How do you use your manager?

~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i” April 2009 ~
How do you use your manager?


Upolu Windturbine

Asked another way, How useful is your boss?

I had an interesting conversation with a young man yesterday about all the drama going on where he worked, because a bigwig manager from their regional office was coming for a visit, “unannounced, but of course we all know he’s coming.”

It is a scenario that is probably familiar to a lot of us, those hoops we all jump through to convince some higher-up that “this is the way we always work” when in fact, it isn’t that way at all. And I hate to burst your bubble, but one of the things coaches like me will teach the executives we advise is how to see through your façade to what the real deal is. It doesn’t take all that much.

This time though, I was talking to one of the hoop-jumpers, and he was the one I wanted to help.

So I asked him, “How important is this person? What kind of things can he influence for you, and help you shift or change for the better? Can you make sure that possibility is what he sees during his visit?”

He looked at me a bit blankly at first, but then he slowly smiled and said, “To be honest, I’m not really sure. I know what he does, but I have no idea why he’s coming, and why he’s coming now. I’m not sure if he wants to see some things for himself, or if he’s really the messenger for someone else. Could be” I guess it could go either way. As a matter of fact, both things could happen.”

I didn’t respond right away, for I could see the wheels turning as he considered all the possibilities. Then he thoughtfully added, “So are you saying to let him leave a hero, making a decision where we both win?”

Smart young man!

If you’re going to go through hoops for someone, why not make it count and worth your efforts? As Stephen R. Covey says, “Begin with the End in Mind.”

Say this was happening to you: How would you want such a visit to turn out? If you’re going to ‘stage’ something, stage the result you want to see happen.

I’m going to be a broken record here about something that is so, so important. I asked a question in my last two posts, one I am not willing to let fall off your radar yet. If you don’t want to answer it here in the comments publicly, please be sure you answer it for yourself and come up with a proactive plan, one that is useful to you. Here it is one more time:

  • If your manager offered to give you some help in grooming a new habit within your organizational culture, would you know what to ask for?

The bigger question is this: Do you know how to best use your manager?

How do you work WITH your manager, as opposed to without him?

There are far too many people with the primary tactic of avoiding their manager during the course of their work day, preferring to be left alone to their own devices, and I think that is such a shame. We get enough alone time, and not enough partnership and collaboration time.

Or similar to the beginning of this story, people create diversionary tactics. What a waste of everyone’s time, brain power and energy.

Imagine all you could accomplish with this shift in your attitude: Use your manager wisely, and use them to your benefit. Ask them to work with you in the way you feel you will both win. Don’t work around them, or in spite of them, or even ‘for’ them: Work with them.

If you need more help with the possibilities, review this post about how and why managers can be useful and make a big difference in the workplace: How Managers Matter in a Healthy Culture. Then, make it personal. Make it about you and your partnership with your manager.

Let’s talk story:

  • Say you’re due for a corporate visit. How can you find out more about why the visit is happening? What are the constructive, partnership-building questions you could ask?
  • Think about all those reasons an exec’s visit to a workplace might be unannounced: Are any of them truly valid in a healthy organizational culture?
  • And one more time! If your manager offered to give you some help in grooming a new habit within your organizational culture, would you know what to ask for?

Any thoughts to share? Comment here, or via the tweet-conversation we have on Twitter @sayalakai.


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