IT Employment optimize

Five steps for connecting with your boss

The term "managing up" actually translates into communicating effectively to get your needs met, to get your thoughts heard, and to contribute to the success of boss, team, and organization.

Joe Takash, a behavior strategist and author of the newly released Results Through Relationships: Building Trust, Performance, and Profit Through People, serves up five best practices for "managing up." They are:

  1. Choose Good Timing -- Discover the best times in which to approach your boss by asking, "When are the best times to meet with you if I have questions?" This simple inquiry can build credibility because of the awareness and consideration of their busy schedule. An added benefit is that, when you meet with them, you're likely to have a more focused, less distracted listener.
  2. Prepare and Plan -- Practice your approach vs. just winging it so you can succinctly explain up front why you're there and what you need from them. WARNING: Be solution-focused! Bosses want to know what you have thought of or would suggest about the inquiries you have. This is a crucial component for demonstrating leadership and initiative.
  3. Align Understanding -- If your boss does not state his or her expectations or ask about yours, don't waste energy griping to others about it. Instead, rise above and ask them to be clear about what they need from you. Requesting the primary duties you should be focusing on or discovering the qualities that make up the ideal professional in your position not only impresses them, but it also provides you with a roadmap for success.
  4. Follow-up/Follow-through -- One of the biggest barriers for positive change is lack of accountability. In managing upward, you can hold yourself and your boss accountable by agreeing on times/dates to follow-up at the conclusion of each meeting or communication exchange. Your boss may think, "These behaviors would be great in a client services or sales position," which may be a promotion you earn twice as fast as you may have.
  5. Own Your Results -- A young lady named Karen once approached me after a keynote presentation I delivered to her company. With a pleasant, apprehensive smile, she said: "Joe, I really believe I'm equipped to be our marketing manager. I have experience, passion and knowledge, but I don't know what to say to my boss. I was wondering if you have advice." I said, "Karen, I have for you a magic formula and it can be described with one word: ASK!" I politely explained to her that the biggest success stopper is that cynical voice within each of us. Owning your results doesn't mean you won't experience fear as you navigate your career, it's the commitment to courageously ask for what you want and be prepared to state why and how all will benefit.

Results Through Relationships can be purchased at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com and ordered through any major bookseller.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

40 comments
LarryD4
LarryD4

This article makes sense, but only in a job where you may have an overworked boss, who is good at what he/she does. But in situations where you have a boss who is ill prepared for the rigors of management and is unabile to deal with staff, and project management then these items are irrellevant. But in most shops with a good manager these items needn't be mentioned because staff will work with the manager rather then against him. The question is how many managers really should be managing...

highlander718
highlander718

for people who are eager and desperate carierists, AND have the bad luck of not so good managers, yes, this advise is good. For the rest of us, focus is on doing our job in a professional manner, exceling where possible, advancing our knowledge in our field of interest, making sure of course nobody is taking the laurels for our results but that should be enough in a normal organization.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

to make up for management deficiencies. Now I've got to plan, estimate, communicate, translate, drive, just after I've interviewed them to see if I'm suitable for the position. Someone remind me again what you lot are for, aside from making a **** of the job again.

jkameleon
jkameleon

I'm a tech professional, renting my skills to my employer. It's boss's job to connect to me. Do you expect your plumber to connect to you? No! You connect to him, and tell him to to fix your plumbing. Then you pay him, and that's it. Your advices are pretty much summed here: http://despair.com/flattery.html

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

how often do you see a perfect manager? Managers have to make up for employees' deficiencies, why would you expect employees not to also have to make up for managers' deficiencies?

jkameleon
jkameleon

Another "how to manage your manager who's unable to manage" article.

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

That's it in a nutshell. How else are going to know what they want for the task you've been hired to do to be completed correctly? And you definitely want to be hired again which means you do a good job in the first place. Always follow up if any jobs might be possible in the future? It's the difference between sitting around waiting for opportunity and going out there and taking it.

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

It's hard to express how much I disagree with your comments. If all you want to do is sit in your corner doing what gets tossed over the wall to you, then you can work with this kind of attitude. Mind you, you likely won't progress much, you probably won't be very happy in your job (unless you get the rare manager that does a great job of connecting with you), and you'll also likely be at or near the top of the list when layoff time comes (and it likely will at some point). While it is true that one of the responsibilities of a boss is to connect with you, you are just as responsible to connect with your boss and ensure that you're both on the same page, that you're meeting or exceeding their expectations, and that they're fully aware of what you're doing. If either of you are not doing that, then you are not working together as effectively as you could. On top of that, anyone that wants to blame their boss for not noticing their efforts, etc., etc., and hence passing them over for a promotion, etc., etc., is just trying to shirk responsibility for their own lack of action and attention to their own career. Even if there's truth in that the boss didn't do all they could, or perhaps even should, that doesn't mean that you're not also responsible for what has happened. Lastly, you've just told everyone on this list that 1) you don't care about the success of the organization, just that you do your job so you get your paycheck; 2) you're not willing to do anything that's not in your job description, and, by inference, that you'll probably hold it against anyone else that doesn't do what you feel is in theirs; and 3)you don't want to actively manage your career; you're just going to wait until your services are required. The fact that you're a tech "professional" has got nothing to do with anything.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Becauzse they are valued more thann I, they get paid more than I, they steal credit for my work, blame me for their failings. They aren't deficient because they don't connect, but because they can't or won't manage. An equivalent deficiency in me, would have my arse booted straight of the door wouldn't it? So why not theirs, chose not to sack themselves presumably?

BigIve
BigIve

Doesn't that make me the manager? MANAGERS GET PAID TO MANAGE!!! I get paid to deliver IT services to customers. You argue that then I should do part of my manager's role as well - because they are deficient and cannot fulfil their role! Following this argument - my boss should step in to re-configure equipment and rewrite scripts if I am unable to do my job properly. I appreciate that it is often better to meet a manager halfway to benefit yourself. The problem is that there is a tipping point where you start doing their role for them. You end up using your valuable time to work around a manager's incompetency - so your performance goes down whilst their perceived performance increases! Taking this advice just re-enforces poor management and bolsters weak managers.

jkameleon
jkameleon

... in order to get paid, the bloody thing has to work, no more, and no less.

highlander718
highlander718

Not everybody cares for a career, why are you so harsh with him ? It is his choice, and he is not the first or the last who opts for this approach.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You mean a career switch to management presumably? Microfocus and macrofocus, very few can do both, no one can do them well at the same time. Won't do anything not in our job descriptions. Actually that's your job description. You know the one you concocted to prove you should be paid more than us. I'm almost getting the impression you think this idea you've come up with is new. It was new to me in 1982, I learnt my lesson though. Manager moving lips = BS detectors to turbo mode. Job description, sheesh.

jkameleon
jkameleon

> It's hard to express how much I disagree with your comments. If all you want to do is sit in your corner doing what gets tossed over the wall to you, then you can work with this kind of attitude. This is exatly what I do, and what I intend to do in the foreseeable future. > Mind you, you likely won't progress much, you probably won't be very happy in your job I'm not, which is normal. It's a free market thing, supply and demand. You get paid only for the work that sucks, not for the work people like to do. Such work is usually done for free, for hobby. > and you'll also likely be at or near the top of the list when layoff time comes (and it likely will at some point If you can even imagine worrying about layoffs, you are in the wrong kind of business. IT is inherently very volatile field. The real career saver is keeping your skills current, not sucking up to your boss. > While it is true that one of the responsibilities of a boss is to connect with you, you are just as responsible to connect with your boss Of course. I treat my boss as a customer. On old habit from freelancing days. Worked OK so far. If you'd ever hired me, I think you wouldn't find me entirely disagreeable. > that you're meeting or exceeding their expectations, OUCH! Bad idea. Exceeding the expectations only leads to increased workload. > and that they're fully aware of what you're doing MBA types generally can't be even remotely aware of what you're doing. Physically impossible. > On top of that, anyone that wants to blame their boss for not noticing their efforts, etc., etc., and hence passing them over for a promotion, etc., etc., I NEVER do that. Bad boss in not my problem, it's our employer's problem. > 1) you don't care about the success of the organization, just that you do your job so you get your paycheck; Exactly. I don't care about the succes of organization, and neither should you or anyone else. Business is not yours, profits are not yours, therefore, success is not yours either. > 2) you're not willing to do anything that's not in your job description, I'm willing to do almost anything, as long as my salary stays the same. If I'm required to sit at the reception desk, that's fine with me. I'll be the best paid receptionist in the world. Guess I wouldn't clean the toilets, though. Yuck! 3)you don't want to actively manage your career; you're just going to wait until your services are required. No, I don't want to. I hate brownnosing, I'm not good at it, and I stand no chance against MBA types, who graduated in it.

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

Never said I was. Either way, it sounds like you've had a bad batch of managers which would explain your extreme aversion to them. As I mentioned before, I'm more optimistic. I've seen my share of bad managers as well, but have been lucky enough that most of the ones I had to work closely with were pretty decent. Even so, I've still seen the need to "manage up", so to speak, so I still think this article is valid advice. Your suggestion for an article on how managers could better connect with their employees would be good for the leadership blog. I'm not the one for the job there, though. Have a nice day, Tony. Try not to get yourself in the naughty seat too often. :-)

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Like I said good decisions are the exception. Oh and every one of those decisions was still being justified after they were proven to be complete arse, to the point where Tony got sat in the naughty chair for pointing out how f'ed up they were while connecting... It's an old aphorism but all too relevant, when you live in a greenhouse don't throw bricks about. Do an article about how managers can connect with their people, or is that a bit too close to home for you.

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

No, I didn't. The fact that you have stupid things like that here and there, even if they may seem prevalent, doesn't mean that other people aren't doing it well. You're taking a few specific scenarios and trying to argue a general case. That simply doesn't work.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You enjoying your visits to our planet? I don't believe you said that. If it's being managed well, why would you sack your people and replace them with some cheaper resource over which you have litle control, with completely different goals to your own, and a much less critical investment in your needs? Why would you make version 2 cost twice as much as it should to save 1% of version one's cost. Why would you put apparent ease of of usem before robustness, security and data integrity? Why would you make an irrevocable decision? How about an application where you can only have one order per customer. Gies waht they wanted in version two? How about two application using acommon xml file as an interface specified by only one party, that communicate via system that could not be made xml aware, except at a ruinous cost. How about setting up a new incredibly expensive data collection system with no link to the main system so you could attach the information? How about hiring an external resource to program your new business venture, with no programmers? How about cutting your estimates to gain a contract that you cannot themn fulfill, because you cut your estimates, so you cut cornders lower your standards, do no dicumentation, hire cheap incompetents, and then wonder why it all went to rat droppings. You know why this happens, because as long as it doesn;t look bad ion teh next balance sheet and before you get promoted, it will do..... Managed well, sheesh, welcome to earth. The only relevant information is how much will it cost now.

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

What sort of fool would expect that to be a possibility? That is the ongoing problem in IT. By the time you compile a report of all relevant information, it's out of date. This is IT, change is a given, waiting for complete information isn't coping with that, it's hiding from it, because it's too scary. Nonsense. I agree that IT is a moving target, but if management can't get enough relevant information to make good, informed decisions, then by definition, IT can't be managed. Since many people do manage it, and manage it quite well, then we know your assertion to be false. Otherwise, you know your managers. Some managers are like you describe. They're more interested in themselves and forwarding their own career. They look for the quick wins that will make them look good while not taking the time to keep the machine maintained, hoping that it won't break down until after they're gone. In your case, that would be not allocating resources to clean up the code base. Maybe that's exactly what's happening with your managers. That said, I know that not all managers are like that, so I choose not to generalize them like that.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

What sort of fool would expect that to be a possibility? That is the ongoing problem in IT. By the time you compile a report of all relevant information, it's out of date. This is IT, change is a given, waiting for complete information isn't coping with that, it's hiding from it, because it's too scary. There is no failure in communication, it's ostrich syndrome, simple cowardice. Someone at some point has to make the hard decision, putting that off to your sucessor and avoiding the risk is what you end up with. Or as bad, in fact in some ways worse, deferring it, until some external event forces the change. Takes them from under the gun, but now you have a inescapable deadline, and in an environment like this a good part of the potential time you could have put into the job is wasted crying why me and desperately seeking an alternative. So now you are going to bodge your unrefactored, undocumented, buggy code base with some huge an r5isky chnage to save time. We are not talking the exception here, we are talking the norm. I am very very good at what I dom, including explaining it to teh non technical, even in business terms. It's not that they don't understand, they do that all too well. They'd just rather jam their fingers in their ears, skip around the meeting room singing la-la la-la-la, until we go away. Presumably on the basis we'll take the problem with us.....

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

OK, you've obviously got issues with management, and that's understandable. I'm a little more optimistic, but perhaps I've just been lucky enough to work with better managers than you're alluding to. Concerning your scenario, I hope that was extremely oversimplified and that 1) you tried to understand why a reasonable and competent manager (remember, we're being optimistic for a moment) felt that the priority of your request wasn't high enough to act on when weighed alongside the other priorities that required resources (and by tried, I mean that you actively pursued getting a better understanding - e.g., you asked), and 2) the manager took the time to try to help you understand why your suggestion was not being acted on. If either of those didn't happen, then I see a failure in communication on the part of one or both of you resulting in your frustration. Was it you who said something like there's macrovision and microvision, and no one can do both well? If you're microvision and management is macrovision, then there needs to be a good interface between the two for things to work smoothly. Management needs all the information to properly weigh things while they're looking at the big picture (e.g., what makes your suggestion more important or urgent than something else). And you need to understand where your suggestion lies in their list of priorities and why. Your scenario doesn't show that interface happening.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You should pay attention to more of my posts. That's a point I make time and time again. For communication to work there has to be a visible acknowledgement, for that to happen, the other party has to do more than hear, they listen and then they act. Without that you might as well talk to the small furry animal on your desk. Tony The code base is mess, we need to put some resource intio squaring it up. Manager We know. Still f'ing waiting...... Tony The code base is mess, we need to put some resource intio squaring it up. New manager We Know .. Waste of f'ing breath.

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

Yeah, you get managers like that. You get people that can't manage, wreak havoc, and then try to hide it. Yeah, there are organizations that feel that the manager should get paid more than the people they manage (they're not all like that). But that's not what this is about. The point is simply that effective communication is a two way street. Basically, I think it's the responsibility of both the employee and the manager to make sure that expectations are being met, everyone's happy, things are getting done, etc. If either side of that breaks down, then neither of you is as effective as you could be.

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

"MANAGERS GET PAID TO MANAGE!!!" Yes, but that doesn't mean that you don't have any responsibility in "managing" your relationship with your manager. "You argue that then I should do part of my manager's role as well" Well, no, that's not really what I mean. The point is that not all managers are good with people, just as not all employees are good with people. I'm just saying that both you and your manager have the responsibility to make sure you are connecting. "Following this argument - my boss should step in to re-configure equipment and rewrite scripts if I am unable to do my job properly." I've seen that happen before. "Taking this advice just re-enforces poor management and bolsters weak managers." No, I don't think so. I'm not talking about doing their job for them. I'm not talking about doing their project schedules, determine future directions, etc. Just ensuring that you have good communication to make sure that you're on the same page and both working in the same direction. I think that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of both the employee and the manager.

zbatia
zbatia

Years of employment taught me that your technical talent and performance attribute only to 25% of your success if not less. The rest - your relationships with the management. This is a simple fact of life. If you missed to establish the rapport with your supervisor, you may miss the bonuses, promotions, recognition of achievements, or similar perks. It has nothing to do with good manager or bad one. Until you are an employee, you have to do what you have to do. So, I consider the article USEFUL. If you still complain that the managers have to have the management skills just wait for the next evaluation...

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

Companies don't care about specialized workers if they can help it. They want cost cutting cheap labor. They'll hire an entire staff of uneducated people and hire one educated person to run the show. That's how they do it. As a short term contractor; you can basically avoid this. But if your a long-term or a direct hire; be prepared to do your duty. You WILL have to do some management to support the business. In the companies eyes; they can do anything they want with you. Ever look at the end of an employee job description these days? It always ends with this "and any other task that is required by the business to meet it's goals" or something like that, LOL! The trend is here to stay as economies struggle and corporate greed squeezes blood from every penny and stone. This is the new order.

highlander718
highlander718

it is a 2 way street, maybe the manager's side is a little bit wider though :-)

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

I suppose I have been a bit harsh. Although I don't think I understand the extreme reaction against the article (it came across as extreme to me - he was clearly deriding it in his response). It's simply a fact of work life that managers and employees need to work together to be effective. It's not about one doing the other's job. It really _is_ the employee's job to connect with the manager, just as it is the manager's job to connect with the employee. It's a two-way street.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

The answer was no, because what I'm doing is not in my job description. Deliberately. 0/10 try harder.

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

"You mean a career switch to management presumably?" Not necessarily what I meant, but I see that I worded it poorly. You get promotions on the technical side of things as well. Those mostly just correspond to pay increases, because you're worth more than you were before. However, a lack of good communication with your manager can make those take longer than necessary, and you may be (and most likely will be) limiting yourself and your pay potential by simply sitting in your corner doing your "job". "Won't do anything not in our job descriptions. Actually that's your job description." Nonsense. Anyone that is determined to only do what is in their job description is a lazy employee and does a disservice to their employer and customers. Conversely, any manager that insists an employee stick strictly to what is in their job description (or to only doing what they - the manager - tells the employee to do) is a very poor manager and unnecessarily limiting both the employee and themselves.

jkameleon
jkameleon

Reminds me of my younger days, when I served in a MIG 21 Fishbed squadron ground crew. I was in charge of gun cameras films and flight recorders. As long as everyting was properly developed and delivered in time, nobody cared what I was doing. Luckily, I never got a chance of finding out what happens when you screw up. Failure was not an option. Generally, I prefer doing something creative, just like anybody, but you know... supply and demand. Creative jobs aren't paid that well.

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

I don't think I would want to stay long either. If I knew it was that way before going in, I would most likely not start there in the first place, unless I had no other option. That's a pretty sad state of affairs, in my opinion. The fact is that an environment like that will never be as effective and enabling for the company as is could be, and will not provide a good/healthy work environment for its employees. It's nice that you can take time to learn new things during the down time, though. I don't see much down time. I don't work overtime, but I'm generally not hurting for things to do and need to make time to keep up on new technologies, etc.

jkameleon
jkameleon

> I am also a software developer, and while stuff does get thrown over the wall at me, I don't just sit here and wait for it. And when it comes, I generally don't just do exactly what is asked. I am supposed to just sit and wait, and when it comes, I am expected to do exactly what is asked, no more, and no less. I use the idle time to learn new stuff. It's a financial IT department, managed by Perkele. No MBA types anywhere, bosses are all ex grunts, and they know exactly what needs to be done. As long as it gets done, and it works properly, you're OK. Nobody cares what you say (as long as you don't whine), think, wear, smoke, pierce, or tatoo, and nobody could care less about your attitude. If you screw up with your work, though, you are history.

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

When I talk about doing more than the bare minimum, I'm not talking about working extra hours, etc., etc. Nor do I mean that, when I talk about exceeding expectations. All I'm talking about is caring about the quality of your work, that it really meets what the customer needs, and what you can contribute (intellectually, not labor or time) rather than actively not contributing by simply doing what comes over the wall. I'm talking about actively using your brain to understand the needs of the organization (or even just your immediate manager), think through solutions (or proposed solutions), find the best one (and giving good feedback if you think that a proposed one is not correct), and then, as a software developer in your case, to implement it right, as you say, in a way that will be easily maintainable by those that come after you. I am also a software developer, and while stuff does get thrown over the wall at me, I don't just sit here and wait for it. And when it comes, I generally don't just do exactly what is asked. I think about it, make sure it's the correct solution, and talk with the customers to make sure that it's really going to meet their needs (note that your manager is just a type of customer). I also look for areas of improvement and things that can be done to make things better for our customers, making it easier for them to do their job and be more effective. That's caring about the success of the organization. That produces happy customers and happy managers. That's exceeding expectations. I don't work extra hours or anything like that; I just have a different attitude. There's no burnout in that. In fact, it makes my job more rewarding than it would be otherwise. That said, I realize that there are environments where that attitude would not be appreciated (luckily, I've worked where it is for the most part). Where it's not, I think that simply bad management, and the organization will not be as successful as it could be otherwise, because they are stifling their employees.

jkameleon
jkameleon

Employers like you are not worth dealing with either. Working for you is a net loss on the long run, because you expect your employees to contribute more than you pay them for. It's better to squash such expectations right away. OK, so I get fired, or laid off, or whatever, but I always have a chance to get another job, or learn another profession. For IT professionals, that option mush always be open anyway. After a couple of years of toiling for some pizda like you, however, one ends up jobless, burned out, brainwashed, possibly with health problems, and chances of finding another job next to zero. > And, as I mentioned before, you can't be trusted to do the right thing - all you can be trusted to do is the bare minimum (maybe) and only what you're asked to do. I can be trusted to do the bare minimum, and to do it right. No bloating. What more could anybody ask from software developer?

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

a plumber who really cares about his work and about whether or not I'm getting what I really need (exceeding expectations) and another one who simply comes, does the job (perhaps barely meeting expectations and certainly not exceeding them) and cares about nothing but the paycheck, I'd take the former. You can't trust the latter. Basically, people that have your attitude are not worth dealing with, unless there is no other option. The good thing is that there are other options, and generally employers (me included) will more likely hire the person who is engaged and cares about their job and the quality of work they do and whether it is what the company/organization really needs, even if their skills are not quite up to date or if they're not as top notch as someone else with your attitude (the engaged person can easily be trained - your attitude is much harder to fix). You end up costing the company more in the long run and bringing things down. And, as I mentioned before, you can't be trusted to do the right thing - all you can be trusted to do is the bare minimum (maybe) and only what you're asked to do. You bring very little value to the organization.

jkameleon
jkameleon

It sucked even in the olden days, when the USA still had something to pay with. BTW, how's your plumbing? If it's more important how your plumber connects to you than his skills, it must be in a pretty bad shape.

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

Doesn't matter how up to date your skills are.