Relationship With Your Manager: The Most Valuable Investment at Work
Michael Jordan said, "Earn your leadership every day." So, if you have a leader in your life who has the power and will to empower you, then call yourself fortunate. I have been lucky to have worked with such incredible leaders—many of whom were also my managers—during my stints at Udacity and Paytm.
I truly believe that managers can make or break your relationship with your workplace. Moreover, your manager holds the key to your advancement within the company, and many times, outside of it as well. Managers can really help scale you up! It is essentially a lifelong relationship, if executed well!
As I said I am grateful that I was able to build strong connections with many of my past managers. So much so that Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the founder of Paytm and my manager during my first stint at the company, was also my first investor for EduKart, my edtech startup. Later, he proposed the acqui-hiring EduKart and I had the fortune of working with him again.
In fact, when I met Vijay for a candid conversation during my hiring process, I had expressed my keen interest towards starting something of my own. To my pleasant surprise, he still hired me at Paytm because he thought I would bring in fresh ideas and energy.
Many years later, when I got the opportunity to hire someone at Udacity who wanted to be an entrepreneur, I realised how open I was to bring him onboard the team. That’s the kind of impact a good manager can have on you. They can essentially make you better managers!
But how can you develop such a relationship with your managers which goes beyond your job? I believe that just like every other relationship, this relationship is also entirely based on trust.
Here are five learnings I have had while building strong relationships with my managers.
Take Initiatives to Set Up Your Regular Check-ins
Managers stay busy managing multiple competing priorities. As a reportee, I have always recognized that it is my responsibility to set up the meeting cadence with my manager and ensure that we end up following the schedule on that together.
Do not let the manager cancel if they are busy, instead ask for a reschedule. Remember, to make the meetings worth their time by simplifying the conversation. Send out a pre-read or agenda if you can. Maintain an ongoing meeting journal and note the to-dos for both parties in it. Keep yourself and your manager accountable on the next steps, as they arise out of a meeting.
Structure Your Conversations With Your Manager
It’s important to talk about the most important stuff first. When managers are busy, figure out what is top of your mind and most important for your manager to hear.
You could use this simple framework to structure your conversation-
5Ws (What, When, Where, Why, Who) and 1H (How)
What do you want to talk about
When do you want to say it
Where do you want to say it
Why do you want to say it
Who is it about
And finally, How does it impact the business
Have these answers before stepping in a meeting with your manager.
You also want to make sure that your manager hears about the problems in your work or team through you first before anyone else. Therefore, do not shy away from starting the meeting with the bad news. A seasoned manager knows that all news can not be good or bad news!
Demonstrate Innovation and Initiative
I can’t stress enough on how important this is for your relationship. Every manager wants their team members to be a motivated lot! Showing that you're excited to take on new projects beyond your current KRAs can go a long way.
While every good manager tries to empower you, try to think how you can help and empower your manager. Think of the ways in which you can take some work from your manager’s plate. This will not only make them trust you more but also help you grow in your role.
Talk Long-term, Beyond the Daily Work
Good meetings are just never about status updates. Yes, one may need to give updates on the most important topics. But at the same time, think about what long term value your work brings to the company and how you can do more of it.
Drive alignment in meetings on what is most important for you to focus on and what it means for you, your manager and the company. You want to ensure that you are focussed on doing things that actually matter and that your manager is aligned to your agenda!
A Good Relationship With Your Manager ≠ Best Friends With Your Manager
I have seen many people confusing a good relationship with their manager with personal relationships outside of work, which is not true at all. Your managers don’t need to know everything about your personal life. You do not need to be (you can be..) Facebook friends with your manager or intrude on your personal life to become a good employee.
A healthy relationship with your manager can be purely professional and still as strong as you want it to be. Just remember that you don't need to be a 2am buddy with your manager!
I have always focused on building trust through reliable execution and sharing of information in a timely manner. Make it an equal relationship. Talk about your aspirations, challenges and goals, and listen to theirs. Meanwhile, don’t forget to appreciate them for all the effort they put in behind closed doors for you to succeed.
Tell me about your relationships with your manager. If you’re a manager, I would love to know what works for you to strengthen the bond with your team members.