How to Build a Good Relationship with Your Manager in a Different Location
How do you build a good relationship with your manager when she’s based in another location and can’t see all the great things you do? Even with weekly 1:1 meetings, it’s not the same as being in the same location.
On top of that, what if you’re relatively new on the team and your manager has a favorite person onsite who has significant influence, including complaining about you?
This is the exact situation one of my subscribers asked for my advice on. So, if you’re facing a similar challenge, know that you’re not alone.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to raise your visibility and build the trusted relationship you need to keep advancing in your career… even when you’re in a different time zone from your manager and have a peer who’s the “favorite”.
5 Steps to build a good relationship with your manager in a different location
Here are five practical steps to transform your relationship with your manager:
- Use existing opportunities well
- Leverage your network
- Create new opportunities
- Feature what you can’t “fix”
- Manage your mindset
1. Use existing opportunities well
The first step is to take a look at the opportunities you already have to interact with your manager and make sure you’re getting the most from them.
For example, if you already have 1:1 sessions with your manager, this is an opportunity to build trust and respect by going beyond reporting on tactical issues. As someone senior on the receiving end of weekly “update” calls, I can tell you they can be boring and even make someone seem more junior than they are.
Like the laundry list of items one team member used to take me through to show me how hard he was working, but missing the point that impact and results were what mattered. Clearly, he hadn’t learned that updating your boss well is an essential skill for career advancement!
If you’re not already doing so, take 10-15 minutes to prepare your agenda for those update calls. What would your manager be interested in knowing? How can you link what you’re reporting on to the bigger picture for your unit and organization? What ideas do you want to propose? What questions do you want to ask?
The broader Zoom or Teams meetings you’re on with your manager and others are another opportunity to show up as someone worth backing. Again, prepare for these meetings by thinking through what you want to contribute and what you want to get out of the meeting.
These could be questions, comments or ideas that show your manager who you are and what you bring to the table, or that you’re aware of the bigger picture and understand how to create win-win outcomes for the unit and its customers.
Perhaps the most important thing is to get rid of any distractions so you can be present and pay attention to what’s being said (and not said). This will make it easier for you to think on your feet and contribute.
2. Leverage your network
Whether you’re working at “headquarters” or in a different location from your manager, it’s essential to figure out the “care and feeding” of your boss. What does your boss care about? How do they prefer to be communicated with? What are their biggest challenges and opportunities?
This is where your network comes in. No single person has a monopoly on information, so the broader your network is the better you’ll be able to get an accurate answer to those questions.
Who do you know in your location or at headquarters who can give you the inside view on the mindset of your manager? Who are your “eyes and ears” who can let you know what’s going on?
You can also tap into your network to find allies and advocates who can honestly say good things about you to your boss and perhaps counteract your peer’s complaints as well.
3. Create new opportunities
Alongside taking full advantage of the existing opportunities you have to be visible to your boss, it’s helpful to create new opportunities.
In my experience, the most effective way to do this is to get your manager to see you in action. For example, I was too shy to speak up in meetings and didn’t have the benefit of regular 1:1 meetings with my boss. What made the biggest difference for our relationship was having him see me in my best setting: meetings with clients.
Looking back, the biggest game changer for my career was inviting my boss to attend a client pitch with me. After that, he became my sponsor and opportunities began to seemingly fall into my lap, but it was him pulling the strings behind the scenes.
How could you get your boss to see you in action? What reasons could you find to visit headquarters? And is there a way to invite your boss to your location?
Which brings us to the fourth step.
4. Feature what you can’t “fix”
A strategy I love is based on a quote from Hall of Fame Speaker Victoria Labalme:
“If you can’t fix it, feature it.”
So, if you’re working in a different location, lean into that reality. Be the expert providing insights to your manager on what’s going on in your region. Your peer can’t do that and your manager will sound smarter with your insights and input to his or her boss.
Become the go-to source for what’s happening outside HQ. Then get your boss to come out to your region. For example, my direct report Joan (not her real name) headed up a regional sales office and we didn’t see each other regularly.
She gave me updates on the major trends from clients and competitors in her region, which helped me sound good with my managers and paved the way to developing a strategic view of the European landscape.
And as an example of using more than one of these steps at the same time, she also invited me to attend her client event in Spain. This created opportunities for her because I got to see her in action (impressive) and hear third party testimonials from her clients (powerful).
This brings us to the fifth step.
5. Manage your mindset
Your mindset affects your behavior which affects your results. That’s why managing your mental game is so important.
Of course, it’s natural to worry about being at a disadvantage because you’re in a remote office location or your peer is the favorite who might be speaking ill of you. But this mindset will hold you back, even if all of it is true.
Start by figuring out what the reality is versus what’s just a natural fear. For example, is your peer proactively undermining you or pointing out real gaps in the way things operate? Then, identify what’s in your control versus what’s not. For example, you can’t control who your boss favors, but you can do things that present the value you add.
Decide how you want to deal with those realities and then take steps. The ones above are a good start. Then let go of the rest.
Be proactive when it comes to building relationships from a different location
Sitting, waiting, worrying and dwelling on the situation will only drag you down.
On the other hand, doing even one small thing to move closer toward your goal will leave you feeling better about yourself and the situation. It’s up to you to make a move.
So, when you’re in a different location from your manager, remember these steps to build a relationship of mutual trust and respect:
- Use existing opportunities well – how can you transform the meetings and interactions you already have to build mutual trust and respect?
- Leverage your network – who can be your “eyes and ears” as well as your allies and advocates with your manger?
- Create new opportunities – how can you get your boss to see you in action?
- Feature what you can’t “fix” – how can you make being in a different location a benefit that helps your boss be successful?
- Manage your mindset – how can you focus on what you can do and let go of worries about the rest?
Which of these steps would most help you build your relationship with a boss or stakeholder in a different location?
Leave me a comment – I’d love to know.
How to Keep Your Boss Updated and Do It Well
One assumption that’s easy to make but can really damage your career is that your boss knows what you’re doing and how well you’re doing it. After all, they’re your boss. It’s their job to know what’s going on and to look out for team members, right?
Unfortunately, most bosses aren’t perfect, and they’re definitely not mind readers. They’re busy people with worries of their own.
That’s why the best strategy is to take charge of keeping your boss updated on what you’re doing and to do it in a way that serves both of you well. Especially when remote working is involved.
Done well, updating your boss is one of your career “secret weapons” because it’s a great opportunity to be more visible with the people who matter in your career, so make it a regular part of your routine.
In this Career Mastery Training, you’ll discover:
- Why updates are crucial
- The common mistakes to avoid
- Key elements for updating your boss well
- Strategies for updating different kinds of bosses
- And much more