We spend a lot of time on HR Bartender talking about how managers need to manage and the things that great leaders should do. We need to remember that the relationship goes both ways. Everyone has a boss. Yes, everyone.
Maybe they’re called a supervisor or manager. Possibly your boss is a board of directors. Or maybe your “bosses” are customers and shareholders. But we all have a boss. Someone we’re accountable to. And it’s our responsibility to know our boss and the best way to manage them. This is often called managing up. But what’s the best way to do that?
Well, how about starting with this: Managers and leaders need to tell the people they work with how to get the most from the working relationship. Here are a few examples from my own experience:
One boss I worked with was really difficult to schedule time with. She was busy all the time. The best time to speak with her was when she was driving home. If I tried to bring ideas to her in the middle of the day, she would be distracted, and I typically didn’t get the attention I was looking for. (Translation: I didn’t get the answers I was looking for.) So, I started staying a few minutes later at the end of the day. I would ask her to call me on her drive home. We got to talk. Really talk. And the time was valuable.
My next boss was the complete opposite. He would come in ridiculously early in the morning. And he liked Starbucks. Every morning he would walk by managers’ offices looking for someone to go with him to Starbucks. My colleagues wouldn’t think of coming in early. Me? I got myself up at zero dark thirty for coffee. Why? Because I got quality time with my boss. (Translation: I got a few of the things I wanted.)
While those examples deal with quality time, I had another manager who preferred ideas in writing. If you were trying to pitch an idea, he wanted to see it in writing first. It helped me tremendously in terms of being succinct with my proposals and outlining the needs, costs, and benefits of my ideas. After he had the chance to review and process it, then he would be ready to discuss the idea in detail.
Obviously, there are times when the business forces us to work outside of our comfort zones. Emergencies occur. We have to compromise our style for the benefit of the team. But there is value in knowing how our boss likes to work.
Managers and leaders need to know how to get the best performance out of their staff. But employees need to know how to bring out the best in their manager too. If you’re trying to figure out how to manage your boss – ask them! Next time you have an idea: “When is a good time to discuss with you an idea I have?” After you discuss the idea: “Let me know if this is a good way to bring ideas to you in the future.” A really good boss knows enough about themselves to share information about their working style.
I still love the idea of managers and employees putting together a personal user manual that helps the other person learn more about working styles. Honestly, the activity of putting something like this together could help you learn more about your own working style too.
Being able to manage your boss or manage up is necessary. We’re not talking about manipulation. This is developing a good working relationship. It’s a win for everyone involved.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the Flora Icelandic HR Management Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland13