Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Working for a new boss – Part 4: an exercise in interpersonal skills

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on October 8, 2010

This is my fourth posting in a series on working with a new boss, with earlier installments available in the Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development as postings 103, 106 and 109. So far I have focused more on your new manager and the issues they are dealing with, and on the context in which they arrive as the new manager for the team you work in. Now I am going to switch discussion to you and your peers who report to this new manager. In this I am going to focus on attitude and on interpersonal skills. And at least one of the key points I would raise here is that when you are in transition, and starting work with a new manager is always a transition, you are in effect building a reputation as someone who is easy to effectively work with – or not. In this, I go back to the basics and one of the recurring themes and issues that keeps popping up as important throughout a career. When you are in job search, it comes up as the repeatedly validated observation that people may hire candidates with at least the minimum necessary technical and hands-on skills to do the job but they select the specific candidate out of that pool who they see as a best fit and easiest to work with on an interpersonal level. Once again, as I noted in my first posting in this series, working with a new boss or manager is always in effect a matter of starting a new job.

A second and very closely related issue here is that when I write of attitude and interpersonal skills here I am not primarily referring to how you communicate with and relate with your new manager per se. I am referring to the wider issues of how you communicate with and relate to the members of your team, and to stakeholders and clients in general, and both internal you your business and external to it. And I bring up another very basic and fundamental point in this context. This is all about working with others to collectively and coordinately get the tasks assigned to your team completed and with an awareness of both schedule and priority. Good interpersonal skills facilitate this and can even be essential if success is even going to be possible.

Look to your new boss and learn their interpersonal skills approach and style , and their communications preferences. Keep them in the loop as to what you are doing, and with the levels and types of details they prefer. Are they very analytical and oriented towards the details and the data or are they more big-picture oriented and reluctant or resistant to having to deal with the details? Interpersonal skills start with really listening and watching, and in accommodating the preferences and the needs of the people you communicate with and work with. And this means understanding that even when they would more generally prefer to see the details, their schedule may be so demanding that they cannot afford to do so, at least here and now. Listening and looking, and asking questions as to what your new manager needs and prefers are crucially important, and for getting off to a good start with them and for every step beyond that.

With this in mind I state what should be an obvious point but it is one that can be swept out of conscious consideration in the midst of change and transition. Your new manager is working their way day by day towards their first performance review and so are you. Cultivate and exercise the interpersonal skills that will help you build a solid foundation for success in that review.

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