Managing your manager
I was invited to speak at a conference last month in Melbourne on the topic of managing up. For you, that might involve managing your CEO, your Board or the person you directly report to. Everyone will, at some stage in their career have their own problems and challenges managing up. Your job is to make your managers' life easier. They are looking for someone they can rely on, with a safe pair of hands. Like most components of leadership, it will never be smooth sailing. Here are 3 tips you can use to help navigate through potentially rough seas.
Firstly; Learn to become more agreeable. This does not mean you need be a Yes person, jumping at every request your manager makes. The opposite of agreeable is hostile, which is not a trait your manger is looking for in you. Agreeable people think collaboration. Hostile people think competition. Learn to think in terms of how can I make this relationship work. What do they need more of from me and what do they need less of? Collaboration is a skill that can be learned over time. You’ll enjoy enormous success in your career if you can learn to find a way to get on with people who might just be a little difficult. Chances are it won't be easy at first, but by becoming more agreeable, your manager will appreciate how much they enjoy working with you, which over time will be invaluable in your career.
You'll often hear agreeable people use sayings such as;
- I like that idea
- That could work
- That sounds great, let me take a closer look
Secondly, focus on your credibility. People who are credible will always be in high demand. Credible people invest time learning about their industry and their competitors. They read widely, gather data and subscribe to benchmarking services. You can create time in your schedule each week by reducing your time on unproductive activities like Tik Tok and Instagram. Credible people build powerful networks they can tap into to access ideas and information. They are aware of their body language and the impact it has on how they are perceived. I'd suggest you learn to move and speak with confidence, becoming aware of your crisp gestures, stillness, and a balanced upright head position. Avoid surprises with your manager by keeping the communication up. Schedule in regular meetings, covering all agenda items in a timely fashion. When meeting with your manager, work on getting the balance right between discussing operational issues and strategic priorities.
Finally be adaptable. Think long and hard about your managers preference for receiving information. Are they a reader or a listener? A friend of mine had a CEO who wouldn’t read anything if it was sent 2 days prior to a meeting. When he sent it 2 hours before a meeting, the CEO would read every word of it. Humans, unlike racehorses, or the stock market, are fairly predictable. Notice the language your manager uses. If its results, actions and targets they keep mentioning, you best get cracking. Alternatively, if they love the sound of their own voice, telling long winded stories, clean out your ear wax and prepare to listen, whenever you're with them.
When you work with someone for a period of time, you should pick up on their working preferences. It's all about awareness. Do they like data and facts or is their preference emotion and feelings? Do they like to make impulsive decisions or do they prefer to have time to think things through. Use your leadership skills to communicate in the preferred style of your manager.
In addition to being agreeable, credible, and adaptable, here's one extra thought to consider. Your manager or Board will be happiest when everything they have employed you to do is running smoothly. You need to be like a duck on a lake. Nice and calm on the surface, with a smile, but kicking frantically beneath the water level just to stay afloat. Your success depends on your ability to build a high performing team around you, attracting and retaining talent. Oh and one last thing. You need a little bit of luck. Never underestimate the importance of luck in a successful career.
For more information on what I covered in my talk, including a copy of my slides, scan the QR code below and add to your email subject line, Managing Up slides.