How to effectively manage your manager

By Victoria Draudins

June 3, 2020

Adobe

Succeeding in the public sector in today’s environment requires a mix of skills. While managing others, whether they’re above, below or across from you can be a complex task, it is a very valuable or even essential skill required for you to produce your best work and to develop as a leader in your own right. Victoria Draudins reports.

Being a manager can be full of challenges. But when a supervisor is struggling, there’s a good chance the team they’re leading will feel the pressure as well. Rather than being passive and powerless as events unfold, there are steps you can take to help manage your manager and prepare you for or enhance your existing position as a manager. After all, it’s good training in case you eventually find yourself in the position of upwardly managing a director, departmental head or even a minister.

According to Northeastern University, managing up involves an improving your boss’s efficiency and efficacy to maximise benefits to you, your manager and the company. “This tactic includes:

  • building a solid relationship with your supervisor,
  • using your relationship to anticipate their needs, and
  • communicating with them effectively.”

As noted in How to demonstrate leadership regardless of your position showing true leadership means that upward management should be for the benefit the whole team, not just your own gain.

Understand your boss more than the average employee

There are a few steps you need to take in order to effectively manage up, and they are all anchored in developing a strong understanding your boss and how your own strengths and weaknesses can work with or impede the relationship.

As noted in Harvard Business Review article Managing Your Boss, this requires  you – at a minimum – to understand your boss’s preferred working style, their strengths and weaknesses, their objectives and pressures within the department or agency as well as their pressures and blind spots.

Other tips from career coach and founder of the Job Success Lab Leah McLeod is to embrace your role in supporting your boss, get to know your manager as a person, anticipate their needs, honour their time, produce consistent and excellent work and tell your boss how to make use of your talents.

By developing a better understanding of your boss, you will improve your relationship with your boss as well as your own managerial efficacy.

Putting your knowledge into practice

Enhancing your understanding of your boss means you should:

  1. Communicate with them more effectively. By understanding and mirroring their preferred their communication and decision-making style, you can use both their time and yours more effectively. Without this, there’s a greater potential the two of you will have be misunderstandings or decisions that don’t get made or are backtracked on.
  2. Help them achieve their goals and priorities. To do this, you can set up a one-on-one meeting with them to discuss their priorities. Rather than taking existing information at face value, this knowledge will help you identify potential conflicts at an earlier stage for example when coming up with a policy decision.
  3. Be adept at keeping them up to date with relevant information about projects or issues. This depends to an extent on whether your boss prefers to be involved in decisions or to delegate and only be kept abreast of important changes. Understanding your boss’s priorities also can help you to determine which issues they want to be involved in and what level of detail.
  4. Earn your boss’s trust, by establishing yourself as someone to turn to when an issue arises through consistently supporting and delivering for them.

Recognising the relationship of mutual dependence

As noted in Managing Your Boss, people can dismiss dysfunctional relationship between a manager and employee as being due to conflicting personalities.

However, the authors highlighted in one case study, as well as having a different personality from his boss, an employee ‘made or had unrealistic assumptions and expectations about the very nature of the boss-subordinate relationships.’ By failing to recognise the ‘mutual dependence’ involved in the relationship, an employee will avoid or manage their relationship with their boss ineffectively.

Part of this recognition means recognising that while some good managers may be good at giving you all the information upfront, you should expect to assume primary responsibility for seeking relevant information instead of waiting for it to be provided. This also requires appreciating the role your manager plays in providing a link between you and the wider organisation. Dismissing this can mean missing out on crucial information required to produce good work that is fit-for-purpose.

Succeeding in the public sector in today’s environment requires a mix of skills. While managing others, whether they’re above, below or across from you can be a complex task, it is a very valuable or even essential skill required for you to produce your best work and to develop as a leader in your own right.

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