Let me ask you a simple question – does your manager motivate you? If you’re lucky then the answer will be yes. However, when I’m running a seminar for managers and team leaders on team motivation, the comment I hear most is – “How can I motivate my team when my manager doesn’t motivate me?” So the next question is – what are you going to do about it?
One of the best ways to motivate your team is to give them feedback on their performance. You tell them when they do things you do like and you tell them when they do things you don’t like.
It’s exactly the same with your manager. Now, I appreciate that we’re getting into scary territory here but you’re going to have to take some action. There’s no point in saying that your manager needs to change because that’s unlikely to happen unless you do something about it.
The rules for giving your manager feedback are almost the same as those for your team.
1. Do it ASAP – When your manager says or does something you do or don’t like you need to say something right away. If it’s something you do like, it’s not much use saying something weeks later – “Thanks for helping me with that difficult customer last week Dave.” Dave is going to have a bit of a problem remembering that situation and the effect of the feedback is totally wasted.
It also makes sense to tell Dave about something you don’t like as soon as possible.
2. Do it in private – You really don’t want members of your team or your colleagues hearing what you say to your manager be it good or bad.
3. Check that it’s okay to speak – Make sure that you have your manager’s full attention. There’s no point in trying to make your point if they have something else on their mind or they’re working on their computer. It’s also good manners and shows respect.
4. Announce your intentions – If your manager is not used to receiving feedback from you, what do you think runs through their mind when you pull up a chair or ring them on the phone – they think it’s bad news, or your about to complain about something or you’ve done something wrong or there’s a problem.
It’s important therefore to tell them up front what you want to speak about.
You might say – “Linda, I’d just like to thank you for something you did today.” Or if it’s something you don’t like you might say – “Linda, I’d just like to talk about something you said today that I’m uncomfortable about.”
5. Tell them how YOU feel about their behaviour – This is nothing to do with any one else. Don’t say things like – “The team don’t like the way you speak to us.” Use lots of “I” messages; say things like – “I’m unhappy with the way you told me how to do that job today. It made me felt embarrassed in front of my team members. Would you be prepared to speak to me in private in future?”
6. Focus on one thing at a time – Don’t confuse your manager with a whole list of behaviours. If it’s things that you do like then you’re in danger of coming across as patronising. If it’s things that you don’t like, then it may come across as a whinge.
7. Be specific – When you’re giving your manager feedback it’s important to focus on job related behaviour and not on the personality of the individual.
If you feel a bit uncomfortable, try to focus on the manager’s behaviour in terms of how they said or did something. That’s what you’re giving feedback on, not them as a person.
It becomes easier if you’re using “I” messages and being very descriptive about what you’ve seen or heard. You could say something like – “I liked the way you showed me how to layout that report – thank you Jeff.” Or – “Jeff, I’m concerned by the way you told me how to do that report. It’s important for me to get it right, would you be prepared to spend a bit more time explaining what you require?”
8. Include the customer and the organisation – Whenever appropriate; relate what your feedback is about to how the customer or the business could be affected. This of course could be an internal or an external customer.
9. Get input – When giving constructive feedback, it’s important to get the manager’s input. You might say – “I’m unhappy with the number of tasks you’ve asked me to do this week and I’m concerned that I may not be able to do them in the best interests of the business. However I’m willing to listen to what you have to say and discuss how we can make efficient use of my time.”
10. Don’t leave them low – This is particularly important after giving feedback on something you’re not happy about. This isn’t an attack on the manager; it’s about job related behaviour. Think about how you feel when one of your team speaks to you about something they’re unhappy about. It can leave you low and possibly stressed. Some years ago after a particularly “difficult” meeting with my sales team I was feeling a bit low. However, at the end of the meeting one of the team said – “Alan, we’re all going for a beer and we want you to join us. We have no hard feeling towards you and we like you as our manager.” You can bet that made me feel good.
There’s still a culture in some organisations that doesn’t allow the boss to be challenged. It’s a case of – “The boss tells me what to do and it’s my job to do as I’m told.” It’s also the case that some managers don’t want to say anything to their boss for fear of being perceived as negative or a whinger.
Be brave and give your boss some positive feedback. The occasional compliment or descriptive thank you will work wonders for your relationship. And if the boss is doing or saying something you don’t like, give him or her some constructive feedback using the rules above. If you follow these rules, then you’re much less likely to be seen as a whinger.