Getting the best out of your supervisor

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According to Gallup research 75% of reasons for costly voluntary turnover of employees come down to things that managers can influence. There are number of leadership capability building initiatives that organisations employ to provide the best possible working environment to their teams.

Despite all efforts, its obvious that there are gaps. A manager is expected to teach and coach. This requires specific set of skills as well as a preference to take that responsibility. Just think of how many great players wanted to be coaches and how many of us aspired to be teachers.

Many organisations promote people with good individual performance scores without checking preparedness or preference to be a manager. And people apply to such positions because they don’t see any career advancement being an individual contributor. And to top it there are not enough training given to middle level managers on how to groom coaching and leadership skills in their direct reports.

What does this mean to you as an employee who has to report to a manager?

Even if you change the organisation high chance that you may land up with another manager there who is still in the process of honing her/his skills and not fully ready to help you.

I can recollect at least 3 instances of people shifting from one organisation to another only to find their managers following suit! Imagine the plight of these guys who had to come to terms with reporting to the same manager again!!

Except for a few entrepreneurs, everyone has and will report to a variety of different managers during their life time.

Hence an important question that I am trying to address with this blog is “What can we do to get the best out of our supervisors?”

I often quote learnings from my previous managers during my interactions with team. This led to many of my work friends stating that I have been very lucky to have so many good managers through my professional life. While I have benefited from each of my managers in terms of learnings, in hindsight there are few factors that worked for me and others I have observed in my workmates/mentors.

Understand your manager’s need

My development started with a career advice from my first manager in healthcare industry: “If you aspire to be in a people leader position one day, start by being one today. Unless you understand what future role demands from you and start living it today, you will not be ready for it when the opportunity is presented to you”.

This advice led to a habit that helped me immensely in connecting with my managers. I would try to understand the role of the manager, what are his/her deliverables to various stakeholders in the company, behaviours expected, the training needed to perform etc.

Managers like the rest of us, express their “wants’ easily enough; understanding their “legitimate needs” would require inquisitiveness and a genuine interest in people from our end.

Ask about his/her professional journey. What kind of experiences they have had that formed their convictions.

A leader with a different perspective, experiences and convictions is the best that can happen to you for your learning and development. Leaders with different working styles helps you think and develop your own style rather than getting influenced by a singular way of working.

Exchange and clarify expectations

Even if the your manager doing initiate this conversation, seek clarity on what she/he expects from you. And what kind of performance/behaviour would be considered as “meeting expectation”.

Share your expectation from your manager with humility and courage in the beginning itself. Never assume that your manager should understand you. Your manager has a whole to team to handle, his/her leaders/peers to deal with and a family to support. Your manager can never fully comprehend your challenges and expectations unless you clarify.

Catch your Manager do the right thing

Your manager’s supervisor would hardly have the opportunity to observe and give feedback as he/she works with you most of the time.

It’s important to acknowledge and appreciate every time you see exhibition of right behaviours by your manager. Never take such behaviours for granted, you would want the manager to repeat them more often and nothing works like positive reinforcement.

Also this stamp of approval from the team makes a manager feel more confident and secure. You really don’t want to generate insecurity and fear in your manager.

Seek Feedback:

Managers struggle to give feedback to performers on their blindspots or development area for fear of them getting disheartened and disengaged. If you are a performer its even more important to give confidence and assurance to the manager that you value his/her feedback. Take feedback with unconditional positive regard.

Make sure you are calm while receiving feedback and also while responding to it. Even when your manager is agitated on occasion, buy time to respond when you are calm. Only when you are calm would it be possible to lead the conversation towards a productive outcome.

Give Feedback

It is said that for adults to take a feedback well, you need to give at least 4 positive reinforcements before giving 1 corrective feedback. A coaching lesson that will work both on your team and your manager šŸ˜‰

It’s important we develop an eye for seeing good in others even in adverse situations. Positive reinforcements help boost the morale of your manager and consequently the whole team.

My mentor always says: Even if you have to give a negative feedback, convert that statement into a positive one, clarify the assumption behind the feedback and share your perspective on how he/she can be an even better contributor.

Help in building the team

Proactively share your strengths that can be leveraged both in the context of current role and what the team needs. Managers will always view a person who helps him/her bring the team together as a value add.

New managers would especially need help in building the team, mentoring the newcomers etc. Your manager will not only appreciate this help but also not be insecure about you leaving the team as you have helped build new talent who can take your place.

Learn from your manager’s success story

Every manager would have exhibited something that the organisation values that put him/her in that place. You will only be benefited by observing the strengths and skills of your manager. Even the mistakes they made are valuable lessons for your preparation for the next role.

In the end we can only focus on what is in our control. And as we spend more time with our workmates than family its imperative that we do everything in our control to make the environment happy and productive.

What are your reflections on this topic? Do share in comments. And thanks to all readers for the continuous encouragement. Writing these blogs helps me reflect and consolidate my learning.

You can find all my previous blogs in home page of my site:


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