Manage your boss

Last week I had the pleasure to deliver under the aegis of Exec Edu a seminar on the universal and hot topic I admit that initially the topic scared me given its absence in the corporate manuals.  Later, as I was frantically searching for concepts and methods to be used in the presentation, the topic bewitched me for its succulence regardless of your own perceived position as manager or subordinate.

I believe we are all trapped in this circle of subordination and thus puzzled/concerned/interested in the way we can manage the “manager”.

It is obvious that the relation with the manager has a decisive importance for the present and future of our career.  Our colleagues and subordinates should accept a lower priority.  Really? But I will write about this topic in another entry.

The relation with the manager is a Relation.  Like any other.  That means the same principles and methods are valid like the ones we apply unconsciously, naturally and easily in our “personal” relations.

For some structure though, here are five recommendations for a normal and useful relationship with the manager.  They are identical with any other inter-personal relations.  Let’s never forget the manager is a person – with all its human attributes.

  1. Acceptance – hierarchy is perpetual and universal.  We all have (minimum) one manager: shareholders, life or business partners, direct/functional/regional managers, etc.  This is a fact and we have to accept its normality even if the manager that plays this role is not agreeable.  The lack of hierarchy means chaos.
  2. Knowledge – Like us, the manager has a distinct style in relating with people, reality and universe.  He/she has values and interests.  He/she has talents and defects.  He/she has needs and aspirations.  He/she has problems and sometimes (not always and not guaranteed) he/she has the solutions of your problems.  It is imperative that the portrait you draw gets closer to the accuracy and precision of a photograph.  At the same time, you need to present yourself with your face value.  Communicate, listen, watch, discover, correlate and reach a conclusion.  Positioning is fundamental in any relation.
  3. Collaboration – on the foundation of common ground (us + manager) you can build a positive and useful relation.  We are a team, the objective of the department/division/company is the same for both parties and it unites our efforts – in spite our differences in opinions, attitudes, roles, interests, aspirations.  The team must “look good” at least for our need to contribute and feel valuable and worthy.
  4. Giving – as part of any relation, parties must give each other value.  Hierarchy imposes the dominant direction of the offer: from the subordinate to the manager.  The subordinate must give the services and value mentioned in the job description.  He/she can do this out of a sentiment of contribution or a sentiment of obligation.  According to Cialdini, in order to influence we must take the first step in setting a value transfer mechanism conditioned by our initial contribution.  The manager will then have to reply with his/her own services or he/she will lose the trust.
  5. Self development – this is a target we should set for ourselves anyway and anytime.  But this target has a positive impact on the relationship with the manager.  As we increase our personal and professional value, it is likely that the manager will appreciate us more, our influence and impact increases to the benefit of the company, manager and our relation with the manager.  This value is portable.

The topic is far from being depleted as there are many other techniques, rules, details, principles and theories on this extremely important professional relation.  Yes, this is A PROFESSIONAL RELATION.  Nothing more.  But it is vital for our professional satisfaction, importance and climb.

I would like to continue the discussion on this topic – based on your comments and questions.