Benchmark Business Group

Managing Work Relationships

June 27, 2017

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If you've been following us this month you've: The next step is to make sure your managers are equipped to create the best working relationships that they can with upper management (who they report to) and their team.
Creating Relationships with Upper Management
As discussed, management can be a tricky role to fill because the manager is literally in the middle of the organizational chart. Managers have to influence change from the top down, but they will also need to know how to influence change from the bottom up. In many businesses this is difficult because the managers are never trained on ways to work with or influence from the bottom up. It can be overwhelming for a manager to push back, to take ownership of their role, and to move the business forward, especially if their manager is the owner. 

This week we're focusing on creating a cheat sheet to help your managers understand how to work with upper management. Many managers have a tendency to hold upper management, especially owners, to higher expectations. It's almost as if they expect perfection, but no one is perfect. These cheat sheets are intended to increase collaboration and help your managers understand how to work with you or your upper management team, without taking years to figure out the shortcuts.

Creating an effective cheat sheet requires a great deal of self-awareness and honesty. It requires understanding how your upper management works and the willingness to acknowledge flaws. It's important to note that this cheat sheet is about collaboration. This is not a get out of jail card for your upper management team and their flaws (or your own). The expectation should always be that upper management and owners are always working to get better. At the same time, managers are using the cheat sheet to foster a better working relationship. This causes everyone to move in the right direction, and because everyone is improving, you'll meet in the middle at a much quicker pace.

Below is a sample cheat sheet and you can get the PDF here.  But remember once again this is a sample. You'll need a dose of self-awareness and honesty to customize it to work for your business.
Sample Cheat Sheet:
This documentation isn't about anyone being "right" or "wrong". We all have flaws. It is about recognizing that how you work with someone often determines the results that you get. Each of you will have to create your own way to get what you need from (name of position manager reports to). Through the course of these interactions the expectation is that change will occur, but if you're focused on changing (name of position manager reports to) you're focused on something that you can't control. These are tips focused on things that you can control. By focusing on your approach, you can shift the entire relationship that you have with someone including (name of position manager reports to).
Ways to work with (name of position manager reports to) specifically:
  • (Name) prefers to have time to study an issue and facts before discussing solutions. To ensure that she/he has time to look over a new suggestion: 
    • Send a detailed email describing a new suggestion using the provided template.
    • Schedule a meeting on the calendar 2 business days out to review initial feedback.
  • (Name) tends to find everything wrong with a new solution before looking at what works. This can come across as negative to some people. Be aware that this isn't saying the idea is wrong or that it's not going to happen, but simply the thought process she/he uses to think through an idea. Do not shut down in the beginning of this process, but take it that she/he needs more information.
  • (Name) doesn't always know what they don't want until they see it. This can be frustrating because you might spend time collaborating on a solution, but the moment she/he sees a prototype or the first draft there is feedback on what she/he doesn't like. This should not be taken personally or seen as a reflection of your work. It's the way they work. To work through this:
    • Use visuals when discussing solutions
    • Introduce rough drafts, mock-ups and prototypes early into discussion
    • Try to provide 2-3 samples if possible
    • Do not get attached to the idea, stay focused on the result
Tip: As the manager begins to understand their own management style and how they work they can, and should, create a cheat sheet for their employees on how to work with them. If you use a system such as DiSC profiles within your business language those reporting tools can be incorporated into these cheat sheets. Ask your BBG coach about DiSC profiles if you don't have any similar tools.
Creating Relationships with Your Team
Your employee handbook should outline policies and procedures that will ease a lot of frustrations managers have when working with their employees. Having written policies and procedures ensures that most of the "grey" area is eliminated by clearing up miscommunication. It gives the manager a solid foundation, but they'll also need training on working with each employee. The policies and procedures allow managers to hold someone accountable to a policy such as being late to work or not performing to a standard, but they won't inspire change. Your managers have to be able to work with employees to get the absolute best out of them. They have to be able to get employees to increase their abilities and improve when needed. They have to be able to delegate and get employees to take on ownership of their roles. Managers also need to be able to handle conflict.
You should start to collect resources that you can put in front of your managers to help them increase their skills in influencing people. Some of our favorite resources include: It's important to note, these are resources that we like, because they fit our idea of management. It's vital that you find and use resources that match the description of management that you've created for your management team. 

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