Long-distance relationships can be hard. Just ask anyone who has ever been in one. And right now, courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of people across the country are engaged in a long-distance relationship of a different kind – with their boss.
Working from home may seem like a dream come true, at least to start, but it comes at a cost. It takes more effort – more communication, more attention, more energy – to keep the bond with your boss strong. If you plan to grow and progress in your career, then be aware that out of sight can quickly become out of mind. So, if you’re working remotely, it’s essential that you take conscious steps to not only stay connected to your boss, but also let them know how well you’re handling crises and achieving organizational objectives.
Fortunately, keeping your long-distance relationship robust can be accomplished through a single deliberate action on your part. Initiate and maintain a structured weekly one-on-one conversation with your immediate supervisor. Not the continuing exchanges about individual issues or frequent e-mails that update on particular challenges – everyone does those, and of course they’re important. But a planned video or telephone dialogue that focuses on six specific items. Here, then, are the six things you should talk about with your manager every week in your structured one-on-one conversation.
Open by sharing one positive highlight or accomplishment since the last meeting. It doesn’t matter what area of your responsibility it pertains to – it could even occasionally be non-work related – but it should be something you are proud of and pleased about. Starting with a highlight sets the tone for the rest of your meeting, and positions you as a team player and a confident contributor.
Second, recap your progress on the action items from the last meeting. More on this coming up.
This will naturally lead into No. 3 – a discussion of current problems and issues. Your objective is to concisely go through whatever you’re currently managing with a goal of keeping your boss in the loop and getting their input and advice. Depending on what is going on in your organization, this usually takes up the bulk of the meeting time. But make sure you leave enough time for the remaining steps.
Fourth on your list is to raise any issues or commitments that are looming on the horizon. What is coming up that either needs to be addressed or even more importantly, could pose a potential problem? Purposefully bringing up these matters demonstrates that you are proactive and forward-thinking, skills that position you as high-value to your organization.
No. 5: Initiate a dialogue that specifically outlines the areas you need help in. This could include access to additional resources, or an extension of a deadline, or asking your boss to step in to facilitate a tricky situation. Often, many people find this step difficult because they erroneously believe that it signals their inability or exposes their shortcomings. Quite the opposite, actually. When you can succinctly identify what you require in order to accomplish objectives, not only are you more likely to get what you need, but you also demonstrate self-assurance and self-reliance. So don’t fall into the trap of skipping this step.
Finally, close out your conversation by summarizing the action items that came up during your meeting, both in terms of what you are going to do, and what your boss has committed to following up on. This list then becomes item No. 2 for next week’s conversation.
As you set out to begin and then maintain this structured weekly one-on-one conversation with your boss, there is no reason to keep this six-step agenda a secret. In fact, sharing it in advance only goes to show your manager that you are working effectively and productively from home.
When you deliberately take steps to build a strong long-distance relationship with your boss, you are setting yourself up for success, not just in the near-term, but also in the future. By acting intentionally now, you can ensure that when you finally return to the office, you will be remembered, and rewarded, for the good work you accomplished from afar.
Merge Gupta-Sunderji is a leadership speaker, consultant and the founder of leadership development consultancy Turning Managers Into Leaders.
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