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Hi,

Background: I recently started a role which has skip levels (we didn't have such things at my last company). In preparation I listened to the M-T podcasts on it and thought I was reasonably prepared.

The experience was a strange one - because the so-called skip-level was a one-on-one (virtual/phone call) with my senior manager. I can appreciate why he did it that way - we're an international team and getting all his skips together would have been hard to organise. However, even as a one-on-one it was awkward. There was no set agenda, and apart from a few meetings and my interview, I hadn't really had much time with him before to know what to expect. During the meeting he asked me about my comfort in my role, any roadblocks and for feedback on my manager.

Onto the reason for this post. Because we hadn't spoken much before, I didn't know much about him - his DISC or his goals for the team /org etc. And, unfortunately, I didn't have much trust or confidence in what he might do with what I told him (based on one of my experiences in the role so far). So, I evaded giving too much feedback on the role and my manager etc, and tried to use the meeting to get to know him better - his history, how he sees the team evolve. My asking of questions didn't seem to satisfy him and he implied he wanted solid responses that he could act on (my thought now is he is D/C in DISC).

Question: What advice would people give on building trust into a relationship with a remote senior manager, or alternatively, what is the best way to handle a one-on-one with a senior manager that you don't fully trust yet?

Any advice welcome!

jhack's picture

How's your relationship with your manager? Have you discussed this "one-on-one" with him/her? (if your questions weren't welcome, it wasn't a one-on-one, methinks).

Why would you avoid giving feedback on your role? or your manager?

There are relevant dynamics here that you have not discussed. Not trusting based on lack of relationship is different from distrusting based on previous experience.

Assuming a lack of intrigue, I would recommend being open with the senior manager, and focusing on project work. Praise specific behaviors that your manager exhibits.

And discuss this with your manager.

John

KathrynB's picture

Good questions. My relationship with my manager is very good. I didn't discuss the skip with him though, although now I think I should.

It was an awkward time in the new role where I realised I needed to give feedback to my manager but wanted to do it 'right' and didn't feel comfortable with it coming from someone else. It wasn't a big thing, so I didn't want it to get out of hand. I was worried in the last skip-level that any adjusting feedback from me via a senior manager would be less preferable than me giving direct 'M-T' style feedback - in terms of me building my relationship with my manager.

As far as the reason for lack of trust with my SM - it is mostly that it is early on in the relationship and I don't have much data on how he responds to situations. I did have one less than pleasant feedback experience with him in the first few months, which I would prefer not to have happen again. But, it is mostly that I know very little about how he handles people issues (or opportunities). As I say, he is a remote SM and I have had very little interaction with him since I started.

When I told my SM in the 03 that I did have feedback but that I would prefer to give it to my manager directly, it didn't seem to go down well (personally, I would love it if a skip of mine took the initiative to give feedback directly to their mgr, but maybe I'm odd :wink: ) FYI I did give the feedback to my direct boss shortly after the skip. It was great & things have been better because of it. So, there was one win out of it.

I feel strongly about the capacity for poorly given feedback to jeopardise relationships - especially in the forming stages, and I prefer to own the situation myself - then I will know if it had the right affect and what I could improve next time.

My next skip level in a few weeks might be easier - now I've had the discussion with my manager - I can discuss that more openly with my SM. Focussing the discussion on the work is also a good idea. It may be it is just going to take me a while to build up a body of work with him before I feel comfortable discussing people feedback.

thaGUma's picture

Kathryn,

you have set the tone already with a reluctance to give feedback to SM without your line manger having had it first. If your SM is serious about skips you will be able to be discuss how you felt uncomfortable in that situation. He should respect that.

You are hopefully having O3's with your line manager which should stop this happening in future - if a SM does skips then his directs would be well advised to have O3's.

Chris

KathrynB's picture

Thanks for the response Chris. I am having O3's with my manager, and I think we are now very comfortable giving and receiving feedback with one another.

It will be interesting to see how the next skip goes. I think I can prepare better now I know what questions to expect, and I will discuss this with my manager beforehand so there are no surprises!

Thanks again,
Kathryn

Mark's picture

What you went through is neither a skip level nor a one on one.

I think you played it right. Some new boss whom you don't know ought to be smarter than to assume that you will be perfectly candid. I would guess he made that assumption because he is new to the LEVEL of his role...and he thinks he has more power than he does. (Apparently he doesn't have as much as he thought: he assumed you would just spill things because he asked. ha!)

Maybe over time you open up...but there's no problem with NOT opening up with someone whom you don't trust. We are quite clear about managing up, and one of the core principles of that is to be careful.

Mark

KathrynB's picture

Hmmm, thanks Mark - having thought about it a bit, I think your insights are right; and I think my instincts were right on how to handle the meeting.

I think I will continue to tread carefully. I will also listen to the Managing Up podcasts. It's on the to-do list, but I'll reprioritise before my next meeting with him. :-)

Thanks everyone for challenging me and sharing your thoughts & advice!

Kathryn