It’s not uncommon after I have given a presentation for someone to say to me, “If only my manager had been here! He (or she) really needed to hear this.” I feel it’s a bit of a cop-out to blame your work problems on others. It’s a safe way of not taking responsibility for your own circumstances and initiative to make things better. The fact of the matter is that, during the span of your career, it’s likely that two out of every three managers will not be very good at the job of managing. Are you going to let that keep you from getting what you want and need in your job?
If you’re going to succeed, you need to train your manager to give you what you need. Fortunately, this is easier than it may sound—perhaps as easy as 1,2,3:
1. Give your manager what he/she needs to be successful. It’s going to be difficult to get your manager to make special efforts to help you if you don’t first show, through your actions, that you are worthy of such special effort. Be responsive both in promptly doing what is asked of you, as well as volunteering to help on special projects and responsibilities. Be proactive, try to anticipate your manager’s needs, and help to meet those needs. Take a moment on occasion to ask what else you could be doing to help out. Your attitude and behavior on this first step paves the way for the next step.
2. Tell your manager what you need from him/her to be successful in your job. After you have confirmed with your manager what is expected of you in your job, state what you’ll need from him/her for you to succeed. This is where your knowledge of One Minute Management can be used to get the results you want. Identify simple, clear, and specific One Minute Goals for each item you will be counting on for your manager to deliver, and then set realistic time frames for when those items can be done.
3. Follow up on 1 and 2. By doing what you say you’ll do, when you say you’ll do it, you will build a reputation for being dependable and responsible. By tactfully following up on items your manager agreed to do, you will build the expectation of reciprocity.
When your manager follows through on a commitment to you, use One Minute Praising to positively reinforce the behavior. I am constantly amazed at how many employees feel that managers don’t need praisings! After all—so goes the logic—that’s why managers are paid more. It’s as if by making more money managers graduate to being appreciated less! Let me let you in on a secret: People are never too old or too high up in an organization to not want praisings—it’s human nature. Everyone likes others to notice things they worked hard to achieve. Give your manager a praising today and see for yourself! And remember to praise progress—don’t wait until something is done perfectly before you say something.
If your manager does not follow through on a commitment to do something for you, you need some subtle form of a One Minute Reprimand. Either reestablish the goal while checking on what you could do to move things along, or redirect your manager’s efforts toward a more feasible and realistic task. Of course, you won’t have the position power to reprimand your manager, but the more you have built your personal power with him/her, the more likely a subtle reminder will work to get things back on track.
So don’t lament that your manager hasn’t created the perfect working environment for you—do something about it! Take control of your work life, and learn how to get what you want from your manager in order to make things happen for you and the company. People who learn the skills of managing up will soon be the ones who move up in today’s organizations.