Being a great managee today will enable you to be a great manager tomorrow.
It’s 5 in the morning on a bone-chilling day in Delhi. No superhero can pull the blanket off of you, no matter how hard they try. The only “hero” who could, without lifting a finger, calls you. The website has been down for an hour and if not fixed by 6 am, the potential customers will start visiting the competition.
You have two choices here, either mute the phone, go back to sleep and fix it in the office first thing. After a few heavy words, you know it’ll be a normal day, as usual. Or you could fix it right now. So how do we decide on this? (one probable solution in the comments section)
Learning how to be a great managee is as tough as being a great manager, but isn’t talked about as much. Because when things go wrong, it’s the managers’ fault. They learn from their mistakes and write a “What not to do as a Manager” post. On the other hand, when things go right, it’s the “Things a successful manager does” post.
What people tend to overlook is the contribution of the managee in the setback/accomplishment. Here we’ll cover a few things that can potentially help you become a great managee.
A quality of utmost importance in every phase of life and work is empathy. In our case, it is the ability to perceive what your manager might be thinking, why their decisions are the way they are, and what could have trickled down the hierarchy for that decision. The competence to find the cause for every effect is essential, and to get better at it, you have to be inquisitive and ask when you cannot figure the thing out.
TLDR; learn about your manager
One shouldn’t carry pre-conceived notions based on peer feedback, internal biases and experiences. More often than not, you won’t be able to recognize the qualities of your manager from day one. It takes conscious effort and time to be able to assess what their area of expertise is. Then one gets to pick and choose what they definitely have to learn from their manager and the things that need to be filtered out.
It is equally important to know of their shortcomings. That is when a little extra research is required to help your manager out before it is too late and the team has to suffer.
Obviously, this only works if the manager is open to feedback (let me know if you find a way to make this happen 😜). To give you an example of this: I had been below par with my timeline estimations when I was leading the tech team in my previous company. My team then started intervening during timeline discussion meetings so that we don’t commit to unachievable timelines.
TLDR; communicate honestly
Dogs bark when they are hungry, babies cry, everyone has their own way of communicating their needs. The same is true for a professional setting–You have to convey your needs and how you are feeling, for anyone to help you better. But in order to do that, you first have to know yourself. And this brings us to the fourth important quality: Self Awareness.
Knowing the things we generally struggle with, what drives us, and what makes things interesting to us is a great indicator of our self-awareness. And, if communicated correctly, will definitely reduce friction amongst the team. (Even better if you start communicating this as early as the hiring process itself. The hiring team will then have a clearer understanding of your goals, driving factors and ambitions and will be able to correlate them with the company culture. This would reduce chances of a misfit relationship)
TLDR; written clarity
Insisting on written clarity and sharing it with your manager is essential. There are a lot of assumptions we make as to what needs to be done–which is exactly why it’s essential to be transparent about your understanding of a said topic Furthermore, this is also because of the environment we’ve grown up in and the people we have worked with. Listing down these assumptions makes sure that everybody is on the same page. If something isn’t clear in the first go it should be reiterated and clarified upon without the fear of being perceived as a nincompoop.
Whenever you pick problems yourself and work on them, you automatically feel connected with the work. You are, hence more energetic and enthusiastic compared to when someone else assigns you a task. This doesn’t just make for a self-driven individual, but also a self-driven team, as it creates a more goal-driven atmosphere.
In fact, the two types of managee that you should avoid being (at any cost):
Someone who doesn’t do what is expected of them.
Someone who only does what they are expected to (unless you are working in a nuclear power plant, in that case, please stick to the drill)
TLDR; offer to help
This makes for a great case when you can see that your manager is bogged up with lots of work. When you ask him if you could help him out in hiring, system design, mentoring etc. you get a chance to peek at the future. Interestingly, this future can then become reality sooner if you constantly keep offering help.