Managing your Manager

Managing your Manager

May 16th, 2013 // 5:47 pm @

july-20-2010There are occasions in business when your manager is not able to give you the level of managerial input you would want. And this proves difficult for many people, causing confusion and conflict.

There are several reasons why your manager may not be able to give you the input you want and deserve, these include:

  • Different priorities. Put simply they have other things taking up their available bandwidth, and you are therefore neglected.
  • Geographical separation. It is difficult to manage someone in a different culture, and on a different time zone. To manage effectively in this scenario requires highly competent management, which is sadly not always available.
  • Weak Organizational Structure. Some companies organizational structure is confused, and while this can be made to work when everyone is in the same building, when the stress of satellite operations are put on it, the informal communication that happens in the central office that allows a weak organization to survive does not exist for the satellite operations, and therefore the satellite will struggle.

This managerial void can, if not dealt with cause some very serious issues. The individual being managed will easily become resentful; they keep seeking managerial guidance that simply does exist, become frustrated and are unsure how to proceed. This will tend to cause the employee to be inefficient at what they do, not through a lack of ability or willingness, but through a lack of input and direction from above.

From the management’s perspective what they see is the satellite operation not achieving what they wanted. The fact they have never articulated what they wanted, and have failed to give appropriate managerial support will rarely be accepted as the reason for the issue. It is too easy just to blame the individual employee; this is unfair but sadly common.

This situation is however an opportunity if one chooses to seize it. A void is better than being micro managed, and gives one the opportunity to take effective control of the agenda. This however requires an acceptance that you have a managerial void above you, not getting frustrated by it, and effective upward management to make it work.

To manage upwardly effectively one can firstly try and understand what your management actually wants. What they are seeking but will never articulate is to have the goals they are unable to set, set for them, and effective action to be taken without their support to achieve these goals.

On top of them they want kept informed and to feel that they are making the key decisions even if they are not. They also need to feel confident, and if you can manage it a little stroking of their ego, in my experience helps as well!

So some possible steps to these goals might include:

  • Goal Setting
    • In a normal situation ones management would set the goals for you, in a void they will not. However you as the employee desperately need those goals. Without them you can work hard towards goals your management will subsequently tell you were not what they wanted. So you need to try and understand their goals, and this is best done by trying to understand the companies’ wider goals and where your bit of the company fits in, canvassing opinion from your boss, and from other senior managers.
    • Secondly you need these goals consolidated and approved, and this is best done by proactively documenting what you think they are, sending them to your managers for agreement, with a line such as “These are what I understand our goals are, am I correct?” If you are fortunate you will get a simple yes back, if no you will hopefully get some feedback so you can amend them and try for agreement again.
    • These goals need referred back to and your actions put in context of these goals. It is hard for management to be disappointed if you are moving to the best of your abilities towards what they have agreed the goals are.
  • Implementation Plan
    • Once you have an agreed set of goals you can develop an action plan, normally this would be done in conjunction with your manager, but in the vacuum you may need to do this largely alone.
    • This plan then needs agreed before you start. This again can be done by sending it for approval. Again if all goes well you will get a simple “yes” and can move forward, if not you should get feedback to allow you to amend the plan and retry.
    • With agreed goals and an agreed implementation plan you have a clear template to work in. This allows you to make decisions in an agreed context.
  • Implementation
    • As you actually start implementing the plan, you need to build and keep their confidence, and minimize unhelpful input.
    • Firstly regular updates are useful, but only if they are very clearly for information updates, that preferably do not invite “Suggestions”. These “For info this is how we are implementing the agreed plan” updates should encourage either no response or a simple “Good”.
    • Share setbacks quickly, but with the plan you have to resolve. If managers find out latter there was an issue even if it was successfully resolved that they were unaware of, it will damage their confidence and invite more “Suggestions”.

Working within a managerial vacuum, particularly if you are geographical separated from the main part of the business is emotionally difficult.

One naturally feels a lack of caring, a separation from the water cooler chat of the main business, and most importantly a lack of reassurance that you are moving in the right direction. These emotional realities need to be recognized if they are not to lead to resentment.

The reality is you will be a fairly self contained unit, and the communication you send to the central company will be designed primarily to generate little or no response beyond a “Good, carry on”.

If you can accept these realities, working in a managerial void allows a significant amount of freedom which many in head office with there boss by them every day would envy.



Category : Management Technique

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