Managing Your Manager

A lot of us think our manager could do better.

I know this because I get to peek behind the curtain. Coaching gives people a place to talk about the things they can’t say to their boss.

This is what I’ve been hearing, does it sound familiar?

What I wish my manager understood
1.  I want you to ask what I’m interested in and where I think I’m heading.  Don’t just toss objectives at me at appraisal time.

2.  I’d like to do it myself.  Help me understand the project, and then give me a little space.  If I’m not doing it your way, don’t take it back, just help me understand why I won’t hit the results if I do it my way.

3.  Tell me what I am doing well, what I could improve on and where all this might lead me.  Is there a next step that isn’t your job?  Are there other roles you think I might be good at?

4.  Ask my opinion or ask for my help.  I don’t expect you to have all the answers.  I’d respect you more if you talked me through the decisions that you are trying to resolve.

5.  Make me feel valued.  I’m working my butt off.  Maybe you can’t promote me now but tell me you see the hard work, the good relationships and the potential I’ve got.

So how can you change this dynamic and get the guidance you want from your boss?

Manage up, give your manager a roadmap 
1. Set your own objectives
Waiting for your boss to give you objectives is doomed. It’s unlikely they will motivate you. Set aside an hour, maybe get someone to brainstorm with you.  Come up with 3-4 things that you would be proud to accomplish over next year. Then take those to your manager – they’ll be impressed with your initiative and you’ll enjoy your work more.

2.  Responsibility and Authority.
If you want to lead a project, talk to your boss about the specifics.  Show you understand what’s required and are already planning how to accomplish it.  Their biggest worry will be the loss of control.  Tell them how and when you will keep them up to date so they feel informed.

If you want more management responsibility, think through how you’d manage someone. Bring it to life, “I’d like to be responsible for the next grad in our department.  I can train them on the reports for the team and help them participate in client meetings.”

3. Prompt for feedback.
We wait around, hoping the boss will tell us what they think about our work.  You can manage this.  When you’ve finished a project or have taken on new responsibilities, ask for half an hour with your manager to review how it went. Then prepare what you think worked, what you enjoyed and what you’d do differently next time.

Make it a conversation.  Don’t pop in and deliver your version, then scoot. Ask them how it seemed from their end, ask what other people thought.  Ask what you could build on or do differently next time. Keep it future focused – show them what you learned and talk about what’s next.

4.  Check their attitude if you are being shut out.
In my experience, insecurity is a common reason managers doesn’t ask your opinion.

If they feel confident in their own role, they can be open and actively seek your opinion.  They’ll take it away as food for thought.  When they’re insecure, they don’t want to show they aren’t in control and in charge.  So, you need to offer to help your boss to shine.

Offer to be their sounding board, then affirm what they’re saying and build on it to help them look good.
Do what you can to make them feel confident so they let you in and learn they can trust you.

5. Get that acknowledgement, it’s motivating.
You want to skip home happy, even if you’re working late.  Most people get totally stumped at the idea of asking for affirmation.  You’re not asking for gold stars.

Use your humour and look for the moment to help your manager understand that you  work much harder when they highlight what they are happy with.

Help them see that affirming what you are doing well sets the bar and you can repeat that.  It also helps you understand what’s important to them.

This is as easy as asking, “how did that project go from your perspective?”  If they start to nit pic, ask what they thought went well, ask what they’ like to see you do again next time.

You may have to work with them to change their habits.  They won’t learn over night that generous words are motivating.

So when you get those grains of praise, don’t brush them off.  All you have to do is say “Thanks, I’m really chuffed you noticed, you made my day.”  It will make you both feel good.

Most people want to be good managers.  They want to be motivating, they just don’t know how.  Giving them a roadmap to managing you will make it easier and more rewarding for both of you.

If you want to read more about why good people become managers that go wrong, I really like this blog post I came across:
5 Reasons Good People Become Bad Bosses
By Jason Evanish

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