We recently did a realignment on my team due to a change of priority of projects. This was a good experience as we moved projects between QA leads so that our workload was more evenly balanced. And then we moved people around from projects that were getting less funding to those that were becoming more important. With all of this, there are many places where an individual employee and lead are now working together that hadn’t before. So how did we make a smooth start to these new relationships?
I asked my leads to really know themselves, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how they manage their teams. If they have quirks or interesting ways of leading, they need to identify those. Then be upfront in communicating those to the people who are new at reporting to them. This description of yourself as a manager is considered your managerial style. Having this discussion will allow the new team members to set expectations correctly. For example, I truly can’t find the time to read all my emails and I actually dislike reading email. So I would be setting myself and my direct reports up for failure if they continue to send me lengthy, deep emails about issues and expect me to read them word-for-word and understand them. I am a much better listener than a reader. So when I join a new team, I first tell them that short concise emails are appreciated and follow-up with me in person. Without an upfront discussion about my likes and dislikes as a leader and my style for working, we would have had communication issues and lost efficiencies. So leads need to be upfront with their reports on how they work and what they should expect. Some key terminology to think about if you are trying to describe your managerial style is: are you a hands-on, directive manager or a coach? Do you like to lead by example? Do you empower others? Do you focus more communications downward, sideways, or upward? If you are a people manager, can you describe your managerial style?
The same works in reverse as well. I’ve heard people joke about training their manager, but this is actually a true, realistic phenomenon. As an employee, you need your manager to understand who you are, how you work, and what your desires are. A good manager will change their style to conform more with one that works for you. Different engineers need different things from their manager, so managers need to be flexible in their approaches with each employee. If your manager is making assumptions about how to work with you, delegate to you, or give you opportunities, be upfront about what you need and when you aren’t receiving the right things from your boss. If you don’t tell your boss what you need to building a healthy relationship with him/her and have a job you are happy with, you may find it more difficult to get on the same page with your boss in the future. Some questions you need to ask yourself before this conversation is: what are your strengths and weaknesses? What is your working style, independent or team player or mixture of both, but when? What are your career aspirations? What opportunities do you want your manager to watch out for and assign to you?
When I transferred to a new team, I got a new boss. My emails to my new boss were very friendly with lots of background info because that’s what my previous boss liked. But I always liked being short and to the point so writing emails took longer as I catered to my previous manager’s desires. Within the first few weeks, I found out my new boss was very similar to me and appreciated short emails that were straight to the point. What a relief! I could get so much more done once I knew how to communicate with him and that I can communicate in the style that is comfortable to me.
Even after this conversation with your new manager, continue to clarify conversations if you and your boss are saying things in different ways. The more you can learn about your boss, the better you can represent his/her interests in the work you do. And the more your boss knows about your working style, the better he/she can be at giving you opportunities. Sometimes, this training period for this type of relationship takes time. Be patient.
If you have a new boss, take some time out to find out their managerial styles, strengths, and expectations. And then explain what you are looking for or need from your manager and see if the two of you can come up with a plan that works for both of you moving forward.