There are a number of articles and blog posts which target line managers: top tips on how to become a better people manager. There are far fewer pieces written on how to help your manager help you.
And yet this is critical: if we want to enjoy a great employee experience, then it stands to reason that we also need to be proactive in seeking to create that great employee experience for ourselves. And – with that well-known statistic of people leaving managers, not jobs (line manager is cited as the reason for employees leaving organisations by anything between 50% to as high as 75% of all leavers, dependent on which study you read) – helping your manager to help you could be one of the most important things any of us do during our working day.
How can we do this? Well, read on to uncover five things you can start doing from today to positively impact your relationship with your manager, and help them to deliver what you need.
#1 Tell them what you need
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it, and yet it’s surprising how many of us forget this fundamental of the manager/employee relationship. Managers are managers, they’re not mind-readers; and with every single one of us needing slightly different things from our line manager, it’s in our best interests to spell this out, thereby avoiding those situations I’m sure most of us will have experienced, when we’re railing at our manager for not having delivered something for us… without ever having told them that we need it in the first place.
#2 Let them know when they’re getting it wrong
Again: managers are people, not mind-readers. There will be times when, even with the best of intentions, they’re not getting it quite right, and are negatively impacting on our ability to deliver. Rather than seethe to your mate or other half about it, talk to them directly. All of us need to cultivate relationships with our manager where we’re able to share feedback openly. If this isn’t the case, and your manager isn’t receptive to hearing it, then there’s a fundamental issue culturally, and that needs to be raised with your People team or senior leaders within the business.
#3 Agree shared goals
You might be busting a gut to get a certain project over the line. Meanwhile, your manager is running their hands through their hair because the key delivery item they needed you to focus on still isn’t there. Avoid this scenario by actively seeking out to agree shared goals with your line manager. In an ideal world, your organisation will already have a goal-setting process in place which facilitates this, but if it doesn’t, don’t be shy about stepping up and proposing a set of shared goals to your manager. The investment in time they’ll need to give upfront will be more than outweighed by the more targeted delivery you’ll be able to give them as a result.
#4 Take responsibility for yourself
Line managers – particularly those with large teams – only have a finite amount of time each week to spend with their people. You can get the most out of those times by ensuring that you take responsibility yourself for getting the basics right. Turn up to work on time. Follow the correct procedures for e.g. absence reporting. Take the time to understand your organisational culture and values, and align your behaviours to these. If you’ve taken responsibility for yourself, it means your manager can spend the time they do have with you not addressing things which should be second nature, but rather concentrating on your growth and development within the business.
#5 Find solutions
There is a well-known saying which goes “Bring solutions, not problems”, but that shouldn’t always be the case. There will be times when you don’t necessarily have a solution – and that’s where your line manager is there to provide guidance. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that, just because you’re not in a management role yourself, you can’t provide suggestions for improvements or speak up with solutions. Rather than wasting your time complaining about an issue, why not consider whether there’s a better way to do things. If there is, speak up. It can be a lonely world, operating as a manager. Why not reach out a hand of support and proact to help deliver the change that you’re looking to see.