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Topics: Communications Management
How do you manage your manager?
When presented in a situation where you are required to manage your manager in order to continue moving a project forward, what are some useful tactics that can be used?

In my position, there are times when I need to reach out to my manager for assistance/guidance, but rather than focusing on the one part of the project that their expertise is needed for, my manager gets stuck in the weeds on all other details that don't pertain to their involvement. This tends to slow down the process and wastes time. Any advice on ways to keep the conversation focused without deviating?
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Well, it is all in our own heads.

How do you perceive your manager in regards to your project? Consider him to be just another stakeholder. Know his interests and influence on the project (not only yourself). Change your perspective towards him in regards to your project. Do not mix up his roles as your manager and a stakeholder of the project.

Then, since you already have a conflict with him, albeit not explicit, it will not get better by aggression (pushback) or flight (silence). Apply conflict management, a good quick book to help with this is 'crucial conversations'.

In a nutshell, control your emotions, clear the relationship first to instill trust, mutual respect and a joint purpose. Only then discuss the problem.

It is a good idea to have a mentor who is NOT involved in your business. Even a virtual mentor would do (and this is probably what you have to ask for now anyway), you just have to trust them and have regular meetings. Here is a place to look for a PM mentor. Great leaders always give an answer, and here are many.

Wish you good luck.
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1 reply by McKenzie Whitlow
Apr 29, 2020 2:14 PM
McKenzie Whitlow
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Hi Thomas,

Thank you for your insight and recommendation. I have not thought of them as a stakeholder, so in that regard I believe that will give me a degree of separation and help me approach it in a different manner.

I too agree that aggression and flight will not be beneficial in these instances, but instead being clear and concise while respectful will present the best outcome for both our relationship and the project's success.

I also like the idea of out outside mentor as that can provide some perspective that I may be too clouded to see on my own.

Thanks, again!
Apr 29, 2020 1:03 PM
Replying to Thomas Walenta
...
Well, it is all in our own heads.

How do you perceive your manager in regards to your project? Consider him to be just another stakeholder. Know his interests and influence on the project (not only yourself). Change your perspective towards him in regards to your project. Do not mix up his roles as your manager and a stakeholder of the project.

Then, since you already have a conflict with him, albeit not explicit, it will not get better by aggression (pushback) or flight (silence). Apply conflict management, a good quick book to help with this is 'crucial conversations'.

In a nutshell, control your emotions, clear the relationship first to instill trust, mutual respect and a joint purpose. Only then discuss the problem.

It is a good idea to have a mentor who is NOT involved in your business. Even a virtual mentor would do (and this is probably what you have to ask for now anyway), you just have to trust them and have regular meetings. Here is a place to look for a PM mentor. Great leaders always give an answer, and here are many.

Wish you good luck.
Hi Thomas,

Thank you for your insight and recommendation. I have not thought of them as a stakeholder, so in that regard I believe that will give me a degree of separation and help me approach it in a different manner.

I too agree that aggression and flight will not be beneficial in these instances, but instead being clear and concise while respectful will present the best outcome for both our relationship and the project's success.

I also like the idea of out outside mentor as that can provide some perspective that I may be too clouded to see on my own.

Thanks, again!
Happy to help.

To have a joint purpose of your interactions with him regarding the project is a key requirement for problem solving. As your manager, he might have another purpose than you if he mixes up his roles. Also, do you make clear what your purpose is when you approach him?
McKenzie -

If you have a good relationship with your manager, I think it is reasonable to ask for a 1:1 where you make him aware of your concerns with his "diving into the weeds" behavior and what impacts you experience as a result of those.

Good managers and leaders are always willing to hear constructive feedback to help them improve. Bad ones rarely do, so this will be a good "test" of your manager's character...

Kiron
Employees must make their bosses work, not the other way around. Take into account I say this since I have been in boss positions since I was 25 years old.
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1 reply by Riad Alhammoud
May 10, 2020 4:47 PM
Riad Alhammoud
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Dear Sergio,

Would kindly elaborate a little bit on your statement " Employees must make their bosses work, not the other way around".
I like to break the meeting or discussion in two parts. Part 1) focus on getting the help/response you need from the boss, and 2) respond to the boss' needs.

Pre-arrange this over a cup of coffee when there are no serious issues to take you off track. You may have to reverse part 1 and part 2 which is not preferable but do-able. However, the weeds may take the entire allotted time.
Managing a manager can be sometimes tricky if your boss is not a good listener and doesn't appreciate constructive feedback.

However, being optimistic here, I am assuming he/she is a person who appreciates feedback and inputs from his subordinates.

Being a manager yourself, it's really important how you are presenting things in front of your boss.

I try the following ways:

- Never ever go with a problem without a solution. No matter what issue(s) you are facing, there is always mitigation that can be proposed. If you are coming with a complaint or an issue without a probable solution, it's gonna tick him/her off.
- If there are somethings you want him/her to improve, try to explain with the impact of the decision/behavior which you feel could have been different.
- Casual discussions always work. Don't make it formal unless extremely important.
- Following an agenda always work. Personally, I have created a text file with the points/issues I had to discuss with my manager. Whenever I meet him, I open that file and start discussing it in the same sequence. I would suggest you do something like this, prioritize them and if he/she deviates, re-iterate yourself by mentioning the urgency of the other items in the list.

Hope it helps.

Cheers :D
I don't really know the situation between you and your manager, and this is probably not the response you're looking for, but you may not need to manage your manager.

It may be that the reason your manager is deviating from the one topic that you want to speak to him/her about is because he/she wants to know more about what is going on with your projects and sees you seeking assistance as an opportunity to gain insight and/or to work alongside you.

It's also possible that while you might think your manager is stuck in the weeds, he/she's trying to guide you by getting you to look at something from another perspective or consider a detail that you're overlooking. Also, he/she may need to know more of the details in order to have the context to offer appropriate guidance.

If you really feel that your manager is wasting your time by getting completely off task, you can always tactfully bring the conversation back to the task at hand by reiterating that X is your primary focus at the moment and you can come back to the other things, if necessary, once X is resolved.

Lastly, when seeking guidance/assistance from your manager, make sure to go in with at least one possible solution in mind. When my staff comes to me for answers without "doing the homework," I tend to point them in the right direction, rather than giving the answers. I do this because I learned the most from the managers that did the same with me. It's the old adage "give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime."
Based on my experience, having a good relationship with the line manager is a must that you can't live without it, and which will give you the comfort at the work . Try to avoid any conflict with your management when you are new to him even though there is a delay when refer to him for decisions/review/approvals.

When you gain your manager's trust then I am sure that you can solve simply any problem with your manager.

Best Regards,
Apr 30, 2020 8:06 AM
Replying to Sergio Luis Conte
...
Employees must make their bosses work, not the other way around. Take into account I say this since I have been in boss positions since I was 25 years old.
Dear Sergio,

Would kindly elaborate a little bit on your statement " Employees must make their bosses work, not the other way around".
...
1 reply by Sergio Luis Conte
May 11, 2020 8:18 AM
Sergio Luis Conte
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Sure. Bossess are accountable for making the work of people under its suppervision easy and as happy as they can. Things like clarify the work to do, giving the needed tools and recources to do the work, stablishing the priorities, are all bossess work. Some people talk about self-organized teams which it does not mean that for those people bossess or how organizations like to call them have to facilitate people work.
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