As a touted workplace guru and author of Managing Up, you might assume that Mary Abbajay is the perfect boss. She has researched workplace effectiveness, leadership styles, and personality preferences for decades. She has designed and presented courses to tens of thousands to help improve workplace relationships. And, in many ways, she is as close as they come to an ideal boss because she takes all of this very seriously. She is self-aware, adaptable, and cares about her employees. She practices what she preaches. But, like all other bosses, Mary Abbajay is human and has her own personality preferences, pet peeves, and quirks. Like all other employees, we (the Careerstone team) have to Manage Up!
First, let us tell you a little bit about our team. We are small in numbers and all work remotely. We meet weekly on a team videoconference, but only see each other in person once a month or so. Most of us travel frequently (especially Mary) and spend much of the workday on client site. We don’t always get as much time together as we would like (or need) to develop strong interpersonal relationships. Also, each of us has our own personality traits and communication preferences. Our small team has a heterogeneous mix of introverts and extroverts, fast and moderate pace, task- and people-focused individuals. We share this to let you know that we’ve experienced the challenges of managing workplace relationships and have learned a thing or two along the way.
We should also give you a quick insider’s view of Mary Abbajay. Mary is a (self-proclaimed) Introverted-Advancer-Workaholic-Seagull-Ghost Boss. If you’ve seen Mary present or met her at a networking event, you know that she is dynamic and energetic. But, she is an introvert at the core and needs alone time to recharge. After a long day of phone calls with clients, board meetings, traveling, and presenting, she is not super excited about discussing a new idea or brainstorming with the team. As an Advancer and Workaholic, Mary is always working. She lives to work and is happiest when we are producing results and asking few questions. The Ghost and Seagull boss parts of Mary mostly show up when we are working on a big project. We don’t always get a lot of input on the process, but Mary will sure nitpick the final product! At the end of the day, though, Mary is a super cool boss – she knows her own strengths and weaknesses, treats us well, and makes a pretty valiant effort to adapt to each of us individually. She’s pretty awesome-sauce.
Now that you know more about us and our fearless leader, we’d like to share with you our top strategies to Manage Up to Mary Abbajay:
Chris Butts, Vice President
- Don’t be on time, be early! “Mary likes to be on time to everything and by on time, I mean 5 minutes early at least. When meeting with Mary one-on-one it always starts the meeting off on the right foot by showing I value her time and that I am considerate of her schedule. It can be a bit tricky at times when meeting at a client site with security and escorts. When this is the case, I do my best to arrive early and meet her at the entrance to the building so we can arrive together. It shows Mary that I’m prepared and ready for the engagement, which I think also puts her at ease a little bit.”
- Get to the point. “As an Advancer, Mary likes it when you speed up and allow her to ask questions if she needs additional context. I’m more long-winded when sharing information or rationale and had to learn the art of giving quick, to the point information (see, even that sentence seems long winded but necessary to me). Now, being more direct allows Mary to get the information she needs and feel comfortable knowing things are taken care of, while also having the opportunity to ask for more information if needed. It was difficult at first but now, it just seems normal and I know it works!”
Laura Buckley, Director of Training and Facilitation
- Recap. “Working with Mary is so much fun for me because she will indulge me in a brainstorming session. We can both get pretty excited about new ideas for training design, marketing, and consulting strategy. At the end of these conversations, I know to clarify which options we are actually pursuing, and which can wait until another time.”
- Be objective. “Mary is an “NT” on the Myers Briggs and is one of the most objective people I know. I, on the other hand, am an “NF” which means I base a lot of my opinions and decisions on more subjective information. If I want to have influence with Mary, I absolutely must look for the objective reasons behind my requests and present them clearly and logically.”
Carly Eckard, Executive Assistant
- Check in. “Mary and I are both introverts and can go weeks without talking to one another, but I’ve learned to make a point of scheduling a call on Mary’s calendar to check in. A quick review of projects and priorities saves me a lot of time and helps me get the direction and guidance I need.”
- Meet in the middle. “I prefer to work during the day, but Mary often responds to emails, assigns projects, and provides feedback in the evening or on weekends. At first, I thought I would have to work nights and weekends too, but quickly realized that that was not Mary’s expectation. Instead, I make a point of checking my email briefly in the evenings and on Sunday just to send a quick response and make a to-do list for the next day or week. It only takes 10 minutes and has helped Mary to know that everything is covered.”
Katherine Bergmann, Program Support Specialist
- Embrace written communication. “As I learned early on at Careerstone Group (because Mary flat out said so), phone calls are definitely not Mary’s favorite way to communicate. Especially unannounced phone calls; Mary says she automatically assumes the worst when she sees one of us calling! I try my best to embrace (concise) emails and text messages, and when a phone call is necessary, definitely shoot over an email or text in advance to plan it!”
- Over-communicate, but be succinct about it. “When I have a task assigned to me or receive an email from Mary, it’s sometimes easy to just write it down on my to-do list and then forget about sending updates or a follow up when I’m finished. So, I try to make sure to respond to all my emails, even if it’s just with a quick “got it!” and provide updates before being asked for them.”
As you can see, our strategies are simple but have had huge benefits! By taking a little time and effort each of us has improved our relationship with Mary and become a more effective member of the team. In turn, Mary appreciates our willingness to adapt and tries to adapt to our preferences, too. We can all attest that Managing Up is a win-win-win – good for us, good for Mary, and good for Careerstone Group!
Find out more about Advancers, Introverts, Seagulls, Workaholics, Ghost Bosses, and many more in Managing Up!