Forums

My apologies in advance for the long post.

So I've run into a bit of a challenge with my new supervisor. She's either not a fan of Manager Tools, or does not buy that it is a legitimate way of becoming a better manager or has a preconceived notion of me that I have not been able to change. BLUF: I'm looking for some suggestions about how to:

a) introduce MT to one's supervisor (telling her this what I am doing to become a better manager, NOT telling her how to manage) and

b) how to communicate better with her about what I'm trying to do to improve my management skills (and in general).

Prior to her being hired, it was recommended that I do some professional development to improve my management skills. HR sent me a couple of links for some webinars most of which were not fitting into my schedule. At the same time I did a little research to find alternatives, as well as books, etc... and in the process found Manager Tools. Which I've found to be very, very helpful.

Shortly after my new supervisor started, in a meeting she referred to as a one on one, she asked about my professional development. I told her that I was listening to the MT weekly podcasts and going back through the library of old podcasts as well. She indicated that she knew what manager tools was, asked me if I was reading any books. I said I was, but I found that while the books were helpful in a big picture sense, I found the MT step-by-step systematic approach of how to manage people more useful for improving. Her response basically indicated that she thought I said I had difficulty reading books.

About a month later she asked again if I had done any management skills professional development. I said that I was still listening to MT podcasts, that I had implemented the one-on-ones, and was in the process of rolling out the MT feedback model as well as using the MT model for assigning tasks and delegating work. (I'm still working through rolling out the trinity). Her response was: so of those things, what have you actually done? I repeated essentially the same things and emphasized how long I had been doing each one. She nodded and made notes.

Two weeks ago she asked again if I had done any management skills professional development. Again I told her what I was doing, where I was in the process and what the next steps were. Again, she asked me, but what have you actually done? Again I explained what I was doing, etc...  She nodded and made notes. 

Yesterday she asked if I had done anything yet about improving my management skills. So there is some communication difficulty here. I just listened to the podcast about measuring the trinity and am about to track that data as suggested for my own sake, and am wondering if I should share it with her. Additionally she told me that I'm just dong my job (barely) and she does not see me producing any results. (Note I'm 20% above my projected revenue goals so far this year)

I should mention that there is a frequent level of confusion between us. This is in part due to the fact that she is new and as she becomes more familiar with the job, she is understandably making adjustments to her approach and thinking. I'm one of four direct reports and I only see her every two weeks, so she frequently does not remember what we discussed or remembers it differently. She also does not understand what I do; she has direct experience with the other areas that report to her, but none at all with my area; so much of what I tell her is not meaningful to her or she applies a different meaning to it.

A related issue is that any information, reports, etc... I have sent to her, I'm not sure that she has received let alone read, as I've never received any response. The only way I know if she received something is if I see it printed out on her desk when we meet. Requests for clarification about data she requested are not answered, so I've never sure if what I gave her was what she wanted or not.

I'm happy to do some other webinar or go to some other management training if that will indicate that I'm doing what is expected of me, but at this point I'm not sure that will help.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

Solitaire's picture

Hello ADK_Lakes,

Sounds like a difficult situation you are going through.

Some questions sprang to mind regarding your statement:

"Additionally she told me that I'm just dong my job (barely) and she does not see me producing any results. (Note I'm 20% above my projected revenue goals so far this year)"

Have you asked her what she is measuring you against?

Also have you asked her how she is measuring you, or whether you can both agree some common goals/targets to measure you against?

Does she know and that you are 20% above projected revenue goals and how has she reacted to this?

Hopefully if you can agree some common targets then there will be less misunderstanding for her and confusion for you in the future.
 

Good luck,
Solitaire

GlennR's picture

MT is not the issue here. Nor is your supervisor the issue. The issue, IMHO, is the relationship you have with your boss. That relationship is based upon trust which is built through effective communication.

Questions  I might ask of my supervisor if I were in the same situation:

  • What are your expectations of me?
  • How do you measure success, specifically mine?
  • How do you define "professional development?"
  • What type of professional development should I focus on?
  • How do you prefer we communicate with each other? How often?
  • What are your goals for our department? How can I best contribute?
  • What books have you read that you think might be helpful to me? (Cross-reference her list with those listed in MT.)

She doesn't have a high opinion of MT. So don't bring it up any more. She's wrong, but there is no profit in dying on that hill.  I am NOT saying to stop utilizing MT. I am saying, just don't tell her your ideas are coming from MT.

Also, bear in mind that MT isn't the only method of professional development. (I'm sure you know that.) Be sure you're open to others that she believes are important. They too offer value.

I have been blessed with effective bosses for quite awhile now and I don't spend time on the topic of "managing up." But I think there are some podcasts about it and there are other good resources beyond MT.

This is an obstacle that can be overcome, but it's going to take time. Hang in there and good luck.

Glenn

naraa's picture

 I agree with the recomendations above.

My Reading to the situation based on what you have written, and bare in mind i dont know you or her só i am just guessing is:

1-she is insecure;

2-you being só certain on what you are doing both át. You job and on the management tools and on meeting your target does not help with her insecurities;

3-she is anoyed you don't follow her recommendations

For your own Sake you must make the effort to help her feel more secure.  Só ask for her advice as glenn suggested, show humility, really consider she may know something you don't.  Do what she advices you to do and report on it. And play polítics.  Even if you dont like the book on management she will recomend to you talk about the one thing on the book you are able to find value and do not criticise the rest you didnt find value in.

I am guilty about the same mistake. I get exited about something and assume everybody should be as well.  Keep the exitement to yourself.  

My guess is you are a high i, high c combination and she is probably a d?  Listen to the podcasts on disc model specifically high c high i high d manager downfall and how to report to a high d manager. You cannot change her, you can only change yourself, change your comunications Style to match hers better.

Let us know how your comunication with her improves!  

Nara

naraa's picture

 I agree with the recomendations above.

My Reading to the situation based on what you have written, and bare in mind i dont know you or her só i am just guessing is:

1-she is insecure;

2-you being só certain on what you are doing both át. You job and on the management tools and on meeting your target does not help with her insecurities;

3-she is anoyed you don't follow her recommendations

For your own Sake you must make the effort to help her feel more secure.  Só ask for her advice as glenn suggested, show humility, really consider she may know something you don't.  Do what she advices you to do and report on it. And play polítics.  Even if you dont like the book on management she will recomend to you talk about the one thing on the book you are able to find value and do not criticise the rest you didnt find value in.

I am guilty about the same mistake. I get exited about something and assume everybody should be as well.  Keep the exitement to yourself.  

My guess is you are a high i, high c combination and she is probably a d?  Listen to the podcasts on disc model specifically high c high i high d manager downfall and how to report to a high d manager. You cannot change her, you can only change yourself, change your comunications Style to match hers better.

Let us know how your comunication with her improves!  

Nara

RaisingCain's picture

 

For the sake of irony I’m going to channel my ‘D.’ I'm going to just key in one part that interested me before making my comment, assumption, and recommendation.
“About a month later she asked again if I had done any management skills professional development. I said that I was still listening to MT podcasts, that I had implemented the one-on-ones, and was in the process of rolling out the MT feedback model as well as using the MT model for assigning tasks and delegating work. (I'm still working through rolling out the trinity). Her response was: so of those things, what have you actually done? “
Comment, I like her; especially the question requiring you to report directly to her the results of your efforts and not your efforts, i.e. “what have you actually done?” Assumption you’re approaching the responsibilities that come with this role like you approached this posting...right in the title...a challenge you need to solve. Suggestion, listen to her (re: the other posters suggestions on DiSC profiles and communication) and do what she says.

RC

naraa's picture

RC, very good recommendation.  I hadn´t seen it that way before, but you are so right!  She is focusing on "What have you done?"  

Adk_Lakes, you have got to focus on the results.  You are reading her question to you: "So of those things, what have you actually done?", as her not being in agreement with you listening to the manager-tools.  But in fact she probably doesn´t care whether you are listening to the manager-tools or what exactly you are doing.  She just want to know what you have already implemented and what results you got so far from that implementation.

 "She indicated that she knew what manager tools was, asked me if I was reading any books."   She never told you she didn´t like manager-tools.  You assumed she didn´t as inmediately as she agreed she knew what manager-tools were, she asked whether you had read any books.  So you assumed she wanted you to read books rather than listen to the podcasts.

But what she really wants is for you to show results from the learning you are getting from manager-tools or other management improvement resources.

If she is a high-D, you have got to come to her with results within the first 30 seconds of your conversation with her.  If you come with nothing less than results she won´t even listen to all the staff you are telling her.   Of all of the podcasts you are listening and implemention on what and how have you and your team improved? 

Smacquarrie's picture

 Go back and listen to the latest cast. The cast was about status updates. Much like a direct whose tells you everything is fine when asked for status, you have avoided giving her a direct answer to the question. If you are still feeling out the team let her know that. When I am asked what have I done, I need to give them a direct answer upfront and THEN tell them the source if relevant. Five it a try with the cast and you will see what I mean. 

Mac

ADK_lakes's picture

 Solitaire – In terms of end results (revenue) as best I can tell she is measuring me against her other departments, with which she is more familiar, and which have different operate on a different calendar/cycle than my department.  Specifically this week she emailed to say that she thought my numbers for the second half of the year looked low compared to other departments. Essentially she was comparing their end of cycle results with my results from the first week of my dept’s cycle.

What I’m not doing well is communicating the status of all the projects that are in progress in order to achieve the end results. 

Glennr  - you are exactly right – I need to build trust and improve my communication with/to her.   I’m open to other kinds of professional development, and but none of the suggestions have been available in my local area (and there is not a travel budget for this).

I was very, very fortunate that my previous to bosses were excellent, understood my department, how it works and the opportunities and limitations we face.

Naraa – I just did DiSC  - and was surprised how good it was. I’m a high D, high C.  My i score was about as low as you could go. I will be checking out the podcasts later today.

Raising Cain – Your comments were very helpful to help me see what she was really saying – she isn’t really asking what I’m doing, she’s asking what the results are. 

I’ve been answering her in too literal a way and I know that is a problem for me. With customers I intuitively know what they really want to know, despite what they are saying. With colleagues, I have a harder time realizing that what they are saying is not literally what they are asking. Similar to the recent podcast where Managers will ask “how’s it going” and directs report “fine” when really reporting on results is needed.  (Thanks for that suggestion Mac)

--ADK

ADK_lakes's picture

 How the heck do I measure and report on the results?

In terms of professional development to become a better manager – I would say that my relationship with my reports has improved enormously. I'm regularly stunned by the difference. But how do you quantify a better relationship?

In terms of end results (revenue) – our week 3 results show us as being down 10% compared to last year, so it could look like I’m getting worse not better.  But that is the result of other factors, but I doubt she will care and explaining the situation will just sound like I'm making excuses, which won't go over well. 

- How do I report on an anticipated decrease in sales without looking like I’m failing?
- How do I discuss the reasons why there was an anticipated decrease with her without looking like I’m making excuses, whining or blaming other people?

 

For this year we projected a decrease in revenue due to a senior level decision to reduce production capacity in certain areas (most of which effect my department's sales). At the same time our organization’s “official” project management software has essentially stopped working, as has our CRM.  I’m waiting on other departments to fix both (and I've been told emphatically not allowed to use other systems temporarily). So we have been and are working off of spreadsheets to do things that others would tell me should not, cannot be done. We were still 20% over our goal for the first half of the year working off of spreadsheets (selling existing inventory from before the capacity reduction). But that came at the cost of my being able to report effectively up to my new boss.

For a little background, I’m the only full time employee in my department, I have one regular part-time sales person and I share an admin with 5 others (she reports to someone else in another building, and frequently comes to me for guidance on how to handle situations or get things done). We have very high turn over in my organization: in the 3 years I’ve been there, I’m on my third boss, 2nd salesperson and 5th admin  (not counting interim supervisors or temporary admins).

In addition, I have a number of seasonal part-time seasonal staff, different seasonal staff for winter versus summer with different responsibilities and skill sets. Most of the seasonal staff are students, so there is a high turnover there as well. As a result, I am constantly training or retraining staff; and we are finally on the path to having some of the training standardized in such a way that I don’t have to do it all. The current (fabulous) admin is and will continue to take over much of that training, if she stays in the job then a year from now I will be in great shape. If not then I’m still on the training hamster wheel, and my department’s effectiveness is limited. 

Personally, just writing all of this was hard. It feels like I’m whining and complaining, which I don’t find useful, I just want to get my work done. In MT terms, I am passing down all of the small balls that I can, as fast as I can, but there are a limited number of people to pass them to and I made the poor choice of letting task/project reporting be the thing I was willing to get in trouble for not doing. That choice was OK my old boss, because she knew what I was dealing with and that I would still get results.

Oh yeah, in case I did not mention it, I do love my job, despite the challenges.

OK , enough of my going on about this.  If anyone has suggestions about how to communicate results to my new boss, I would be very grateful.

Smacquarrie's picture

 It sounds like you are better off than you think. Simce your section is on a different cycle than the rest of hers? You need to poi t that out. Try ti schedule a meeting to go over financials for your section. During this bring up the planned reduction in sales. 

Training is different issue. You should not be a fical for this. If you can try to develop a plan that can address the training needs. This way you can act as a signatory agent to verify they have completed it and are able to effectively communicate what you need them to do. 

Look inI to Dominos tiger some background on high  turnover. They were able to fix this in their organization. 

Put a plan together to address these key issues and present it to your boss. She may surprise you. 

buhlerar's picture

The usual way I distinguish between excuses and reasons:  reasons become excuses when the reason is 1) communicated after the fact or 2) not accompanied with an action plan.  That's assuming they're legitimate causes of failure to begin with (obviously any "reason" that didn't really cause the failure is an excuse).

I sympathize with your concern that what you feel are legitimate reasons sound like excuses (even to yourself).  So ask yourself, am I explaining the past or am I explaining the future?  And am I addressing the "reason" or am I essentially saying there's nothing I can do (which is what you're saying if you don't have an action plan)?  Whenever you are put on the defensive you'll always feel like you're giving excuses.  And it's true in a sense, because the minute someone else is asking you about a problem, you've essentially lost the first point -- your communicating after someone else found the problem, rather than you initiating the communication in order to give them a heads up.

I'm pretty sure from your posts that your boss does not see you as exceeding targets by 20%.  I don't know if this is because she doesn't know you have a revised forecast or she doesn't believe it.  But either way, you either need to get the conversation focused on the future and quit telling yourself you're the guy who is exceeding expectations.  You're clearly not exceeding her expectations and if you're working from two different sets of expectations you'll always feel like you're just giving excuses.

I think you already realize you need to increase your effort around status reporting, which is advisable.  Obviously the first step is to agree on the yardstick.  You can help your cause by initiating the conversation, but you also have to hit the mark.  But until you agree on metrics, you'll go nowhere fast.

Finally, don't try to quantify "relationship with the team" -- that's the reason we do 1on1s, but it's not the metric.  The metric is results, which can come from improved relationships, but your boss can't reward you for relationships if you don't also produce results.  They're important for sure, but only because they help us accomplish results, which is what it's really all about.

naraa's picture

ADK_Lakes, it sure sounds like you have a lot going on.   It doesn´t sound like complaining.  It sounds like you making a summary for us and for yourself of your situation.

I think you are in the right track.  As you asked if any of us have a suggestion on how you communicate results to your boss I would recommend that the first thing you need to establish with your boss in the same base on which to work at and work towards.  As hard as it may be is the crucial conversation you need to have (there is a great book also in audio Crucial Conversations, not sure, but it may help you), if you hope to have any control over where things are going.  

I agree with Buhlerar that really from what you say you are not meeting expectations because you don´t know what her expectations are.  So you have to tell her which base you are using to work with and then be open to her telling you this base is wrong, you should be working with another base.  Then you need to tell her what you (or the company) need to work with this base (for example more production capacity in the other area, etc,...).

I also fully agree with Buhlerar that the difference between reasons and excuses are that excuses are communicated after the fact and without a plan.  I believe your fear of reporting an anticipated decrease in sales without looking like I´m failing might be precisely the problem, it is holding you back.  You need to get rid of that fear first.  You can say something like (sorry if I am missing something here): "I have to admit that I haven´t been looking too much into project status as we lost our software and have been working with a excel spreadsheet.  But I realize that is very important and I am putting extra effort on it.  I will have a project status for you by XX date (and do meet that deadline).  Something I need to establish well with you is that in this spreadsheet we are working towards a target of XX.  This target is different from last year because XX."

My suggestion would be not to talk about results yet, because then you would be defending your results whether she has other metrics.  I would talk about the metrics first.  Then if she does change the metrics you need to tell her what you need to get to that target (maybe not straight away, but do consider it).  Don´t close yourself to the fact that it could not be done!  Maybe she knows something going on in other departments that you don´t?   Maybe there is a new plan with so much shift in people in management.  There was a podcast a while ago, I cannot remember which were Mike talks exactly about that, about how he established targets which people first thought were completely unachievable and by that forced people to think outside the box and come-up with something new.    

I agree with Mac, you may be better off than you think.  You may not really have a problem with performance you may just have a problem with communication and expectations.  Remember work is not done until it is reported as done, and good managers do focus on status.  So you need to establish the way to report against a common status the work you manage (and she manages by default).

If you are a high C, high D, and my guess is she is a high D, you need to enhance you high D on communicating with her while simultaneously minimising you high D on accepting her directions on what she wants you to implement (even if she is not that familiar to your department).  And you need to enhance you I and S, make a double effort to focus more on the people (and your boss is people) rather than just the tasks. 

Nara

kima's picture

My advice is that you need a simple dashboard or scorecard for when you meet with her.  Use a simple spreadsheet that you update and print out to bring to your 1-1s with her.  For the first time you use it, go ahead and create one (no more than one page) with the measures you "think" you have.  Then you can say to her, these are the measures I've used in the past, what would you like to see added or changed.  Better to give her a straw proposal and let her change it than to go with a blank page. 

If it were me, I'd use a balanced scorecard approach. You'll have four sections (described below.)  In each section list measures and also key projects/initiatives.  Each item will have a row that has a description and columns for each month.  "Stop light" the monthly cells by coloring them red, green or yellow depending on your results.  I usually show 3 months (1 quarter at a time.)  You can also have a space next to each item for listing issues and your action plan for addressing them.  (That way they become actions, not excuses.)

 First section is Financial.   List the financial measures for your team.  For example, maybe you are measured on coming within 95% of your monthly budget or a specific ROI amount.  Second section is Customer.  Example measures might be survey results or number of complaints or projects you are doing to benefit customers.  Third section is Operations - this is for the internal things you do, like improving processes or meeting internal company measures.  Fourth section is People and used for your people management items.  This is where you can put your plans and results related to becoming a better manager, developing your team, etc. 

This approach gives her a quick, one page summary to scan and see overall status and a BALANCED view of you (and your team's) performance.  If she is a high D, it will appeal to her because it is results focused and fast to review.  And it will help you learn what her hot buttons are because she'll zero in on the same items time after time.    

Kim

 

JohnG's picture

I think as others have said, and you yourself appear to agree, the issue is wider than just manager tools and that you need to discuss with your boss what she wants and what you are trying to do.

 If your boss is challenging your performance and results then chances are that any concerns regarding effort your putting in to improve morale / development etc are pretty minimal by comparison. I'd suggest having a honest conversation where you ask her to explain what her priorities for you are for the next year, what she wants to see and how she will measure it (or what would signify success to her).

When you know that you can put together a plan for how your going to achieve it and take her through it during a later meeting. Hopefully you'll then know if she thinks that plan gives her what she wants and if not you can find out what you need to change for her to be happy with it.

I hope it all goes well whatever you decide to do.