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Managing Your Manager August 6, 2009

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership, Organizational dynamics.
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I’ve reported to thirteen managers in my career, all with very different styles reflecting their unique personalities and experiences. In the beginning I looked at my manager as some kind of wise parental figure, similar to the university professors I had studied under, with knowledge and insights to pass along to the next generation. I was disappointed when I discovered that managers sometimes withhold information instead of sharing it freely. It’s a rare manager who engages their subordinates in an academic-style Socratic dialogue intended to mold minds. Performance reviews are definitely not the same as letter grades given for research papers or final exams. For those who are eager to learn with ambitions to move up to positions of higher responsibility, this mistaken attachment to a “professor” metaphor can lead to a frustrating relationship with one’s manager.

Eventually I came to appreciate that managers have their own ambitions, frustrations, and expectations. I think that really hit home when I became a manager myself. I realized that my success as a manager was largely dependent on the success of the team, and I had to help the team understand how that success was measured if I expected them to do their part. Of course it works the same way looking up the organization chart. I have a far better chance of getting along with my next-level manager and forging a partnership if I understand how that person is measured, what their superior expects from them, and how my actions contribute to larger business objectives.

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