Change your working relationships forever with this conversation.

Sue Willcock Food for Thought

Having studied for years for an MBA, it’s slightly ironic that one of the most enlightening career conversations for me took place in a pub in Kings Cross, London when a new soon-to-be boss sat down over a glass of wine and told me what his expectations were of me.
I was already in a middle management position so was expecting a conversation around my future to-to-list and induction process but as it turned out, this was a conversation about the ‘how’ – how we both like to work – not the what.   It set the tone for how we worked together from thereon and shortcut us to an effective working relationship from the start.
There’s no excuse of not having time for this conversation as it can avoid many dramas or challenges you may otherwise face when working together. And you don’t have to do it just with a new starter – you can do what some my U.S. friends call a “do over” – just start from scratch, with someone existing in your team if you think you need to. It can also involve a beer if that works for you (or afternoon tea – or whatever takes your fancy to create an environment for informality). The only point I would make here is to pick somewhere that’s not too noisy so you can have a decent conversation without shouting at each other!
Essentially, this conversation involves getting to know your team member at a level beyond the superficial. You may have this type of conversation with your team members already, but it may have taken you a few months or years to get to this point – it needn’t. This is about a conversation about you and them. Not about projects, clients or tasks.
The outcome you are looking for from this conversation is HOW you will work together so you are both at your best and to start to build trust.

Tell them about you… Ask the other person…
What you value in life.
(e.g. family, friends, challenging career, etc)
What they value
How your values show themselves. Tell them the positive and the negative.
I leave early on Tuesdays to take my son to football.   Sometimes I get very engrossed in my work and you might think I am ignoring you, I am not, I just like getting things right and need to focus.
How their values show themselves. Your responses will model how they can do this.
Things that drive you nuts and why. You might have a great distain for lateness.   Now is the time to mention it.   Check to see if any of your bugbears clash with their values. Things that drive them nuts and why.
Are there any potential issues you need to discuss that you can forsee where your behaviour will drive them nuts? E.g they may hate being checked on every day, you may like checking in with your team every day!
How you think you work at your best and how you would like to work together.
Don’t use clichés here e.g. “don’t come to me with a problem, come with a solution” is a bit of a hackneyed phrase! Be honest, open and aim to help them to help you work at your best. My own example as a Manager, would be things like:
·         Tell me if you have made a mistake so I am forearmed if someone mentions it to me directly.
·         If I don’t check in with you at any time and you need me to, just tell me. Don’t be afraid to give me feedback.
·         Be really clear on what you want from any 1:1s we have and come with a list of outcomes you want or decisions you need.
·         If you need decisions from me, make sure you give me information to read upfront and I like to read things first before I make a decision.
How they think they work at their best and how they would like to work together. Examples as a Team Member may be:
·         Give me clear objectives and then let me get on with them. I’ll shout if I have a problem.
·         Don’t give me a blank sheet of paper to do what I like with – I like direction and an end goal that I can work to.
·         I like to work directly with clients.
·         I can do detail if I need to, but prefer someone else to do detailed checking and reading over and I find it boring and am not very good at it.

What you are effectively doing here is starting to explore the “Behavioural iceberg” (worth a Google!)– looking at underlying values and things that are important to each of you.
Trust me, this will short cut you to greater effectiveness.
Depending on your personality and the other person’s openness, it may take you more than one conversation to get to all of these issues – trust your instincts and pace it. The outcome you are looking for is to build a relationship based on trust and so keep this authentic to you. You may not want to share your deepest thoughts and secrets and that’s perfectly fine. Even if you start by focusing on how you like to work, not the what, that is a valuable start.