When I was at BT one of the best things I did was to look for a business mentor. I had to find someone who was not in the same line of business as me, who was ideally local, who was a couple of grades above me, and who was keen to mentor someone in the business. I had two mentors at BT, both of whom were excellent, but it was the first one that really taught me how to manage my manager.
The person who decides your appraisal score and potential pay rise is generally your line manager. Obviously, you should be as professional and efficient with all your colleagues, but to progress your career, the main focus should really be your line manager.
My overriding advice on this is to try and think from your managers point of view. Quite often it is hard for managers to delegate and also they will generally find most of their time is spent fire-fighting. So think to yourself “How can I make my managers working life easier”?
Tell them a problem early
No-one wants to be the bearer of bad news, so naturally we do not want to say anything that brings to light something negative. However, often your gut instinct is correct and if you are concerned about something that may affect the business no matter how big or small, the best thing you can do is bring it to your manager’s attention as soon as possible (Unless of course you have dealt with and resolved it yourself).
Write your own appraisal
One of the most time-consuming and lower priority tasks as a line manager is writing employees appraisals (It shouldn’t be but naturally it can be). What could be better than having a direct report who offers to draft up an appraisal report? Obviously, your manager needs to pick out areas for development and add their own words (There should be no surprises on this and therefore you should have already heard areas that you need to develop), but this is great two-fold in that it saves your manager time and also it gives you chance to document all the great work you have done and evidence that sometimes gets lost in the noise.
Manage the appraisal process and document it yourself
At BT, we were meant to have 1:1’s at least every quarter. I never had a manager who would structure these correctly so from my Mentor’s advice, I was told to set calendar entries for the 1:1’s and I would also set an agenda and also document what was discussed. This could then be taken in to each subsequent 1:1, showing that I was highly organised and also that I was taking note of what I needed to do and that I was acting upon advice. All of this helps to take the burden off the manager, but also puts some control into your own hands in terms of how well you are thought of within the team.
Run with an idea
How often do we have an idea and don’t run with it? Time is often scarce, but it is the ideas that may save you time in the long-run that can really pay dividends. In my early years at BT I inherited a process that used MS Access to update pricing tools. MS Access, at its best, is very clunky, but this particular process was written by someone who clearly favoured MS Access to run queries (I was already skilled in using SQL). I therefore battled to get SQL Server installed on the team’s machines and a number of us worked overtime to get stored-procedures written to speed up the process. Some country updates used to be run overnight without guarantee they would work; with SQL server we managed to get some of those processes to run in under 30 minutes!
Often the result of such work means you may lose staff or you are given more work to do. What this actually did was free up analysts time to do more of the value-add work like conducting analysis on new pricing deals etc. This was a win-win as I was able to develop the team’s analytical capabilities, but also did very well in my appraisal for having this idea and managing to implement it.
We all have time and work pressures but try and use your day as effectively as you can. Investing time in helping your manager can only help your career progression. We often don’t think about such subtle ways to enhance our careers until they are pointed out, so I do hope that at least one person reads this and starts to implement some of the advice above!
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you found great benefits from a life coach and what, if anything, resonates from the points raised above?
Author: Paul Halsall
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