Managing Your Manager Isn't Hard. Just Do These 5 Things Well.

January 22, 2018

Want to know how to manage your manager? Execute on these five things.

Almost everyone has a manager. And, whether you love your manager or can’t stand them, research shows they have a lot of control over both your day-to-day happiness and long-term career growth.

That's why it's so important to manage your manager. All that means is building a relationship with them where they think highly of you, advocate for you and are active participants in advancing your career. You know, no big deal.

Believe it or not, forming that kind of your relationship with your manager isn’t that complicated to do (it might be hard, but it isn’t complicated). In his LinkedIn Learning series Management Tips, LinkedIn Learning Instructor Todd Dewett said managing your manager comes down to doing these five things well.

The five things you need to do to effectively manage your manager

They are:

    1. Communicate with your manager the way they prefer to communicate.

Everyone has a preferred communication channel. For example, some people like to talk face-to-face, whereas others prefer email.

And it doesn't stop there. People have different communication styles as well. Some people like to talk through problems; others prefer to reflect on them alone. 

Observe how your boss communicates – and communicate to them that way. If they write concise emails after periods of solitary reflection, send them concise emails. If they prefer scheduling hour-long brainstorming meetings before kicking off a project, do that.

“Whatever (your manager's) preferences, pay attention,” Dewett said in his course. “Know them. And use them. The more you communicate in a manner that aligns with their natural preference, the better they will hear and process everything you're trying to say.”

    2. Be tightly aligned with your manager on their expectations for your performance.  

This means understanding how you are being judged by your manager. For example, if you are in sales, maybe it isn’t just about the number of sales you close. It’s also about the size of those deals, the length of those deals or the companies you are making deals with.

How do you stay aligned here? Communication. Dewett recommends touching base at least once a week with your manager on what they are looking for from you and how they believe you are doing in those areas.

    3. Know what your manager's goals are.

It isn’t just enough to know how you are being judged. The smartest employees also know how their manager is being judged and execute on that.

For example, say you work in finance and your job is to crunch numbers and make projections – you are being judged on how accurate your projections are. But you know your manager, and the department as a whole, is also being judged on efficiency.

So, yes, ensure your projections are accurate first-and-foremost. But also challenge yourself to look for areas in the budget where the company could be more efficient and suggest those to your boss – that’ll make you look more strategic.

    4. Perform above-average.

The most obvious one and the most important one – if you aren’t performing above-average, it’s nearly impossible to effectively manage your manager, Dewett said.

But, the first three steps are so important to performing well because they determine what performing well looks like. Once you have those goals clearly defined, it’s up for you to execute on them. If you are unable to for some reason, ask for help or seek out training to improve yourself. If you do get help and are still having trouble, it might be time to consider changing roles.

“If you wish to advance, on top of a good personality and a strong work ethic, nothing trumps the power of a clear track record of success,” Dewett said.

    5. Tell your manager about your long-term aspirations, occasionally.

If you aren’t performing above-average, skip this step. First, get your performance up, and then do this.

But here’s a big reason why you manage your manager in the first place – so they can help you become the professional you want to be. Every couple of months or so (no more, no less, Dewett warned), tell your manager what your long-term goals are: managing a team, moving up, perhaps moving to another department, whatever.

“If you wish to advance, you must be your best advocate,” Dewett said. “Don't assume the boss knows your aspirations. Talk about them.”

Summing it up: Managing your manager comes down to communication

You'll notice a common thread in these five steps: communication. If you effectively communicate with your manager, you'll know how they are judging you and how well you are doing in those areas. They'll also know where you want your career to go, so they can help you get there.

Following these five steps accomplish that. They also ensure you have a good professional relationship with your manager (even if you don’t have much of a personal one) and empower you to do fewer things, better.

Want to learn more? Watch Dewett's full course, Management Tips.

Other LinkedIn Learning courses you might be interested in are: