We have been taught from childhood to respect hierarchy. Leadership comes from your teacher, boss or elders. As the last few decades have reshaped the workplace and many companies struggle to implement new management techniques, it can leave you feeling trapped. You want to initiate change, but you are currently at the bottom or middle of your company’s structure.
Many people expect a lot out of their managers without giving much thought to the managers themselves. Remember, your manager is also human and subject to flaws. That being said, there may be things they could do differently that would make your job easier.
Ask yourself some questions to understand your situation.
What Are Your Manager’s Strengths And Weaknesses?
If you were your manager’s boss, what would you write down for their review? What else do you see that your manager does well or needs to work on that maybe their boss doesn’t see? What would you want to see them change to make your job easier?
What Can You Control?
What do you think your manager thinks of you? How is your relationship? If you were in your manager’s shoes, what would you do differently? How often do you interact? Can that be increased or decreased? What kind of pressure is your manager under?
Assuming you don’t feel comfortable directly asking your manager to change, you need to establish a goal for what you want to see them change.
From here, I’m going to use a real-world example to describe the rest of the steps.
Example: Your manager has a weakness for planning ahead. Work schedules are published late or project deadlines aren’t clear.
Create A Goal
Your goal is to get your manager to communicate schedules or project deadlines 14 days ahead of time.
Ultimately you are trying to change how your manager uses their time, and you want them to spend more time planning. Keep in mind your goal needs to be in the best interest of the company and your manager’s job performance.
Create And Execute Your Plan
1. Communicate with your manager that you want to spend more time planning, and provide some reasons: better quality time spent with family, more effective time at work, getting tasks done ahead of schedule, etc.
2. Ask your manager for advice on better ways to plan.
3. Request that your manager hold you accountable to a planning goal, especially if it involves action from them.
4. Share a win you have after they make a change.
5. Express your thanks in emails or verbal communication.
By asking your leader for advice and accountability on their weakness, most managers put an internal spotlight on their ability to solve that problem. This creates an environment where you are respecting your relationship while engaging your manager to lead you. There is always the possibility that a bad manager is just a bad manager, but this still gives you a chance to try to become a better leader from the bottom up.
Ultimately, you are trying to positively reinforce the changes that are being made without ever directly addressing them or challenging your manager’s authority. The more your manager sees their direct reports working effectively and being appreciative of the work they are doing, the more likely they will continue to do that same action. As a leader, you need to accept that you may never be thanked for what you are doing. Keep your head up, and stay focused on your goals.