If we are to be successful in achieving our goals–both for the short term and longer term developmental goals, we have to manage our managers. We have to get them to help us getting things done, learning and growing. We need them to focus, with us, both on our short term goals, but also on our long term development.
Great leaders and managers already know this. They work closely with each person on their teams, aligning expectation each has of each other, listening, coaching, supporting/removing barriers. They focus both on short term performance, and on their long term development. They make themselves available to their people, they actively solicit feedback on themselves and how they can be more effective with each person on the team.
But too many of us have managers that fall far short of that. What do we do? How do we get the support, coaching, and help we need to achieve our own goals? Somehow, we have to manage our managers, to help us achieve our goals.
Before I go any further, I fully recognize this is far easier said than done. There are too many managers that don’t realize their job is to get things done through their people. There are too many who don’t know how to coach, who don’t make time to work with their people. Too many “hide” in executive meetings, or behind their terminals doing endless analyses.
Yet ignoring them, not trying to engage them and working with them is dangerous. We do need help getting things done, we do need coaching and advice, we must make sure we are aligned with their expectations–otherwise we face career threatening surprises.
Where do we start?
First, we have to be very clear about what our manager’s expectations are of us, and how our performance will be evaluated. To do this, we have to sit down with our managers, understanding specifically how our performance will be evaluated. What are the key goals? What are the metrics used to track our goal attainment? What are the consequences of not achieving those goals? Make sure you leave no stone unturned in this discussion with your manager. Make sure these expectations are documented and both you and your manager have copies of this. This becomes an action plan for both or you to work toward.
While your manager should be driving these discussions, too often they don’t. But it’s critical to understand these, so schedule an hour with your manager where you can walk through these issues.
At the same time, take the opportunity, to learn how your manager can help you/support you. If there are areas of support or development you need, discuss these in the same meeting. Again, as you and your manager agree on a plan, document it, make sure both you and your manager understand what must be done, by who, and when.
Once you’ve had the initial conversation, don’t let the issue drop. You want to have periodic meetings with your manager to assess how you are doing against these objectives, as well as their perceptions of your performance. Set review meetings–at least quarterly, perhaps even monthly, where you and your manager review your performance against what you had originally agreed upon.
This serves a whole bunch of purposes. First, it’s important you and your manager are aligned in each other’s perceptions of your performance. Use the original plan as the basis for reviewing progress.
This has some important side benefits. Too often, managers simply aren’t paying attention. They don’t know how you are doing against the expectations you agreed upon. You want to make sure they understand what you are doing and what you have accomplished.
Sometimes, they may have shifted their priorities and expectations–yet they may not have communicated these changes to you (Yeah, it sucks, but you have to protect yourself and make sure you understand shifts in their priorities).
Finally, it’s important to make sure the two of you are aligned and that you are meeting their expectations.
Make sure you take the initiative to schedule these periodic checkpoint/review meetings. Again, make sure you and your manager document any changes and where you are in your performance.
All of this is just the process of keeping you and your manager aligned with expectations of performance and how you are performing against those expectations.
To increase your effectiveness in working with your manager, put yourself in her shoes. What are her priorities? What does she care about? What is she measured on and held accountable fore? What can you do in helping them achieve their goals?