Who’s Managing You?

How can your direct reports manage YOU as a leader?

At The Roundtable, we explore all kinds of interesting topics. One that always gets people engaged is the idea of ”managing up.” With the #1 reason that people quit jobs being their relationship with their boss, it’s little wonder that leaders in our programs spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to manage their leaders. But here’s the thing that I’ve noticed around this topic… it’s one that’s often taboo in organizations: managers don’t like to think that they need to be “managed.”

Well, guess what… they do. And my question of the day is this: how well are YOU at teaching your direct reports on how to effectively manage YOU?

When it comes to work relationships some are easy and some – quite frankly – suck. We’re not going to get along with everyone. And if you subscribe to the mantra of bringing diversity of thinking into your team, then there’s a HIGH likelihood that many of the people on your team are going to drive you nuts.

At The Roundtable, I have an awesome team. They are loyal, engaged, committed, talented and in one way or another, all very different than me. And in some cases VERY VERY different than me. And that’s good. That’s why I hired them.

But does that mean it’s easy for me to work with everyone on my team all the time? Absolutely not. Is it easy for them to work with me all the time? DEFINITELY not!

Like many of you, we’ve spent lots of time in our company looking at our individual ”strengths” and “preferences” and all that awareness is helpful. However, it doesn’t always translate into concrete changes that improve your working relationships. Invariably, our tendency is to look at our own results through instruments like Myers Briggs, DiSC, Colours etc., and say, “Look at how awesome my style is. Too bad everyone else is so deficient!”

Self-awareness is easy. Shifting your behaviour to become more effective is much harder. When it comes to helping your employees manage you, be explicit about what they can do to make your life – and theirs –easier. The more clear and transparent you can be, the easier it is for them to do the  things that will keep you in line and off their backs.

For example, if you don’t tell them that you are a detail person and need to see the facts and figures before making a decision, how will they know that, except through trial and error? If like getting the top line idea before diving into the details, don’t get impatient with your detail-oriented direct report. Instead, let them know that you need the big picture first before asking for the relevant details.

By clearly stating your expectations and what you need from your direct reports, you are helping them understand what your hot buttons are and the ”recipe of success”  that’s needed to work with you. This is going to reduce their frustration and let them help you more effectively.

Does this mean that you don’t need to adapt your style to your direct reports? Of course not. We all know that leadership is about being adaptive to different needs, but this is a partnership. Don’t do all the heavy lifting yourself. It’s OK for you to have expectations for your directs on how they can make your life easier as well as your working relationship more effective. Just be prepared to have the conversation in reverse so that you can understand what they need from you as well.

Leadership today is about shared success, and the best way to build a productive partnership with your team members is to teach them how to do it.

Happy leading!

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