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8 strategies for effectively managing your supervisor and promoting your own career success.

If you’re looking to have a successful career, it’s important that you learn how to manage your manager. A bad relationship with a manager can lead to job dissatisfaction and even quitting. However, by using the tips provided in this blog post, you can ensure that you have a positive relationship with your manager and achieve career success.

In fact, DDI’s Frontline Leader Project recently found that

  • The manager accounts for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement.
  • 50% of Americans have left a job to “get away from their manager at some point in their career.”
But what does it mean to manage your manager? And how do you do that?

In work life, you are managing down, sideways and up. Let me explain.

  1. If you are a manager, you manage your team, i.e. ‘managing downward’. 
  2. If you lead a group of people at a peer level to you, you are ‘managing sideways’. 
  3. Managing your manager and your manager’s manager is ‘managing upward’.

Managing your manager is an essential part of our jobs. More often than not, career success is determined by how employees manage their managers.

Not so fast

“Dude, my manager manages me. Do I get to manage my manager?” If this thought just popped into your head, then let me make something super clear: you both manage each other. 

For this reason, it is super crucial for you to manage your team and your manager.

Let’s look at the 8 ways of managing your manager and managing upward.

1. Understanding expectations

Understanding your manager’s expectations is extremely important because she continuously measures and analyzes you against those expectations.

During work interactions, your manager is measuring you against those expectations. Maybe not every single time, but most of the time.

So, ensure you understand your manager’s expectations about your work, performance, and roles as clearly as possible.

Bonus tip: Even better, discuss those expectations and write them down in an email, so it is ‘documented’.

Pro tip: The pros play this by moving the boss’ expectations down and performing so well that they beat those expectations hands down. Cue the bonus check and promotion letter in the mail.

2. Understand your manager’s work style to build credibility and trust

Does your manager like a ton of details, or does she not? Do they prefer verbal communication to written communication? Does she like frequent check-ins or once in a while check-in? 

It is critical to understand your manager’s work style well so that you can work better with them. It makes communication easier and improves work compatibility and thought partnership. It helps you to build credibility and trust with your manager.

3. Establish a trust-based relationship

One of the essential things for managers is to have a trusted relationship with their employees. You can build trust with your manager by consistently delivering high-quality work, delivering on time, managing risks, and exceeding expectations that your manager has set.

4. ‘No surprises’

One of the most meaningful practices successful professionals use is to ensure there are ‘no surprises’. Most managers have this subconscious, unwritten rule with their team members: “No surprises, please!” 

Sure, unexpected situations come up at work all the time. So, if you come up with these unexpected situations, ensure you provide your manager with a heads-up and possible options to deal with them. That way, your boss is prepared and prepped. 

On the flip side, if you create a surprise for your manager, it might lead to credibility issues, lack of trust and loss of your manager’s confidence in you. 

One way to deal with this scenario is to share the risks and potential challenges with the manager. Once you have brought it to their attention, it can longer be a surprise.

5. Ask great questions. They might even help your manager

One of my mentors always tells me, ‘The quality of your questions determines the quality of your business’.

Asking great questions is a fantastic way to help yourself and help your boss. It helps to have a 360-degree view of your work to identify potential challenges and blind spots to come up with those questions. 

A great question is not necessarily a complex one. Simple questions are often required to get to the core of the problem or solution.

Sometimes these questions even help your manager because they might develop a clearer perception of the job that will allow both of you to be sure there are no assumptions.

6. Help your manager see over the horizon

One of the critical things in managing and working with your manager is to help them see over the horizon. You are:

  • Likely the person in the details.
  • Working on different projects.
  • Possibly working with many other teams in the company. 

Give your manager a 360-degree view based on what you see in your projects. Share your strategic and tactical observations, and invite your manager to share her colour commentary on it.

You and your manager can create a shared perspective that would be useful to you. But it might be even more helpful to your manager because she now has additional awareness and knowledge that helps her connect the dots.

Sharing a view of your work and projects with your manager plays a vital role in delivering a successful outcome.

7. Make your manager even more successful

Your manager has gotten to where she is, based on her smarts and hard work. She is already successful. Your job is to make her even more successful. 

It is a two-way street. The more you invest in your manager’s success, the more she will invest in your success.

8. Asking for your manager’s help

There is no shame in asking for help from your manager. Asking for help lets you establish a great working relationship with your manager. Asking for help is a sign of strength. It indicates that you feel comfortable in that trust-based relationship with your manager.

In summary

What are the key ways to manage your manager?
  1. Make sure you understand your manager’s expectations.
  2. Understand your manager’s work style 
  3. Build credibility and trust by delivering outstanding work
  4. Ensure that there are no surprises.
  5. Ask great questions
  6. Help your manager see over the horizon
  7. Make your manager even more successful
  8. Ask for help

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