a gist of her résumé and said, ‘I just want you to know a little bit about my background. Read it at your convenience. When you’re ready, I look forward to talking to you about how we work together.’” The recommendation here – though they hold crucial roles, managers are as human as anyone else. Having a little empathy for their transition goes a long way in building a reciprocal relationship with them.

What’s your preferred way of building work relationships?

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