Manage Your Relationship with Your Leaders

Posted: Feb 22  |  By: Trey Gunn

Managers require managing. While that may sound strange, the fact is that managers are people and like anyone else, are inherently imperfect and sometimes see things through their own lens. As a staff member, it’s important to know how to manage your relationship and properly communicate with your leaders. If you’re able to do so effectively, it will demonstrate that you have key leadership qualities. It will also empower you as an employee to be more efficient and accomplish more in your day-to-day, setting you up for success that leads to promotion.

Structured Communication

A key way to manage your relationship with leadership is to provide feedback. They need to know what’s working and what needs tweaking. Setting aside regular, structured times to have conversations with your managers helps with this. First, by scheduling the discussions, you put parameters on the amount of time it will require of your already-busy manager. Second, by knowing the time when these meetings can occur, it prevents you from trying to provide feedback “in the moment.” Instead, you can wait until the appropriate time to share thoughts (often saving you from yourself).

Assume Nothing, Be Specific

Be extremely specific during meetings. Be prepared to provide a list of current outstanding projects and have the manager assist you in prioritizing. This helps your manager know what you have on your plate, helping them know what to delegate to whom.

When a manager assigns work to you, unless it’s obvious, always request a specific deadline (not “ASAP” but an actual date). Ask how the manager expects you to accomplish it and how to prioritize it within the list of existing projects that you have. Develop a plan for how you intend to carry out a project and run that plan by your manager to make sure it is in line with what they expect. It gives them a great opportunity to provide feedback or clarify areas where there might be a misunderstanding. This might sound time-consuming, but it pales in comparison to working on a project for a week and turning it in only to find that you went in the opposite direction and didn’t meet your manager’s expectations.

Account for Your Time

Most organizations have moved away from time tracking. While most employees love this (no one actually likes putting in their time at the end of the day), it can actually hurt. Without tracking, it’s difficult for workers to quantify the demands placed upon them and push back in situations where they’re overloaded. It also means that managers have a much rougher idea of what they’ve demanded of their staff. Keep a time log of how you spend your time. It doesn’t have to be super formal; a spreadsheet or text document on your desktop works fine. The log can help communicate to your managers what has been asked of you and whether it’s reasonable. It’s also good from a personal time management standpoint. Are you getting more efficient at routine tasks and working faster or are you remaining stagnant?

Be Consistent

Being consistent is about more than just the routine of communicating with your manager. You should have consistency in your day-to-day approach to your work, particularly when it comes to regular projects. There are two major benefits to this. First, you and the people around you will get familiar with how you work and can anticipate your actions. In addition, communicating and writing down procedures makes transitioning to new staff easier (hopefully as the result of your promotion). Good leaders are always paving the way to their replacements by making sure their role is well documented and that folks are being groomed behind them. Consistency makes this much easier to accomplish. Working in this way demonstrates your commitment to personal professional growth and your desire to see the whole team, not just yourself, succeed.

Focus Upward

The goal is career advancement. You have to demonstrate that your mindset is growing above your pay grade. In order to do so, you need a firm understanding of more than just your own role, but of the entire enterprise around you. Spend time understanding your organization’s goals and trajectory. While managers often provide small snippets of information in these areas, you’ll sometimes need to ask questions to get details. These kinds of topics can be discussed in regular meetings when time permits, but sometimes it helps to simply take your manager out to lunch or out for coffee. It changes the scenery, strengthens your relationship, and opens up potential for dialogue that goes beyond the ho-hum of the office.

Be Willing to Share Ideas

Once you fully understand your role, your team’s roles and talk with your manager, you’ll likely have ideas. Sharing ideas with leaders can be intimidating, but it demonstrates that you’re paying attention and seeing the big picture. There is a fine line to toe, though. You don’t want to come off as a “know-it-all” by telling your boss how to do his or her job. Instead, identify a specific pain point and present a well thought-out solution that might not have been considered. Thinking in this way is demonstrative of executive-level competency and that’s how you can advance your career.

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