The conversation is the relationship.
~ Susan Scott in Fierce Conversations
At one point in my career, I worked for 4 different managers, at the same organization, in a span of 18 months. The first manager was terminated, and then my next manager retired. This was followed by a re-organization in the company. And then yet another re-organization that changed the reporting structure again. I ended up having 2 managers that I never did meet face-to-face; all of our conversations were over the phone or via email. (Keep in mind, this was before video conferencing was an option.) Change, at that organization, occurred at a dizzying pace; it was disorienting. I realize now, in the midst of all that change, I missed an opportunity make a connection with each of my new managers. Instead of waiting for each of them to reach out to establish the relationship, it would have benefited me to take action right away to learn more about them.
A client recently recommended a great book, Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott, that confirms the importance of connecting through the conversations that we have with each other. To quote the author, “The conversation is the relationship.” While I certainly had little control over who my manager was at that time, I definitely had a large part to play in establishing a solid relationship with that individual.
Recently, I found myself with yet another new manager. This time, I took the opportunity to connect with my new manager in the first one-on-one meeting by asking these 3 questions:
- What is one thing about you that would be helpful for me to know?
This could be anything – personal or professional – but the answer will provide some perspective on what is important to this individual. For example, how long has she been in her current role and what are the biggest obstacles she currently faces? Is she an avid Cubs fan? Does your new manager love to travel? Does he spend weekends volunteering in the community? Is he planning to retire in a month? At the very least, it will provide an opportunity for additional conversation in the future.
- What is your biggest professional pet peeve?
Again, the answer will be very specific to the individual, but what fantastic insight you’ll gain. And it may provide the opportunity to modify your own behavior in this area! Recently, a colleague commented that our manager was visibly irritated when my colleague interrupted her. When I said, ‘oh yeah, that’s one of her pet peeves,’ my colleague asked, ‘how did you know that?’ Because I asked her!
- What is your preferred communication method?
This is about efficiency. There are many methods to connect these days – email, cell phone, office phone, text, messenger, etc. A quick clarification will be very helpful for you to understand the best method of sharing information. This is especially advantageous when you consider the type of information you are sharing and the response time needed for processing and follow up.
As an employee, our default is likely to let our manager drive the development of the relationship, especially when it’s new. I invite you to take a greater share in the responsibility of nurturing that relationship. What if you’ve worked with your manager for years and asking these questions now would be too awkward? Try this: start the conversation by saying, “I know we’ve worked together for awhile now, but I realized I’ve been operating under the assumption I knew the answer. Can you clarify for me… “ and then ask!
- Is there something about you that would be helpful for me to know that I haven’t discovered yet?
- I believe I’ve identified a couple of things you find a bit irritating, like …. Am I right?
- I’ve noticed that you seem to prefer a phone call to your cell phone only when there is a situation that requires your immediate attention. Is that accurate?
I encourage you to invest in developing your professional relationships by starting the conversation.
Please continue the conversation with me!
Holly Adams Consulting LLC
PO Box 11394, Cedar Rapids IA 52410 | (319)250-3075
www.hollyadamsconsulting.com | firstname.lastname@example.org