Entering corporate America right outside of college I was under the impression that I had to take on whatever assignments they gave me, work hard, and be diligent to be successful. I had to hope that upper management would see in me what I saw in myself. Looking back, I wish that I had understood early on that my success was not only managing myself but managing my superiors.
In my various roles, I have dealt with management that was disconnected and even at time disinterested at if I was there or not. My one-on-one meetings were similar to walking into a wrestling ring knowing I would come out beat up and bruised. Like most other millennials, feedback is important for me. We can take constructive feedback for improvement, but not conversations fueled with negativity and passive aggressive leadership.
In order to have these conversations with your boss or upper-management, there are a few things to consider as well as to follow to ensure that the conversation is not only impactful but has actionable items for managing how you are managed and how you are managing your relationship with him or her.
Learn how you like to be managed
Do you like someone who will leave you alone and just lets you work or do you like feedback on a lot of things? Do you appreciate guidance on work or assignments? Do you like being able to see or speak to your manager daily about your role? Do you enjoy having a meeting with your boss every week to discuss progress, projects, or work assignments? Understanding exactly what you need from your manager helps you put a clear plan in place for your own development as well as leads the groundwork for expectations on both sides being set.
It’s good practice to advise them on how to use your best talents as well as what can be weaker areas. Part of their job is to uncover what each person is good at and use it to their advantage and zone in on other areas for improvement. Are you a great speaker and want to lead a training in a team meeting once a month? Do you have trouble dealing with conflict? Is there a struggle when you are put under an enormous amount of pressure? Know what areas may directly impact your success and where you need to lean on your manager.
Develop a relationship
You probably spend more time with you manager than any other person you work with. There may be situations where you get a new manager or superior. You and your boss are in a relationship. The goal of any employee is to bring revenue into the company they work for, and the managers are put into place to oversee, coach, and develop those people and or teams. Part of that development is not only knowing that person but understanding them. They don’t have to be your best friend but ask questions. Who are they? How did they get to this point? What goals do they have? What do they like to do?
Understanding each other will go a long way in building positive communication. For instance, my boss and I both watch Game of Thrones. Every Monday morning we have a 15-minute meeting on our calendars to talk about the show and share thoughts. Something as simple as that builds our relationship.
Discuss a plan
Every single person should have a development plan or succession plan. Don’t wait until you have a yearly review to ask for feedback or make a plan for the next year. You may have missed critical time in your own success. Let your manager know what you want to do within the company, how you want to get there, and what you need from them to get you there. Does this require meeting once a week and having a phone call every Friday? Are there stretch assignments that you would like to be put on?
Create a plan that is beneficial to you and your boss with a timeline that is achievable. Discuss the timeline and what needs to be done at each point. Is it a 30-60-90 day or more plan? Have actionable items for each segment. Create a plan and a timeline to keep you accountable.
I have a yearly goal sheet that includes what I want to achieve in our fiscal, as well as quarterly goals. If I need to add on 30-day plans I map it out with my boss and have a target or goal with clearly defined steps. We bring out my plan every Monday during my developing sessions and review where I am at and what I need from him to achieve my list. For some people, this may be a lot, but for me, it not only keeps me on track but I can use it as a basis when discussing raises or other roles.
Do your job
It is a lot easier to have these conversations when you are doing your job, and doing it well. This accomplishes two things: makes you successful and gives your manager bragging rights. Bragging rights means that they are even more invested in your success. It’s a never-ending circle.
Under-promise and over-deliver. We all can get behind or drowned at work at times, but do your best to beat the deadlines and get ahead of your work.
Over-communicate with your superior. Don’t leave them in the dark about a situation with a client, project or an assignment. If you know that it is something that will get bubbled up, an email sent about or a call to discuss, let them know what is coming. Give your superior a call or put time on their calendar to discuss the situation, and what corrective action you are putting in place. Leaving him or her in the dark isn’t good for either of you.
We can all admit that sometimes just doing our job is a hard task. We are burnt out and have a billion things going on inside and outside of our 9 to 5. I have been there myself and one of the hardest things was having a manager that was making the bulk of my day difficult. I became less engaged, less focused, and ultimately left the company because it was directly impacting the work I was doing. Had I been more proactive in my approach, It could’ve changed the path for me. My manager said one thing that stuck with me: I could only control my controllable items, and one of them being how I managed up.