Who out there has an amazing manager? Someone who is engaged, who makes you feel heard, motivates you and teaches you?
If that’s not your exact experience, don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, very few people actually have great managers. And that’s not necessarily because your manager doesn’t want to be great. It could be because she is a first-time manager. Maybe she doesn’t know what a great manager looks like or what you specifically need. Maybe your company doesn’t provide adequate management training resources. Whatever the reason, the likelihood that you have an incredible manager is actually quite low.
The good news is, this is not necessarily entirely out of your control. While it’s certainly not your job to train your manager, there are things you can do to help her improve.
Think about helping your manager become more than just your manager. Think about helping her become your coach. What’s the difference? Well, “boss” is a common synonym for manager – implying a relationship defined by giving and taking orders. Coaching in the workplace is more about cooperation and problem solving. It’s about providing guidance and support to facilitate employee development. This type of management style is becoming more necessary and prevalent across the board.
You can help facilitate this transition from manager to coach, and it can actually be a great opportunity to start a dialogue with your manager. In this dialogue, make sure never to assign blame. Instead of making “You” statements like, “You did X,” or, “You made me feel Y,” focus on “I” statements. Always connect behavior to how it makes you feel.
Ask your manager, “Where are we headed?” “What’s the intended outcome of this project?” If you aren’t clear about why you’re being asked to do something, achieving a common goal will be difficult. Your manager won’t always come out and tell you this – how your specific tasks will contribute to a larger objective. Ask her. She will be able to provide you with more perspective as to why you need to get something done.
Ask your manager about her specific goals as well. Not only do you want to be aligned with the larger company goals, but you want the goals and priorities of your manager to be aligned with yours too.
Executive coach Dr. Marshall Goldsmith offers more guidance here about how asking questions can help open up a mutually beneficial dialogue with your manager.
Feedback is an essential part of your work performance, but your manager won’t always proactively provide it. Maybe she doesn’t think you need it, or maybe she’s never been in a situation where giving someone feedback has been a positive experience. Your manager could also be a completely different personality type who does not enjoy even positive feedback.
So, be proactive. Ask your manager for that feedback. Ask her how you did on a specific project. Even ask her to rate your performance on a scale of 1-10. If you know you’re at a six, your manager can give you specific feedback about how to get to an eight or an eight-and-a-half. You might need to be the one to create frameworks and structures for your manager to assess you.
In that vein, your company may or may not provide quarterly reviews. If your company doesn’t offer that, you might want to create an informal one for yourself. Don’t wait for your company or manager to create this for you. Create it for yourself, build those timelines, and put yourself in control of your own development.
Just because your relationship with your manager isn’t great now, that doesn’t mean it can’t be in the future with some work. Absolutely do your best to take the actions in your power to improve things. That said, it is possible that you’ll take these steps to help your manager become a better coach, and things simply won’t change. In that case, you’ll need to ask yourself if this is truly the place you want to be and the learning experience you want to have.
Highrise coaching can help you learn how to achieve a more productive relationship with your manager. Schedule a time to learn more here.