Your relationship with your manager can make or break you. It can define the difference between hating Mondays or bounding in with unrelenting energy.
The difference between constantly job hunting and a long, fruitful tenure.
There may come a time in recruitment when you feel like you know more than your manager. You feel like you’ve earnt your stripes and no longer need managing at all.
It may be you know what your manager billed during their time as a recruiter and have eclipsed that three times this year.
Or it might just be you’re totally comfortable in your work and find inspiration and development from outside influences.
You can’t choose your manager in recruitment. And so, it’s often the case that even when there is some relevant advice they can pass on, you’re reticent to listen. But that’s not a very harmonious way of working.
And the truth is, whatever stage of your career you’re at, it pays to be able to manage up the chain.
You’ll build a better relationship and improve your happiness levels. Including those of your boss.
So here’s how you do it.
Learning the style of your direct manager is a crucial first step on the path to managing them. Do they rely on meetings? Do they alter their approach depending on the person? Do they favour the odd passive-aggressive email when things aren’t rosy?
You need to find out how your manager works and tailor your management of them, to this approach.
Learn what annoys them. Find out what they appreciate. If, for example, they’re heavy on reporting and love a spreadsheet, giving your forecasts and analysis in that format will help them.
And by helping them, you’re helping the rapport you build with them to grow beyond transactional. You’ll build a relationship based on mutual trust and strong delivery.
Learn their goals
Understanding why your manager does this job in the first place is a very good insight into their life. And the more you get to know them, build a rapport and understand their life, the easier it is to manage up the chain.
Linking your work to their modus operandi will show you have empathy and can think bigger than your own goals. It’ll show to them you care about their struggles and efforts.
And by increasing the empathy on show, you’ll get some back.
This also works with the team around you too. If you know some of the team are struggling, be their voice. You’ll help both parties.
Be the supportive captain and you’ll elevate yourself beyond team member and get buy-in from a much wider group in the business.
Learn how to talk to them
Have you ever noticed how those in C-suite tend to talk differently than those further down the chain?
Typically speaking, senior people with lots on their plate don’t get involved in the weeds of business. Their time’s more precious than middle management due to the sheer amount they have on.
Therefore conversations with these people often take a different form. They like headlines. Decisiveness. Action. It’s rare they want to know why you’ve done something a certain way, just that you’ve done it.
And so, just as you temper your conversation with those at C-level, so too must you find out the right way to talk to your manager.
How? That depends on the person. But you’ll realise over time the things they like to hear and the things they don’t.
But here’s a universal truth, they won’t like surprises. Even the good surprises. So limit them as much as you can. Record everything you talk about and try to under promise.
There are those who’d say under promising and over delivering is the way to go. But this assumes you’re keeping key information from those above you. In recruitment the better route is to probably stay as transparent as you can, while keeping back anything you’d define as unnecessary detail.
Don’t be shy
Shyness and recruitment don’t often go together. The very first time you make a cold call, be it candidate or client, probably puts a stop to any signs of that.
But take that same confidence you have on the phone and transfer it to the relationship with your manager.
OK, you might not have a deal in this week. That’s arguably not as bad as your manager not knowing whether you do or don’t.
If you have a problem, be vocal about it. If you think something’s going wrong in the team, be the one who addresses it. Try to be an ally and unashamedly honest.
Of course how you deliver bad news, should that be the way it goes, will depend on how your manager likes to operate. But if you can show a deft touch, your opinion will be highly regarded and your relationship improve immeasurably.
Thinking of your manager like an obstacle, or a strong current to swim against isn’t the best route to great results.
Regardless of how stiff or robotic they might appear to you, they’re just a person too. Trying to get their job done to the best of their ability.
Work with them and you’ll stand a much higher chance of achieving brilliant outcomes.
Managing up is really just another term for a harmonious relationship. So take small steps every day to achieve that and your career will be all the better for it.