Workshop: How to manage your manager

Collaborating with your line manager can benefit you and your organisation.

Have you discovered the art of managing your manager? If not, you'd better learn.

The focus of most managers is on the people who report to them and not on their own line managers. But this can be a mistake. Your success often depends on your manager being successful. This means getting him or her on board with your decisions and approaches as well as providing the solutions they need to win the goodwill and support of others in order to achieve shared goals.

Line management encounters can be turgid affairs involving the reporting of what has been done (I am meeting my performance objectives), the sharing of problems (just so you know that I don't think I am perfect) and what is coming up (so be warned). But you can make them more exciting than this.

Your organisation depends on you and your manager making the most of this relationship. Managers who are at odds with each other can create a deep malaise in the organisation. Everyone who has to step into the territory covered by these relationships knows that they are entering an organisational minefield.

The wrong sort of behaviour costs the organisation and can cause grief. Your line manager is your appraiser, but can play other useful roles too: ally, advocate, joint thinker, resource and problem solver. It is much better to view your line manager as a collaborator than as the opposition. Line managers have hopes and fears just like you and ignoring or undermining them will not get the results you or your organisation needs.

You can employ a number of techniques to develop this collaborative relationship. Look at issues from different perspectives and be clever in your thinking.

When you comment, open things up by using open questions or observations that invite responses. Know your own mind and back your views with evidence, an options appraisal - whatever it needs. Learn to listen and to hear. Finally, prepare for tricky situations, because they won't always go your way. But reward collaboration by getting things done and share the celebrations.

- Elaine Willis is consultant and coach specialising in voluntary sector management.

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