By Guy Harris

Navigating changes in your professional relationships is a big part of successfully transitioning from bud to boss. The change in your role and your responsibilities demands that your relationships change as well. You will experience changes in the type, scope, and sensitivity of relationship issues you face. The relative power dynamic or imbalance between you, your team, and people who were formally senior to you will change. All of these changes will create other changes in your professional, and possibly, personal relationships.

One of the more powerful things you can do to successfully navigate these relationship changes is to have Transition Conversations. The people you have these conversations with include:

  • Your Team 
    • The team you lead.
  • Your Friends
    • People on the team you lead that you used to mingle and socialize with more than others.
  • Your New Boss
  • Your New Peers
    • Probably people who also report to your new boss (this could include other people of similar level in the organization even if they do not report to your boss)
  • Your Former Boss
    • This one can vary a great deal depending on your former boss’ role. For example, your former boss could also be a new peer or a member of the team you lead. I have seen both scenarios, and they call for different types of conversations.
  • Anyone else affected by the change in your role and responsibilities

The purpose, or point, of these conversations is to head-off miscommunication and misunderstanding during the transition of relationship dynamics you have with the people in each of these categories. 

The type of conversation you need to have is what many people call a meta-conversation, or a conversation about how you have conversations. Transition conversations are less focused on a specific business topic, problem, project, or issue and more focused on defining and clarifying each party’s relationship and interaction/communication wants and needs. The things you want to focus on in these conversations are:

  • Relationship and time boundaries
  • Expectations for decision making authority, change notifications, etc.
  • Communication preferences – both style and mode.  
    • Do they prefer direct bottom-line communication or friendly, relational communication?
    • Do they prefer that you drop in their office, give them a phone call, send a text, or draft an email?

Ultimately, you want to make these conversations intentional. Rather than wait for likely misunderstandings and miscommunication to poison these relationships, start the process of talking about how you talk with each other to minimize negative events. It is unlikely that you can anticipate every potential relationship challenge. You can minimize the negative effects of the likely ones, though. By initiating these types of conversations before there is a problem, you also make it easier to discuss problems when they arise.

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