Manage your manager
In these economic times, you need to manage your manager. When it comes to job security, the best way to not only increase your odds of retaining your job but gain access to more opportunity is to make yourself more valuable to your manager. This may sound a bit pessimistic, but I think this is just human nature. Put yourself in your manager’s shoes. Your manager is like any other person. Your manager wants to work with the folks that are easy to manage. The following are a few ways to make your manager’s job easier:
- Be easy to work with.
- Do what you are asked / and just as important, do what you say you are going to do.
- Keep your manager updated on a regular basis so there are no surprises. This may be daily, 2X a week, or weekly, depending on the project.
Manager hasn’t had manager training
That is pretty much it. Regardless of the company culture, if you can effectively manage your manager, you will be successful. When I talk with employees about their careers, whether they are new to the workforce or have 10 years of experience, very few employees realize the biggest key to success doesn’t fall on their manager but falls on them. A lot of managers have not had manager training, so what they learned about management is through trial and error, and sometimes at your expense. (Think about when you dated someone and you were their first significant other. You were their learning curve and it wasn’t very steep.) Most of us are thinking to ourselves “not much learned and mostly error”. Sometimes managers are promoted to manager for the wrong reasons. More often than not, managers are promoted because they are good individual contributors, not because they are good leaders. There is a difference. This is why you need to manage your manager and why making your manager’s job easier is so important.
Some easy wins to obtain with your manager:
- Establish goals at the beginning of the week, month, quarter, and most importantly, update your manager on the progress.
- Confirm that what you are working on is important to your manager.
- Tell your manager your goals, when they will be accomplished and most importantly, WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO THE COMPANY OR DEPARTMENT. Spell it out for your manager so your manager can sell, defend, or explain what YOU are doing to THEIR manager.
If you want to manage your manager, you need to be pro-active. This is not a reactive process. Take the initiative to set regular update meetings with your manager. These meetings do not have to belong. These meetings should not belong. 15-30 min is ideal. Your manager is a busy person. If you are meeting regularly, you won’t need a long meeting. I guarantee your manager will appreciate the following steps:
- Set up a regular meeting with your manager. It may be 1 or 2 times a week or 1 or 2 times a month. Depending on your schedule of projects, it may be in person or via email. Just keep them updated.
- Let them know what you were working on since the last meeting (should be something that is important to your manager)
- Update them on what you are going to be working on until your next meeting
- Give yourself some feedback on what you think you did well and what you would have done differently.
- Confirm with your manager if you are working on the correct goals for that month, quarter, etc.
- After the meeting, summarize what you talked about and email it to them as an attachment. (They can easily drop this into a folder)
Keep your manager updated on your progress:
- I mentioned this above, but I can’t stress this enough. If you say you are going to do something or have been assigned a project, keep people in the loop. Let them know when you think it will be done.
- If you run into a snag that will cause a delay, give them an update and reset expectations. No manager wants a surprise that they need to explain to their manager.
- If you are stumped and need help, ask for it. At the end of the day, if you fail, your manager fails with their manager. You do not want to be the cause of your manager’s failure. If you are stumped, inform your manager as to what avenues you tried and ask for advice. No complaining, no whining. We all have a hard time helping someone who won’t help themselves. The last thing your manager wants to do is report to the head of the department and say something didn’t get done. They will be OK about letting the head of the department know that something is behind, or circumstances are changing. They will not be OK if they are forced to give this type of update on the deadline date.
Show initiative to your manager
Do not wait for them to ask you for your ideas. They probably won’t.
- If you have ideas, don’t wait for your manager to ask you for them, present them and most importantly the benefit to the company. How is your idea helping the company?
- If you see something that can be improved, provide your manager with your proposed solution.
- A simple 1-page format such as problem, solution, the benefit to the company can be effective.
- Be open to your manager’s suggestions for improving your solution, or the implementation of your ideas. I can guarantee you that your idea won’t be implemented without some improvements or suggestion from others. EXPECT THEM, ACCEPT THEM and BE GRACIOUS about it.
- Support your manager:
- Everyone wants to be supported by their ideas. Find ways to show support with your manager verbally, via email, or via your actions. Public support at company meetings is an especially effective way to build relationships. We like it when they complement our efforts in front of the group, why wouldn’t they?
- If your manager is looking for volunteers, be the first to volunteer, and let them know you will tackle anything and everything. Any side project regardless of how small or menial.
- Find out what your manager’s goals are both professionally and personally and help them achieve these.
Darth Vadar manages his manager
For those of you who think that managing your manager is for the birds, remember Darth Vadar managed his boss the Emperor of the Galaxy Palpatine, the Sith Lord. He gave him updates on the progress, checked in, and when there was a choke point, he reset expectations. (Progress of the DeathStar was slower than expected, so he explained the delay.)
Just being consistent with these simple steps will ensure your manager sees you as proactive, with a positive attitude, and a supporter of the company. In my experience, 90% of employees do not take a common sense approach to their career. At the end of the day, you alone own your career. You alone are responsible for your career. It is not your manager’s career. Most employees wait for their manager to take an interest in their career. Why would a manager take an interest in your career if they don’t perceive that you have any interest in it?
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.