WHEN I run seminars 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 members is to give them feedback on their performance.
You tell them when they do things that you like, and you also tell them when they do things that you don't like.
It is exactly the same with your manager. Now, I appreciate that we are getting into scary territory here, but there is no point in saying that your manager needs to change because that is unlikely to happen unless you do something about it.
Here are the rules for giving your manager feedback:
1. Do it as soon as possible
When your manager says or does something you do or do not like, you need to say something right away. If it is something you do like, it is not much use saying something weeks later, like: "Thanks for helping me with that difficult customer last week."
If your boss is going have a problem remembering that situation, the effect of the feedback is totally wasted.
It also makes sense to tell him about something you do not 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 is okay to speak
Make sure that you have your manager's full attention. There is no point in trying to make your point if he has something else on his mind or he is working on his computer.
4. Announce your intentions
If your manager is not used to receiving feedback from you, what do you think runs through his mind when you pull up a chair or call him on the phone? He may think you have done something wrong or there is a problem.
It is important, therefore, to tell him up front what you want to speak about. You might say: "I'd just like to thank you for something you did today."
Or if it is something you do not like, you might say: "I'd just like to talk about something you said today that I'm uncomfortable about."
5. Tell him how you feel about his behaviour
Don't say things like: "The team doesn't like the way you speak to us."
Instead, say something 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. Could you speak to me in private in future?"
6. Focus on one thing at a time
Do not confuse your manager with a whole list of behaviours. If you discuss things that you like, then you are in danger of coming across as patronising. If it is about things that you don't like, then you may come across as a whinger.
7. Be specific
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 he said or did something.
It becomes easier if you use "I" messages and be very descriptive.
You could say something like: "I liked the way you showed me how to lay out that report. Thank you."
Or, "I'm concerned about how you told me to do that report. Would you 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 feedback, it is 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. 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 him low
This is particularly important after giving feedback on something you are not happy about. Think about how you feel when one of your team members speaks to you about something he is 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 members said: "Alan, we're all going for a beer, and we want you to join us. We have no hard feelings towards you, and we like you as our manager."
You can bet that made me feel good.
So, 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 some constructive feedback using the rules above.
If you follow these rules, then you are much less likely to be seen as a whinger.
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