Top tips for managing your manager

Your relationship with your manager is the most important professional relationship you can have. They can influence the work you get to do, give you opportunities to learn and develop, give you advice and show you short cuts, boost your chances of promotion, and more. Your manager can make your working life heaven or hell. So rather than passively wait for them to establish how your relationship’s going to work out, take the initiative and get things on the fast track.

Are they a big picture or detail person?

You need to find this out because you can then adapt how you communicate with them to best effect. There’s no right or wrong style here: we all have our preferences along the big-picture-detail continuum. Yours may be the polar opposite of your manager’s – which could drive the pair of you nuts. So first find out. Do they ask you to ‘just give me the headline/big picture/top line summary’? – that will be a clue that they’re big picture. Or do they want to ‘drill down into the data/detail’ before they can even begin to make a decision? If they prefer the ‘global overview’ ditch the preamble – get to the point. Then be ready to answer questions that may go into more detail, to help them test their hypotheses. If they’re keen on the details, you need to have your Ts crossed and Is dotted – or else – and be able to show that you have covered all the aspects asked.

Are they focused on the people or the task?

As with the big v small picture, we’re all somewhere along this continuum in terms of what we default to. Again, you need to be agile and adapt to your manager’s style, not the other way round. A boss whose focus is people, such as your fellow team members, will want to check decisions for fairness and their impact on people. Or they may want to collaborate and get the input of others. If your boss’s focus is on the task, then the deadline, standards and budget will be their main concerns.

Again neither preference is right or wrong – but they can come with a cost if the default route is excessively used. For example, a very task-focused boss may excel at driving the work to the deadline, but exhaust the team in the process. A people-focused manager may be highly-rated by loyal and long-serving team members, yet be perceived by management as less productive and efficient.

And that’s where you can really build a strong working relationship with your manager. Once you’re confident you can match their preferences the better to communicate with them, you can go a step further and – tactfully – provide the counterweight to help them reach more rounded decisions, hit deadlines without hurting people, thus making themselves, the team – and you – more successful.

You may also find this blog post useful: 6 questions to ask when you’re delegated to 

Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available now on Amazon, and ‘The Feedback Book’, due out in September 

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