When we think about a job or career, we tend to focus on the more obvious factors such as the location, hours, pay and the role itself. We often neglect the wider team dynamics and in particular, the importance of our manager.
A healthy working relationship with your manager can do wonders for your career. Handled well, this relationship can increase your enjoyment in a role and help important decisions that are made when you're not in the room, such as promotions and new assignments. Handled poorly, it can lead to frustration in a role and missed opportunities.
There are some useful things we can all do to strengthen this key relationship - whether you're starting a first job, getting a new manager or you're a seasoned expert.
We spoke to various people that work in the public and private sector, ranging from junior to Board level. Here's their 5 top tips on how to make the most of your manager.
Tip 1: Understand your manager
This doesn't mean becoming a psychologist, but it does involve taking the time to learn your manager's personality.
There are lots of ways to start doing this - from being attentive in team meetings to learning through work shadowing. Less formal events such as team socials (in person or virtual) or quick breaks are great opportunities to get to know your manager too.
You can also learn your manager's working style. Does your manager like to receive regular updates or do they only want to know about big issues? How do they like to communicate - in person, phone, email? Who is your manager accountable to? Understanding this early can help you work well together and avoid clashes.
Tip 2: Take ownership
The dream for most managers is to have a direct report that is proactive and needs very little 'managing'. This involves understanding your manager's working style and expectations (tip #1) so that you can get into the groove of your job quickly.
Proactively sharing innovative ideas and ways to work more efficiently is a great way to get noticed. If you have a different perspective or experience from working in a different culture, share it
- Eghosa, Consumer Credit Manager.
Taking ownership of your own career development is key. This means proactively finding training courses to go on and communicating your career goals with your manager.
Create SMART objectives (specific, measured, achievable, realistic, time-bound) that will help you to perform in the role. This helps you to create a reputation of being switched on and equipped to get the job done.
Communicating your career aspirations also helps your manager when it's time to discuss those highly-coveted promotions, development opportunities or new roles.
Tip 3: Stay connected and prepared
Regular catch-ups with your manager, at least monthly, can help to stay connected with relevant updates. This is even more important if you're in a virtual working environment, where those casual conversations at the water cooler have disappeared.
Prepare an agenda in advance even if it's a few notes on a piece of paper. Take the opportunity to discuss your performance against your SMART objectives and remember to ask for feedback.
Ultimately, your manager looks good if you look good. Keep your manager updated and try to develop a good rapport
suggests Jon, an Analyst at an International Development Consultancy.
If your manager is giving you valuable support, let them know too.
I've worked with brilliant managers who went above and beyond for their team and ended up leaving because they felt unappreciated. If you have a great manager, let them know. Everyone works more effectively when they feel valued
says Stacey, a Midwife.
If possible, try to squeeze some small talk into these discussions, aside from work updates. You never know, you might have something in common!
Tip 4: Learn from them
Watch how your manager conducts themselves, particularly in difficult situations. Make a mental or written note of behaviours that you admire and borrow techniques where you can.
Make the most of their experience by asking questions and learning from their expertise
says Elaine, a Housing Officer.
Observe what you don't like and use this to improve your own style.
Tip 5: Give it time
Patience is key when it comes to working with a new manager or trying to improve a relationship with an existing one. The main thing is to keep positive, stay connected and consistent.
"Dont forget, your manager's job is to help you to develop, so take advantage of that"
says David, a Non-Executive Director.