The 10 Essential Whys and Hows for Building Relationships with Your Boss

Last week we talked about building relationships with our coworkers and the week prior we talked about building relationships with your staff. SO IMPORTANT! But one of the most important of all is your relationship with your boss. Don’t believe me? Check out the whys below.

The Whys:

Your health requires it

I’d argue that your level of stress is directly correlated to the quality of your relationship with your boss. If you walk into the office everyday preparing to be reamed or to have to soak up their verbal abuse or even just their negativity – that energy is effecting you. We know that stress, especially chronic stress, directly effects your behavior and your body’s hormones contributing to decline in your relationships, increase in your weight, and makes you more susceptible to disease. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Office Vibe shared, “In an incredible study in 2009, looking at the effects of managers on the health of 3,122 men, men who rated their managers as good had at least a 20 percent lower risk of developing heart disease over a 10-year period than those who rated their managers negatively.” Don’t get me started on my annoyance of the lack of medical research on women, but either way we know heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S. so we need to pay attention to this staggering statistic too. And even worse women are slower to be diagnosed and treated for cardiovascular disease, so increasing our risk in areas like this that we can change is SILLY.

They are an incredible resource for your next opportunity

No matter what your next step is, your current boss could be your biggest resource to make that next step happen. They know your work ethic, they can speak to your accomplishments, your growth, and your strengths like many others cannot. They can speak manager to manager with credibility when you apply for a promotion, when you apply for another position elsewhere, or can be a reference if you go out and start your own business.

But ONLY if you have a great relationship with them. If you haven’t built an authentic and trusting relationship of mutual respect with your boss, they instead become a liability to your next opportunities. Don’t make that mistake!

Modeling the relationship for your staff

The last couple of weeks we’ve talked about relationships with your staff and with your colleagues, where you want to see these kinds of trusting relationships of mutual respect happening as well. So this is how you practice what you preach! You need to model these relationships in your interactions with your higher-ups to show how its done and to show that you value these relationships as well (and aren’t just asking more of your team than you would do yourself).

When you model a crappy relationship, or a culture of “ask for forgiveness, not permission” (which has been one of my major mistakes) you are showing them that those relationships are not only okay but that you value them.

Your happiness and engagement

We know how important engagement of our teams is to our bottom line, but its also so important just in your day to day happiness. When you’re engaged with your work, you feel happier to come to work each day and are more resilient when things get tough because you’re working from a “WHY”. You know the impact you are making, you know the customer you’re serving, and you gain fulfillment each day. We spend so much of our lives in our workplace, why not do what we can to make it enjoyable right?

Because we all need a SPONSOR

Mentors are so important in helping you to have an unbiased sounding board outside of your direct supervisor but a sponsor directly takes a role in your career advancement. They vouch on your behalf, act as your reference, look for opportunities for you, and look at you as more of a “protege” than just another employee. These types of relationships can really only come from someone who has overseen your work and can vouch for your work style, work ethic and work product so it’s important to make the most of these opportunities with your boss.

Do I have you convinced? Okay, let’s move on to the hows.

The Hows:

Ask for regular meetings

Now, of course I hope your leader has already taken the initiative to set up regular meetings with you but unfortunately that’s not always the case. So if that’s not the case for you, take the initiative! Ask your boss for the time.

I encourage 20-30 minutes each week to meet with a few minutes to casually check-in and make sure priorities are aligned. Make sure you work in the personal info too so you can keep building that relationship — it can be as simple as asking how their weekend went. If weekly is just too often for your boss, ask for biweekly or monthly meetings and extend the time just a little bit if you can.

Whatever you do, make sure that you get on the calendar and make sure that you respect that time. Come to your meetings prepared and with good news (and bad news if there is any) and clear questions for your boss.

Always know your boss’s top priorities

The weekly meetings we reference above will make this REALLY easy. Ask your boss directly on a weekly basis what their top priorities are for themselves, and also share your top priorities to ensure you’re on the same page. This gives them the opportunity to help you course-correct and ensure you are incredibly clear on your goals and expectations.

Almost more importantly though, is that these check-ins remind your boss regularly about your ambition, your dedication, and your enthusiasm. You want to be in the know, you push yourself, and you are excited about the work you’re doing each and every day. This doesn’t have to be a full meeting if you can’t get on their calendar, but it could be a quick 5-minute chat in the break room.

Treat your conversations the same as you do with your team

So we talked quite a bit last week and the week prior about relationships with your staff and with your coworkers, and what did we say? We say over and over again that you want to build a personal and professional relationship, there has to be a MIX. If you only ever talk business, you’ll never build a deeper trust and relationship. If you only ever talk casually about personal lives, you’ll never come to mind as an ambitious team-player to your boss.

So treat your conversations the same way with your boss! Ensure that you take a few moments each time you’re with them to ask about something in their personal life. Maybe you know their daughter had a recital last week and you check in on that, or maybe you know that your boss has just started training for a marathon and you check in on that. Either way, these little discussions make all the difference. You want to be seen as a trustworthy “friend” that always has the team’s back.

Ask for advice

Be up front and have conversations with your boss about your ambitions. Ask them to help you to make a career plan based on your goals. Ask them how they got to their position and what their goals are moving forward. When you have a tough client or a tough project, ask for help. Your leader wants to feel needed and wants to feel involved. Now, they don’t want to feel like they’re doing your job for you so don’t go overboard but again this is why those short weekly meetings can make all the difference. Take that time weekly to check-in personally, to share priorities, to talk about big-picture goals, and to ask any questions you might have swirling around.

Be yourself

I cannot stress this part enough. JUST BE YOURSELF. Do NOT try to be what you think your boss wants to be. Don’t be a brown-noser. Don’t pretend to like the things they like just to get into their inner circle. Just like you believe you can read people well, so does your boss and they are going to see right through that fake crap. Instead, be you and you will gain their trust and respect. If they talk to you about football and you haven’t watched football for more than 5 minutes at a time in your life, then don’t try to act. Just admit it and be authentic. If you’re interested in learning, trust me they’ll want to share, but if you’re not they’ll respect your authenticity and you can find something else to share.

So What Now?

It’s time to put the words into action ladies! What are you going to commit to trying this week to further your relationship with your boss? Share in the comments so we can get ideas from one another!

Talk soon,

Nikki