Managing Your Manager

Hi Everyone – we hope 2014 has been a good one so far.  As we near the end of the calendar year, we thought we would provide some tips and tricks to ensure you are getting clear feedback about where you stand.  You may have more influence over the caliber of the feedback you receive than you realize.  Read below for tips and tricks for managing your manager and successfully communicate and manage up.

Part of being successful in the workplace is your ability to manage “up” or manage your manager successfully. The goal is to help your relationship become stronger and more effective, help you both be productive, and build greater trust.

Tips to Manage Your Manager:

  1. First, understand your manager and make him/her a partner:  What makes your manager tick? What is his/her work style? What does your manager’s manager care about? What are his/her pet peeves? How does he/she like to hear good news? Bad news? Does your manager have a blind spot? What are your manager’s goals, priorities and pressures?
  2. Consider your manager’s perspective and needs:  Put yourself in your manager’s shoes. What’s important to him/her? Increase your effectiveness by positioning your ideas and communications from his/her viewpoint.
  3. Build on your manager’s strengths and use complementary skills:  Your manager is human too! What is your manager really good at doing? How can you use your skills to complement his/her strengths and weaknesses? Make both of you look good.
  4. Focus on things that matter most and deliver:  Make sure your work is focused on what’s most important to your manager and team. Do you understand what the team’s top priorities are? The team’s currents strengths and weaknesses? Make sure your goals are aligned and you are prioritizing your results and time on the right things. And make sure you (and your manager) look good by achieving or exceeding your goals and objectives. Dependability is key!
  5. Find out what works best and do it: Don’t guess…ask. It’s ok to ask your manager how to best manage him/her and your time together. The more you know, the more successful you can be right off the bat. Be selective about using your manager’s time and resources effectively.
  6. Build your relationship – be honest, dependable and trust-worthy:  Use your 1:1s to build your relationship.   Bring an agenda to your 1:1s and also allow time to ask questions and get to know your manager and let him/her get to know you. Ask questions and actively listen. Talk about what motivates you and helps you do your best work. You should own tracking and follow-up on your progress and any open issues from your 1:1. Open 2-way dialogue can help you develop a trusting and trusted relationship. Be honest and dependable.
  7. Keep your manager informed:  Provide a “heads up” so your manager is never caught off-guard or by surprise. Share bad news as well as good news early.

Tips to Communicate and Manage up Effectively:

  • Give your manager an exec summary and ask if they want more information. Don’t drown him/her in details upfront. If your manager likes detailed information, make sure you are prepared and ready.
  • Don’t wait until your work is “perfect” or 100%. Give a preview and get feedback. Iterative work is often a norm.
  • Determine how often your manager wants and needs to hear from you and how. Tailor your communications accordingly.
  • Be honest about what you can and can’t handle.  It can be easy to overpromise in the beginning – work can start slow and then build quickly. Be careful about taking on too much. It is better to delight than disappoint.
  • Know how your manager makes decisions and when and adapt your asks accordingly.
  • Be proactive. Bring solutions, ideas and a point of view to your discussions.
  • Get specific around deadlines and deliverables. Don’t make assumptions.
  • Ask questions and if you are new, don’t be afraid to remind your manager that you are still learning.
  • Use the right way to get your manager’s attention – in person, email, IM, Yammer, voicemail.
  • Be a good active listener; use playbacks and paraphrase to make sure you’ve got it and to reinforce what’s been said.
  • Most employees have a tendency to provide too little information and too late, so speak up early.
  • Ask questions to build greater collaboration, clarification and understanding.
  • It’s ok to disagree or bring a different perspective.   Remember as a new employee or even if you are not, you can have a valuable point of view. Be prepared and make your case. But once a decision has been made, it’s time to get on board.
  • Speak up for what you need: be direct and ask for what you want and need. Create a dialogue and avoid arguing. Justify your needs based on what’s important to you as well as the impact to the business and team.
  • Ask for feedback frequently.

As you probably know by now, achieving your career vision takes planning, assessment, and honing of your skills and experience. Once you are clear on what it is that you want to work on, an next important step is to connect with a mentor through whom you can gain the perspective, knowledge, and experience needed to take your career to the next level!

While having a strategic mentoring plan can be crucial to your career success, it is important to understand that mentors come in all shapes and sizes. Selecting and working with the right mentor makes a world of difference in terms of maximizing what you get out of the arrangement. Here are the basic types of mentors that you should keep in mind as you create your strategic mentoring plan:

Peer mentors. This is the type of mentor that is there when you are new to a team, company, or organization. Ideally, their job is similar to yours, and they have been around the team for at least a year. They can convey unwritten rules, bring you up to speed, provide key contacts, and alert you to processes you need to be aware of. Your manager should be able to help you locate a peer mentor within the first 30 days of joining the team.

Skill mentors. This type of mentor can be important in helping you gain skills in key areas, which should ultimately bring you closer to your overall career goal. They can be helpful for such projects as mentoring you through an impact and influence project of your own, as well as allowing you to shadow some of their work. You will want to pay close attention so that you can discuss and debrief on how the projects went and what you learned.

Networking  mentors. While there are plenty of books that focus on networking, when it comes down to it, most of us are not comfortable doing it. You probably know someone who is, though. Find that person and see if you can attend a meeting, conference or event where you can observe them in action.

Profession mentors. These are mentors that can help you jump into a new profession. They are valuable for helping you understand what it takes to work in that profession, as well as helping you reframe your current experience set and translate how that would be applicable to the new profession.

Leadership mentors. They are in a significant leadership position.  Often, this type of mentorship must be earned through strong performance, abilities, and a genuine interest in growth. When you meet with this person, be clear about what you want to learn, ask questions, and listen  intently. If possible, shadow this person for a day so you can get a sense of the requests, demands and decisions that they make daily.

When it comes to working with your mentors, be clear about what you need out of the relationship, be prepared each time you meet, be clear about the rules of engagement, and show evidence that you are putting their help to good use. Also, find ways to give back to them, and evaluate the partnership periodically so you can prepare for a closure of the relationship. As for what you should avoid, this includes expecting your mentor to formulate your goals, intruding on their time beyond what they agreed upon, complaining or giving excuses, and leaving on bad terms. Also, always be respectful and mindful of their time.

By ensuring that you know the type of mentor you are working with, and by following the above tips, you will increase your chances of getting the most out of the relationship, which will ultimately further your career.  Good Luck!

Managers are a key component to successful employee on-boarding. While managers often play a role in the hiring process, they are not always so well equipped for planning what to do with the person once they bring them aboard. A lot of money goes into recruiting a new employee, but hardly any strategic planning is done to ensure success once hired. But it is what you do during this on-boarding process that can end up making the difference between having a successful recruit and needing to cast your net once again.

Most managers today are busy, possibly even overwhelmed, leaving many  new employees feeling as though their manager simply doesn’t have time to spend with them. This makes it difficult for the new employee to hit the ground running, because they lack the training and support necessary for them to succeed. Managers play a critical role in determining on-boarding satisfaction.

Top managers know that successful on-boarding is critical to an individual’s job satisfaction and success. New employees who feel supported are able to perform more productively and have a shorter ramp-up time. New employees who arrive and don’t have a proper workspace or network connectivity, or aren’t greeted by a key contact don’t feel valued by the organization.

Here are 10 things that managers should do during the on-boarding process:

  1. Before the new employee arrives, make sure they have a computer and desk space, and that their account access is set up. This helps alleviate one of the top complaints of new recruits.
  2. Send out an introductory email to the team, as well as new client contacts, welcoming the new hire.
  3. Help to clarify the new hire’s role, right from the beginning. Provide them with an overview of expectations for their first 30, 60, and 90 days. Also, try to give them some “quick wins,” right out of the gate.
  4. Set aside time to spend with the new person. If possible, plan on meeting with that person one hour per week for their first month.
  5. Arrange for the new hire to have a mentor or buddy who will help them through the on-boarding transition.
  6. Provide the person with a list of key people with whom they can begin networking right away.
  7. Be sure that the new hire has an overview of the organization, key contacts and business partners.
  8. Take into consideration how the person learns best, when arranging for any tools that are necessary for the job.
  9. Have a discussion about performance metrics, such as the review process, goal setting, and what meeting versus exceeding expectations means. Also, be sure to provide them with a copy of your goals, as well as the predecessors, if applicable.
  10. Discuss how to work together, including what the best form of communication is (e.g., email, phone, holding questions for meetings, etc.). Also discuss the work-life balance expectations. It’s important to encourage open dialogue in order to build trust and establish boundaries.


Although your organization may have thoroughly screened and interviewed the new hire, the work is far from done. Hiring is really only the beginning. By focusing on these top 10 areas, managers can create an environment where the new hire feels welcomed and valued. Managers are the critical link to on-boarding success. The extra time you spend with the new hire will pay off handsomely in the long run!

Coppei Partners is a company with Northwest roots and branches in several arenas.

What we offer you through this blog is tips, tricks, resources, what’s hot, what’s not and a a regular dose of information we hope you will find useful.

If you would like to stay, we think you will find some helpful resources as you navigate your career, the complexities of management, onboarding new talent successfully and what is new in the coaching world.

Deb Cragen
Managing Partner