Be a Boss: Ten Strategies from a Pro (Part 2)

My series on career strategies for women continues. This week, I will cover one of the most critical arenas – relationships! For some of us, this can be daunting or maybe historically challenging. Your ability to navigate relationships with your coworkers is essential to your success and that of your team. I’ll help you identify best practices and introduce fresh approaches to how you can establish healthy working relationships.

Let’s jump in where we left off with Strategy #5: Cultivate good working relationships with everyone you interact with within your company, starting with your boss and your staff. A good working relationship means honest and direct communication, you treat each other with respect, and you can effectively solve problems together. I’ve never met anyone successful that fundamentally does not get along with others. It’s simply not a good look.

As far as your approach to developing good working relationships, I am not suggesting that you go about it with the intent of becoming “best friends” with your boss or staff. That dynamic can create serious challenges, especially when evaluating performance or delivering feedback. You want to be friendly and feel comfortable to be your authentic self when you are together.

When thinking about how to best interact with your boss, you need to know their style and preferences. For example, I once had a boss with an open-door policy. If I had questions, I’d do a quick tap on the door, walk-in, ask my question. He was cool with that style of interaction. On the other hand, and in a different work environment, I had a boss where I always needed a formal appointment booked through his assistant. There was never a “drop by” option with him. They had different styles, but either way, it was my responsibility to adapt to their style to work together effectively. 

What’s your style with your staff? What have you shared with them about how you like to work together? I had a colleague, a fellow coach, Shani Magosky, that developed a User’s Manual for herself, and she shared it with everyone that she worked with closely. It educated the reader on her style, values, what she did not have the patience for, how to communicate with her, and what people often misunderstood. In her case, it was a creative and effective way to share her preferences and eliminate conflicts and misunderstandings with colleagues.

One last note, often your most challenging bosses are some of the best for your career. They teach you the most because they have high expectations of you, and in response, you learn to meet higher standards and rise to the occasion. You always want a boss that you learn from and respect. 

Strategy #6: Build relationships inside your company with your peers and internal influencers. Your peers are a significant lifeline in the company, as they can educate you on your boss’ style, the company culture, and the unwritten rules on ‘the way things are done.’ Find peers you like and build a strong bond – colleagues who will have your back and vice versa. I encourage you to use this as an opportunity to find women in your company that you can support, and that will support you back.

Another objective to keep in mind when building work relationships is to seek out and connect with your company’s internal influencers. These coworkers will be a massive asset to you. While internal influencers don’t always have titles that convey the power and knowledge they hold within a company, they are the connectors and insiders that will help you make the right connections and understand the company culture. Keep in mind, it may take some time to identify them. They could be an office manager or assistant to the CMO — the power they wield and connections they offer is invaluable.

I had a junior contact in our HR department that I worked with for our freelancer/temp hires for our video productions. She was helpful, smart, and always provided good customer service. In return, I treated her the same way. I was respectful; I returned her calls and had my staff complete the paperwork that she requested promptly. It turns out her father was on our board! I attended our board meetings, and he made a point of complimenting me in front of my boss and other executives. I discovered that she had shared good things about me with him. As a result, he took an interest in my career and supported me. She was an internal influencer.

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Kim Martin