Three mails, four pings, five calls. Shrishti was behind me. She wanted me to speak at her campus. She never did so much of follow up ever. I had some other plans for weekend. Yet, I said yes because I could observe perseverance and passion. Positive reinforcement is a good method to develop orgsur (organization survival) skills.
Now it was my turn to display the same skillset. I was following up with her for the topic. By nature, I prefer to prepare for any speaking commitment because that drives me to read, research and learn. She said that I shall be able to speak on any topic. I felt appreciated and paused follow up for couple of days. When I insisted on the last day, she told me the topic. I doubted that she had a vested interest. The topic was “How to manage your Manager”. She confirmed my doubt. She was sitting in the first row at the lecture hall. It is tough to share secrets with someone, you know for sure, is going to exploit it.
Still I decided to keep myself honest and shared the insights on managing your first manager. There are 3 fundamental principles on which the entire Manager Management process depends.
1. All Managers are the same
Picture a Manager in your mind. The social perception defines Manager as a person who takes away your freedom. It is important to understand that there are no good Managers in the world. You have to make one for yourself. It is possible and depends on how you work with your manager.
2. Managers have choices
Generally Manager and subordinate select each other in a speed dating process called interview. Campus selection resembles process of Mass Marriage, where you are allocated to a Manager. The Manager is equally surprised to see you. In any case, difference is that you have one manager but your manager has many subordinates.
3. Managers are real people
Never dream of a super hero as your Manager, or else you will be disappointed. You don’t choose your father and still you feel that your father is the best. You need to apply the same philosophy to your Manager. Managers are real people with their strengths and weaknesses.
Here are the 4 secrets of managing your manager.
1. Work Delivery
The entire Manager Subordinate relationship is based on work. If you work well, the relationship will work. Other aspects are peripheral in nature. You will never appoint a babysitter if you don’t have a baby at home.
Availability is the basic requirement for work delivery. At the same time, availability gives you an advantage. If you are available more than others, you increase your chances of getting more work. If you add diligence to it, your Manager will take care of your comfort.
Quality is another key pillar of work delivery. Delivering work is important; delivering it as per expectations is even more important. Hence it is important to ask questions to understand the scope or expectations of the manager rather than just jumping to do the work. Just hearing the expectation is not good enough. Rephrasing the expectation and clarifying the doubts makes it clear for manager that what shall be delivered. Home Maids are good at defining scope and setting expectations.
2. Make your Manager Look Good
If your Manager looks good, it increases your chance of being successful in the organization. When your manager makes a presentation made by you, don’t feel sad that your manager has taken credit for your hard work. Most of the people in the room know that it is your work which is being presented by your Manager.
Managing Customers is an important assignment for your growth as well as Manager management process. When your Manager starts trusting you with the customers, it means you have crossed the threshold level of trust. Managing customers come with a responsibility. You must over prepare for meetings so that you are viewed as the one in control.
Importantly, whenever things go wrong, you must be the first person informing your Manager. Your Manager may shout or scream at you but your manager will trust you. If it comes as a surprise from someone else, then you’ll lose trust. At this time you must not assign failure to someone or some environmental factor. Your focus must be on resolving the crisis. Never ever try to solve the crisis without informing your Manager because there are chances that you will create more work.
Praise your Manager for the things you want your Manager to do more.
These positive reinforcements are very powerful. Shrishti told me once “You are Google for me; you have answers to all my questions”. Here she ensured that next time she comes and asks a question, I will give her attention and try to answer her questions to maintain my status of being Google.
Compliments should be subtle and not embarrassing. If you have to praise your Manager, do it at a dining table with your friends when Manager is not around. The word of mouth makes its way to the right people eventually.
3. Build Rapport
Rapport building is an absolute essential for achieving gold medals in work delivery and making your manager look good.
Study your Manager. Look for things of interest and value conflicts. Interests are things where the person talks for hours. Value conflicts are the points where the temper short circuits. Avoid short circuits and develop interest in the interest areas of Manager.
Careful listening is a method of studying your Manager. Managers keep speaking about their expectations like broken records. Consulting the Manager on various work-related problems is good way to build a rapport. The communication has to be two-way though. In case you are not getting an opportunity to speak up, start sending a weekly report and give a peek of your last week as well as the work planned for the next week. Write the report in the mail body NOT in an attachment. The Manager will become smarter with time.
Learn administrative stuff required for day to day operation and build relationship with administrative staff. Printing, binding, travel booking; reserving meeting room, scheduling voice calls, pulling reports from system are a few examples.
Build a reputation of a professional loyalist. You are not supposed to buy grocery for your Manager. Professional loyalists are not extremists. One example is Katappa from Bahubali. Simple things like keeping your Manager informed of all communication or information exchange so that Manager does not get any surprise on the political minefield of organization.
Tell your Manager about how you are best managed. I introspected and realized that I am being managed for long. Shrishti shared a story at lunch where she knew I was listening. She mentioned that she hates mathematics. She does not like water (H2O) because it has 2 in it. In another incident she told me that she did not listened to her father when he screamed at her. These stories set expectations that don’t give me mathematical work and never ever scream at me.
4. Build Network
There is a world outside your department. Make connections with the people who interact with your department. Find the interests of those people and connect with the people off of work. Such off work relationships do give you an advantage at work and at developing a rapport with your Manager. Your network is like your safety net. If your Manager leaves the organization then the safety net makes sure that you are not hurt in any way whatsoever.
The session worked wonders for me. When your people know how to manage you, life becomes relatively simple. Shrishti has become smarter. Now she focuses on work delivery and managing customers so that her Manager looks good. She is more social and networked. Good part is that she has started listening, be it for managing her Manager.
This is Author’s personal view point and is not influenced by any person or organization.
Harjeet is a HR leader, writer, speaker and a national poet. He is an alumnus of IIT Roorkee and INSEAD. He is currently working as Vice President HR at Reliance Jio Infocomm. Harjeet is a Linked Power Profile. He is awarded for his “Outstanding contribution to Global Learning” by World HRD Congress and received HR Leadership Award by Asia HRD Congress
Harjeet is a SAP HCM Solution consultant, Six Sigma Green Belt, White Belt in Executive Coaching, Assessor for Predictive Index, visiting faculty at NMIMS and Corporate Advisory Board Member for Chandigarh University. This Chicken Soup writer is published in several leading HR Magazines. Do enjoy his posts at Linkedin or www.harjeetkhanduja.com and poetry recitals on SAB TV. He can be reached out at Harjeet.Khanduja@gmail.com