Managing your manager –– and yourself

Chief Human Resources Officer

Georgette Verdin | Chief Human Resources Officer

Brushing off a classic article to highlight strategies to improve this crucial working relationship during the age of COVID-19

We may have just irrevocably shifted into a world where we may no longer co-locate on a daily basis with the people we work with.  Some of us may go into the office full-time out of habit or because we really like to and need to. But in some capacity, WFH is here to stay. We’ve demonstrated these last 12+ months that we can make decisions, hold global meetings and move strategy forward without having to always meet face-to-face. For some this is sub-optimal; for others, it’s just fine.

But there is one constant we need to pay attention to and nurture like never before: our working relationships. Not working in close geographical proximity on a regular basis takes a toll on how you communicate issues and ideas, share information and spend time continuing to understand each other to build trust as McKinsey outlines in “The Future of Work after COVID-19.’’ A significant part of this interpersonal engagement is keeping your manager informed and sharing with them what they need to know in the most effective way.

In service of what has already changed in how we work since COVID-19, and the heightened need to stay connected, I dusted off John Kotter’s and John Gabarro’s classic Harvard Business Review article “Managing Your Boss,” where they carefully unpack what’s important about understanding your manager, assessing yourself and your needs, and developing and cultivating that relationship.

People managers – like your manager – all need basics from their direct reports: collaboration, trust and honesty. In return, many of us expect protection, order and direction from our manager. But when you work in a field replete with ambiguity, with no blueprint to follow, like gene therapy, you can’t expect your manager to know all the answers. Some of the things we do at AVROBIO have never been done before.

The authors talk about the relationship between you and your manager as one of mutual dependence. The success of that relationship springboards off:

  • a good understanding of yourself
  • frequently taking time to recalibrate your own self-assessment on your behavior, needs and strengths to be able to best inform and advise your manager.

That self-awareness is key and will serve to facilitate an effective relationship and productive communication in everything you do. Your manager in turn will co-create goals, work with you and the team in prioritizing work, and ensure resources are available to realize expectations.

They also bring forward a case study where the working relationship between that manager and the employee led to disastrous results.

Managers need to continue to be acutely cognizant on how they are supporting their remote crew, as Sabina Nawaz writes in an HBR article titled “How Managers Can Support Remote Employees,” presciently written a year ago.

In this piece she talks about key themes, including staying connected with each team member, helping to manage their own and others’ stress, maintaining team morale and motivation, running engaged meetings, tracking and communicating progress, and helping the team shed nonessential work.

She offers strategies to augment availability to employees when working remotely, bridging distance through frequent connections.

  • schedule virtual “office hours” for questions and informal conversations
  • provide stability through consistent rituals
  • set clear boundaries
  • ask employees to come forward with problems, not just solutions
  • enable capacity through feedback

AVROBIO is doing amazing work with our lentiviral gene therapy platform to bring a potentially life-transforming therapy to patients and families who need it. Our success in no small way is predicated by how we engage with each other, communicate and share information across teams and functions while WFH or working remotely. Part of this engagement requires making sure we keep our manager apprised and informed of issues and proposing ideas to move our goals and purpose forward with alacrity. Likewise, our managers need to ensure the right cadence of connections and engagement are brought into play so that we develop healthy working relationships based on trust, honesty and collaboration.