Five secrets to managing your manager.
By Allan Mackintosh
The biggest reason why people leave organisations is that the role they are doing is no longer offering any challenge or excitement. The second reason is often related to the behaviour and capability of their immediate line manager. More often than not, the two are strongly linked with the manager taking little interest in the representative's development. As such the representative can often feel under-valued and bored due to lack of attention and challenge.
In this situation, the blame is often laid at the manager's door, but any representative who is facing this challenge, must be prepared to take their share of the responsibility. The route of this interpersonal crisis is frequently a basic failure to discuss expectations and to lay everything "on the table". So often, in this situation, both parties are totally unaware of each other's needs, motivations and expectations. The result is often a lack of trust and respect between employee and manager, that inevitably leads to conflict in one form or another.
So how can you avoid such conflict and start to work productively with your manager? I would suggest, that if you are willing to act on the following five secrets - you will induce an improved and productive working relationship with your manager.
Read about behavioural styles and in particular, learn about your own strengths, in relation to those of your manager. Compare the two and if there are differences then work on these compatibility issues. The discreet matching of body language is easy to implement and often has a positive effect. Match your managers tone and volume of voice, remembering not to mimic only discreetly match. Look at their eye movements and do similar. Again, do similar with body movements. When you start to discreetly match your managers body language you will be amazed at the natural outcome. This can be an effective start to the rapport building process and can go a long way to improve subconscious trust levels. As sales professionals, we all readily forget the importance of exercising our skills within the confines of our own teams.
Contract with your manager by getting agreement about how best the two of you are going to work together. Ask questions such as:
• "What are your specific expectations of me as your representative?"
• "What are my specific objectives and how am I going to be measured?"
• "What behaviours annoy you?"
• "What motivates and de-motivates you?"
• "What reports do you want? When do you want them? What content?"
• "How often do you want to visit me in the field?"
Contracting is all about managing expectations. A good manager will always outline his or her expectations and will ask you about yours. Once you both are clear about what each other's expectations are then this is another building block in the foundations of trust and respect.
One of the hardest lessons I learned was when I did not contract with a senior manager. We had completely opposite behavioural styles, which meant that we didn't get off to the best start. He thought I was too energetic, flighty and too much of a risk taker and I thought he was too detailed with no personality and constantly stuck in front of spreadsheets. We were in constant conflict because he asked me for reports that I could see no reason for and I was frustrated when he ignored my pleas for more training budget. If we had contracted and discussed our similarities and differences and how best to work with them, we may not have had the conflict that we did have.
Ask for regular feedback on your progress. Ask your manager to coach and mentor you. Be pro-active and do not wait for your manager to come to you. On the other hand do not always be seen to be reliant on your manager and give them space. Agree this area of support in your contract.
Be seen to be a support for your manager. Management can be lonely and stressful, particularly if the manager isn't managing their boss particularly well or if the company and/or team results are not doing as well as expected. Be supportive and offer to take on extra tasks. These tasks will not only make space for the manager to work more productively and strategically - they will also enable you to develop your own capabilities.
Go with your instincts! If you feel that the relationship with your manager is starting to go sour, then immediately call a meeting and openly discuss your concerns. To make this easier than it may sound, again build it into your contract right at the start. Something like, "If I feel our relationship is not what it should be, can I address it immediately as opposed to letting it linger?"
Relationships between managers and representatives usually deteriorate because there was little trust in the first place and as a result openness is not usually achieved. Follow the five secrets and you will go a long way to ensuring a lasting and productive relationship with your manager.