Manage Your Boss
One of the common traits of successful managers is their ability to effectively manage the relationship with their boss. Simply put, it is your job to manage your boss’s expectations of you. Are you clear about what your boss expects from you as a direct report? Do you know what his/her priorities are? If you have more questions than answers, take the initiative and meet with your boss. Ask for feedback on what’s working and what’s not. Then take immediate corrective action where you are falling short and align your behaviors to those now-understood expectations. Through this approach, you will build credibility and support from your leader.
Does the “managing your boss” strategy seem counterintuitive to the practices established by your company’s tried-and-true chain of command? If so, you’re not alone because the whole concept of what’s called “managing up” feels awkward to many middle-level managers. But making the initiative to check in regularly with your superior, getting feedback about how your behaviors and activities are meeting expectations, and then taking necessary, corrective action is a smart career move. Why?
First and foremost, because it’s not your boss’s job to manage expectations of you. You and you alone should be responsible for what you’ve been asked to do and how well you’re doing it. So depending on your boss’s schedule, set up regular times to determine how your productivity, performance, behaviors and attitudes are meeting his/her goals, the team’s objectives and, importantly, the company’s vision/mission as well. Don’t wait until the annual review to find out — check in sooner, rather than later, and often! Be proactive, so you don’t have to be reactive later.
Second, you’ll discover how to avoid your boss’s pet peeves. Having been in business and management for 30 years, I’ve had a number of bosses. Each had his own set of pet peeves, which I would never have known had I not made the effort to meet with and cultivate relationships with them. One hated people being late for meetings, while another couldn’t stand it if we didn’t engage in meetings. Learning and avoiding these pet peeves helped me do my job better, and I also gained their respect, support and credibility. It became a game changer in my career.
Third, your intentions will be honorable. As opposed to being viewed as a “brownnoser” or, worse, morphing into someone who kisses up to the boss for superficial or selfish reasons, you’ll be perceived as someone who is genuinely taking initiative to improve yourself, your team and your company. Consequently, you’ll earn respect.
So next time you start blaming your boss for your shortcomings, problems, failures or misunderstandings, consider whether you’re doing enough to manage what your boss expects of you. If you’re not, be proactive and change your fate. Set some periodic dates to connect, take the necessary corrective action, and “manage up” to meet (even exceed) your full potential.
How do you manage up with a boss who seems to have “no time” for talk?