Ed Evarts

Your Boss is Your Most Important Relationship

In today’s ever-evolving organizations, the most important relationship you will have is with your boss. Your boss is accountable for the activities on which you focus. Organization leaders will come to your boss for feedback on your performance. Your boss is the author of your annual performance appraisal. Your success in your organization is dramatically impacted by the impression your boss has of you.

Your relationship with your boss is based on a series of interactions characterized by dependencies and expectations. For a variety of reasons, you often find yourself disconnected from recurring interactions with your boss, which prevents you from building a relationship. It will be difficult for your boss to have an impression of you, especially a positive one, if your interactions are limited. Your interactions with your boss may be limited due to one or more of the following reasons:

Time. It is not surprising that a significant hurdle to interacting with your boss is time. In an organization where business professionals are expected to do more, with less, and faster, time is at a premium. Many of your colleagues report that weeks may go by without a substantive conversation with a boss; and when a conversation does occur, it was usually due to a problem or a need for a quick piece of information. Successful business professionals find time in their busy day to connect with their boss in substantive ways and to overcome challenges in their bosses schedule by being persistent.

Personality. As individuals, we all possess personality preferences which differentiate us from each other. Recall the observations earlier in this chapter regarding nature or your natural interest to interact with others. Some of these personality preferences work in harmony and others create conflict. You may feel this at work when you express your feelings in ways such as “I can’t get along with Bob,” or “I don’t know what it is, but I just don’t like Karen,” or “Cheryl and I seem to be from different planets.” Conflicting personality preference differences between you and your boss may create a situation where you avoid spending time with your boss. For more information on the impact of personality preferences at work or to learn more about personality assessments, visit www.type-coach.com. The information and tools found at this website can help you understand personality differences in ways that help you work with colleagues effectively.

Geography. In today’s virtual and global workplaces, one of the biggest enemies of visibility is geographic distance. When you work in Tampa, Florida, and your boss is in Shanghai, China, or when you work from home and you are barely at the office, your ability to be visible is at significant risk. It can also be frustrating if your boss and your colleagues are situated in the same building and you are the only one working at a remote location. But successful business professionals have found ways to stay visible with their boss, regardless of geography.

These individuals realize that visibility is not just physical visibility (as in being seen), but focused more on interactions (whether physical or not).

Do You or Don’t You Introduce Yourself to Others?

Are you skeptical of the importance of a strong introduction? Sit back and watch the behavior of colleagues who do not know one another and do not introduce themselves at your next meeting. Discomfort reigns as it feels that something is missing. Their interactions are stilted. Progress flounders. If you are a busy business professional in an ever-evolving organization, you fall into one of the following categories when you introduce yourself to colleagues you do not know.

Avoider

You avoid introducing yourself at all costs. Perhaps you are highly uncomfortable or severely underskilled. Much like getting a flu shot, you want your introduction to be quick and painless. In fact, you would not introduce yourself to others at all if you could avoid doing so.

Do any of the following Avoider characteristics seem familiar to you when you think about introducing yourself to others?

– You sit down at a company meeting and immediately take out your smartphone to scroll email.
– You sit down next to a table full of colleagues at a training class and immediately look at the training material.
– You sit down at a table at a networking event and quietly “disappear” into another world, staring at anything or anyone as long as it is not anyone at your table.
– You join a senior leadership meeting and you sit next to a known colleague who saved you a seat.
– You sit with a new group at a teambuilding session and never introduce yourself.

Fumbler

You introduce yourself, yet you do so poorly. Perhaps you are inconsistent, inattentive, or underskilled. Perhaps you do not value the benefit of a solid introduction. Whatever the reason, your inability to introduce yourself effectively leaves others feeling unimpressed and underwhelmed.

Do any of the following Fumbler characteristics seem familiar to you when you think about how you introduce yourself to others?

– You take an opportunity to introduce yourself, yet you look away as you do so, reeking of disinterest.-
– You only introduce yourself when a colleague starts the introduction for you.
– You are approached by a new colleague who introduces himself to you and you respond by saying “Hi,” without saying your name.
– You introduce yourself to others, yet you are asked to repeat your name because you mumbled when you spoke.
– You are not focused on the colleague you are meeting, which causes you to repeatedly ask, “I’m sorry, what was your name again?”

Introducer

You are consistent, attentive, skilled, and invested. You introduce yourself with energy, clarity, and confidence. You are focused on your colleague and interested in meeting him. You know that introducing yourself is an exciting opportunity to make a great first impression and a thrilling opportunity to connect with a new colleague.

Do any of the following Introducer characteristics seem familiar to you when you think about introducing yourself to others?

– You demonstrate excitement in meeting another individual. You are interested in hearing your colleague’s name and any other additional information about him. Your colleagues feel energized simply by meeting you.
– You know the importance of a good introduction and you want to create a great first impression. You express this confidence with a solid handshake and a strong voice.
– You know what you want to say and you say it clearly and concisely.
– While you are introducing yourself, you are also focused on the other person. You demonstrate good eye contact and you ask questions that demonstrate you are listening.

What Are the Benefits of Networking?

Networking is and will continue to be an important professional activity for business professionals. In fact, 60 – 70% of employed individuals located their most recent job opportunity through networking. In a poll I conducted on LinkedIn, these numbers were corroborated when 59 percent of 1339 respondents chose the category “by networking with friends and colleagues” as the strategy that led them to their most recent job. Therefore, networking was three times more effective as using an on-line job board and almost three times more effective as using a recruiter.

For business professionals looking for their next job or self-employed business owners seeking revenue, networking has many benefits. When networking, these individuals can

– practice how they verbally and visually present themselves to others.
– polish how they describe their goals, needs, and capabilities.
– meet colleagues who can introduce them to others who can help them.
– connect with colleagues whose work complements their own, creating new synergies and opportunities.
– hear what others are doing which may generate new ideas for them.
– try out new looks in their wardrobe, ensuring their wardrobe is polished, up-to-date, and ready for interviews and meetings.
– create opportunities for others to give them feedback on what they are doing that works and what they are doing that could improve.
– catch up with old friends and be reminded that they are not alone.

By and far, networking is the most effective strategy for business professionals to land a job and self-employed business owners to generate revenue.

Are You Accessible?

Being accessible is not just having an “open door policy” or ensuring your team knows your cellphone number. Accessibility is about creating an atmosphere where your colleagues can reach you – even interrupt you – and leave the interaction with a positive feeling.

Accessibility is the degree in which colleagues can reach you and benefit from the interaction.

Your office door is always closed. Are you accessible? Perhaps you possess low self-awareness of how your behaviors in your organization diminish outreach by others. You can be heard decrying “No one ever tells me anything!” and “How come I am always the last to hear about these things?” When you think about it, you may discover that you are less accessible than you think you are. Do any of the following characteristics seem familiar to you when you think about being accessible to others?

You rush frantically between conference calls or meetings with little time to talk to others.
You get easily annoyed when a colleague reaches out to you (especially if the outreach feels like an interruption).
Your back faces the entrance to your office or workstation.
Your interactions with your colleagues never seem to benefit them.
No one comes to you for help.

What Are the Benefits of Being Accessible?

One of the seven Raise Your Visibility and Value visibility accelerators is being accessible, defined as the degree to which colleagues can reach you and benefit from the interaction.

Being accessible benefits everyone. Ram Reddy is a Director, IT Operations for Harte Hanks, one of the world’s largest marketing services companies. Despite the daily challenges he faces in his busy workplace, Ram is committed to being accessible to those who reach out to him.

“Being accessible is a key part of collaboration. Although many of us have offices that physically separate us from one another, it is important to act as though there are no walls. If a colleague needs me, I want her to be able to get to me. Likewise, I like getting out of my office and rather than email a colleague a question, ask him my question or follow-up with him in person. This also allows my colleague to access me in ways that help them.”

When you work to be accessible to your colleagues, you are the one who truly benefits because you:

  • identify issues and problems earlier, leading to quicker resolution, enhancing productivity, and reducing frustration.
  • increase your influence in your organization as you become a “go-to” person who is known for helping others solve problems.
  • create opportunities for yourself to participate in activities that are meaningful to your career and your organization.
  • bolster your reputation in your organization and industry by modeling behavior that your colleagues can emulate.