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Get to Know Your Manager and Yourself

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Identify your manager’s motivations at work.
  • Summarize the biggest stressors and pain points for your manager.
  • Describe your manager’s preferred working style.
  • Identify how you and your manager prefer to give and receive information.

Learn About Your Manager

Now that you know just how important alignment with your manager is, you’re probably thinking, “But how exactly do I do that?” It starts with getting to know your manager’s goals and getting to know them as a person.

You and your manager are people with lives in and outside the office. You’re both doing your best to be sharp at work, stay fit, be social, spend time with friends and family, and accomplish whatever else may be on your plate.

As Salesforce talent program director Louise O'Dwyer observes:

“At Salesforce, our Ohana culture means that you understand how your personal and professional lives fit together. It means we’re more human with each other and open about our personalities. If you don’t know what may affect your manager’s work, it’s harder to support them.”

When you know what gets your manager excited to head to the office (and to head home!), you’ll be able to better support each other.

Note

Note

For more on the values we live and breathe in the workplace at Salesforce, see the Salesforce Ohana Culture module.

What Are Your Manager’s Goals for the Year?

As we mentioned, getting clarity on what your manager hopes to accomplish can help you prioritize projects and achieve the right goals. At Salesforce, the V2MOM makes it easy to see what everyone is working on and how they plan to achieve it.

For Kev Doyle and his team, the V2MOM helps them respond to change, as well:

“The V2MOM gives us and our customers a shared language and definition of success. We lean heavily on it to ensure we’re in step. When new projects come up, we need to determine if the initiative brings us closer to our goals before agreeing to pursue it.”

Having a statement of goals, in whatever format you choose, can help you contribute to your own and your manager's success.

Note

Note

To learn even more about the V2MOM check out the Organizational Alignment (V2MOM) module.

What Motivates Your Manager?

Start by learning some basic information about your manager: career goals, what your manager hopes to achieve in the next year, where your manager hopes to be in the next 5 years.

All of these factors underlie your boss’s motivations. By taking on work that supports these goals, you become a more valuable asset to your boss and the team. Here’s what you can do to get aligned with your manager’s motivations:

  • Take note of the objectives that are a priority for your manager and make sure they’re at the top of your to-do list, too.
  • Think of ways to advance or streamline projects that are top priority for your manager.
  • Be a sounding board for ideas and offer helpful feedback.

Like a helpful copilot, you can put your manager’s biggest priorities first and do your best to prevent any “Mayday” situations.

What Are Your Manager’s Biggest Pain Points and Stressors?

Like knowing your manager’s priorities, knowing what your manager is stressed or concerned about—and doing your best to alleviate that stress—is one of the best ways to get aligned with them.

Female employee at her manager’s desk offering to help, manager sitting looking stressed

When projects come along that include your manager’s pain points, you can take responsibility for getting things done right and communicating frequently about how the projects are progressing.

If your manager’s pain point is...
You can…
Managing the budget
  • Ensure you’re managing to your own budget and spending efficiently.
  • Give your boss a heads-up as soon as you think you may go over or under budget.
Managing their boss
  • Deliver work that makes your team look great.
  • Offer to support priority projects for your manager’s manager.
Prioritizing work
  • Keep your manager informed about your deadlines or the team’s deadlines as they approach.
  • Volunteer to take on projects you can support.
Balancing work and home life
  • Get alignment on when and how your manager works and communicates outside normal work hours.
  • Be supportive when an event in your boss’s family may interrupt work time.
Clarifying your goals
  • Invest time in setting and clarifying your goals.
  • Revisit the organization’s goals and identify how your goals align with them.
Aligning across teams
  • Suggest times for everyone to check in on progress against the team goal.
  • Be the point person for answering questions from other teams.
Influencing stakeholders
  • Be a sounding board to help your manager think through how to influence others.
  • Help your manager build relationships through introductions to people in your own internal and external networks.

And these are just a few ideas to help you get started. The fastest and easiest way to make those pain points disappear may just be asking your manager, “What do you need?”

Who’s Your Manager’s Manager?

Unless you’re working for the CEO, chances are your manager has a manager to align with. Make it a point to find out who your boss’s manager is, and get to know that person as best you can. Look not only at your own boss’s V2MOM, but also your boss’s boss’s V2MOM.

This view of the strategic goals on the horizon can help you understand how your work links to the overall goals and success of the company.

Identify How to Communicate with Your Manager

When a pilot and crew are ready to take off for their next flight, who directs them on their way to a clear runway?

The ground crew is there with their light-up beacons, signaling which way to go and when. In the same way, we need to understand how our managers give and receive information. Learn how your manager likes to work and communicate.

To get alignment on...
Ask...
How your manager works
  • Would you like me to focus on top-level strategy or finer details?
  • Is there any project or responsibility you’d like me to take on?
How your manager communicates
  • Is it helpful for me to provide a full report, or would you prefer a synopsis?
  • Do you prefer in-person or email updates?
How often your manager wants to communicate
  • When and how often would you like me to give you updates?
  • When do you usually answer emails?

Build on Your Similarities and Differences

You and your manager are likely to have different strengths and weaknesses. The great thing about aligning with your manager is that you can figure out where your strengths complement their weaknesses, and vice versa. Researchers at Gallup published a study on this “power of 2” and found that the strongest collaborators believed that they:

  • Each possessed unique talents
  • Complemented each other's strengths
  • Needed each other to get the job done

If you bring these ideas of respect and of give and take to partnering with your manager, you can really take advantage of your similarities and differences. Here is a breakdown of ways that you can pair your strengths with your manager’s.

If your manager is…
Complement your manager’s style by...
Strategically oriented
Providing the big-picture perspective on your projects and getting aligned on the top priorities that will drive the greatest impact.


Detail oriented
Ensuring you’re well-versed in the issue, project, or tactics you need to discuss with your manager.


Results oriented
Setting goals, measuring them, and reporting on progress.

Process oriented
Discussing your approach to your work, the rationale behind your decisions, and the potential impacts of your work.

And to make sure that you’re taking advantage of your greatest strengths, Kev Doyle recommends you know and be honest about what you struggle with, too:

“It takes courage to admit when you don't know or aren’t strong at something. That vulnerability will help you build a stronger relationship with your manager. Great leaders will help you work on your development areas, but you have to be open with them about what you need.”

So remember to be transparent with your manager on what you’re great at and what you’re not. You’ll work better together as a result.

Convey Confidence and Competence

When you think of successful athletes, actors, or even colleagues, what is one trait that they share? Amazing hair? Nope. Rockin’ style? Not necessarily. Confidence? Most definitely.

Confident female employee presenting her work to a seated, interested male employee

We don’t mean shouting to everyone about how awesome they are. We mean being able to trust in their ability and experience to get the job done.

Here are a few ways you can convey confidence and competence to your manager:

  • Make eye contact when you are speaking face-to-face.
  • Come prepared to contribute in your 1:1s and group meetings.
  • Share an informed point of view and rationale for your decisions and recommendations.
  • Provide timely communication and progress reports on projects.
  • Volunteer to take the lead on projects.
  • Follow through on meetings and be on time as best you can.

If you’ve just started or your manager is new, Louise O’Dwyer recommends securing early wins to build your manager’s confidence in your abilities.

“Ask your manager what they want you to solve for, or find something that you can do to make a difference in the first 30, 60, or 90 days. Then make sure you follow through on deadlines and deliverables to build trust in your relationship.”

Ground crew member waving a signal with “Let’s Sum It Up” in a bubble

Let’s Sum It Up

Knowing yourself and the way you work with others is important for collaboration and doing your best work. Not surprisingly, so is knowing your manager and how your work styles align and differ. Keep in mind that your style and your manager’s are unique. Finding out each other’s strengths and weaknesses can help you both achieve success.

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