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Does your boss trust you?

More importantly, have you given them good reason to?

One of the many barriers to building a great career can be your relationship with your boss, or perhaps those even higher up. Perhaps you never really get to mingle with your boss’s boss. If your boss says it’s better if they take care of this relationship, then there’s the first clue, they most likely don’t see you as a trusted partner. Because if they did they would share all their relationships with you.

So there are two important questions here: How do you know if your boss actually trusts you? What can you do to start building a trusted relationship if they don’t?

Tasks not conversations?

Is your relationship with your boss one where he or she simply reviews the work you are doing, you give him or her updates on progress, and then get given the next list of jobs to do? This is all important stuff and helps keep an organisation running. However, it demonstrates that you have a purely “technical” relationship with your boss. You are employed to carry out certain tasks, and your boss sets and manages you to do these things. You talk predominantly about the tasks in hand and what you need to do, not about the wider company universe or even what is important to your boss.

Shifting this conversation from tasks to one that starts to understand what’s important to your boss and perhaps even helps them with what they are doing has two key benefits:

1)     It shows an empathy and care for what’s important to them beyond what’s important to the task you have to do. In essence, you are lessening your own self-orientation and showing a greater desire to help them succeed.

2)     You’ll most likely be a more engaged employee. Think about it, if you start to understand your boss’s and the wider organisational goals more fully, it’ll give a bigger purpose and more clarity to your own role within that. Shared visions and goals and the achievement of those, bring people together.

So how do you shift the conversation?

The first thing I would recommend is to do some preparation ahead of your next meeting or catch-up. Think about what might be important to your boss. Then be courageous, do something different, with these first two steps for your next meeting:

1)     Set a clear purpose for your meeting. Be honest with regular catch-ups or standing meetings, mostly at best it is a rolling agenda or more likely it just happens. To change a relationship, you’ve got to do something different. So why not state something like:

In our next meeting, not only would I like to update you on current work progress but I’d also like to understand a bit more about your plans and strategies for the next 6 months or so.”

2)     Propose how the meeting will run. Perhaps suggest that they could start by giving you a quick overview of their plans ahead and the 2 or 3 things that are most important to them, and then you’ll share what you are working on and previous experiences you’ve had or have heard about that might help them. This is the next stage of shifting the conversation. It shows that you’re not just there to update them on progress but to actively listen to their agenda, and then to offer some help if you can. Of course, you may not be able to help in the actual meeting, but if you know what they are trying to achieve you can do some homework e.g. google and start to find them articles or reports that may be helpful.

3)     Let them know what benefits they’ll get from meeting with you. This is often the hardest thing to articulate as it is difficult to express, most likely because we haven’t thought about it. It can also sometimes be due to a sort of subconscious laziness. Our boss has to meet with us, whereas clients or external organisations aren’t obligated to, so we spend more time thinking about how we provide value to them. Yet imagine if we finished this scenario with something like:

“I hope you leave this meeting not only with the confidence that all our current work is on track and perhaps even an idea or two which may help you with your plans.”

It instantly shows a desire to provide them with some real value from their time spent with you, not just a desire to keep them informed or impart knowledge that helps you.

It might well be that at the moment you do not have a trusted relationship with your boss, but by starting to change the emphasis of your meetings with them you can start to shift your relationship with them. After all, the most powerful and rewarding relationships we have are those based on trust.

This article originally appeared on Linkedin,  If you’ve you got a comment, or a question for Ben then go and join the conversation over on LinkedIn.

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