How to advance your career, one manager at a time

Have you ever found yourself asking yourself the following situation:

Man, I just don’t know how to please my manager! Every day I come to work and do all of the tasks assigned to me in addition to helping other people do their tasks and it’s I get no appreciation from my boss. It’s just so frustrating! I wish I knew how to stand out from the rest of my co-workers and show that I’m a great employee.”

If you have, congratulations because you are in good company. Many of my past clients have contacted me with exactly the same scenario. I’ll present a sample (and fictional) conversation to help show you how best to approach impressing your manager.

Me: So tell me a little about your day-to-day?

Client: Well, our line of work involves a lot of very detailed work. We have a “pipeline” of requests and each one requires several steps to complete.

Me: And how do you measures your productivity?

Client:I consider it a good day if I can complete a majority of the tasks during the day. Since it’s my primary job function, the more I complete the better I feel.

Me: I see. Are you measured on the number of tasks that you complete?

Client: Yes, absolutely. It’s part of year end review process that we are ranked based on our completion of our tasks.

Me: And how do you rank against your co-workers?

Client: I’m usually one of the most productive in terms of completion rate for new requests which is actually really frustrating.

Me: Why is that?

Client: It’s frustrating because in the time I’ve been there, I’ve seen other people with lower completion rates get promoted ahead of me or get assigned to more interesting projects. I do more work than them but it doesn’t feel like I’m being rewarded by manager. On the contrary, I get more work to do.

Me: I can see how that would be very stressful. A quick question, are you and your manager ranked on the same metrics? e.g. Are they ranked based on the overall completion rate of the team they manage?

Client: Hmmm, actually, that’s a good question because I’m pretty sure the answer is no. We have an overall customer satisfaction survey and from what I’ve heard from other managers that is the primary ranking metric and their level.

Me: So if Understand correctly, there are two different metrics for rankings employes at your level and the managers one level above you. Is request completion rate a primary driver of customer satisfaction?

Client: While I guess that it is pretty important, I would say that it’s not the main driver. The customer wants to feel that their requests are being handled promptly and efficiently. Come to think of it, a customer that had a completed task but didn’t know it was completed could potentially feel upset that their request was taking too long. The reverse would also be true, a customer that had a task in progress but knew exactly where it was in the process and the ETA may not be happy but they would at least feel good about the over all process.

Me: Given that, how would you compare your actions to those of some of the people who have been promoted ahead you?

Client: Oh wow! I see where you are going with this. They were always emailing the customers and letting them know the current status. I always thought that was a waste of time since a customer would be happier with a request completed more promptly. I probably should have focused more on communicating status while balancing that against getting the tasks completed. Especially since customer satisfaction is what my manager is getting ranked on!

At this point, I hope the overall thrust of this post has become clear.

Over the years, I’ve coached many people who were smart, hardworking, organized and great communicators. They have grown frustrated with their work because they feel that they are not being rewarded for the effort that they are putting into their work.

It is incredibly rewarding to walk them through an exercise like the one above and having them realize that they’re frustration is not due to a lack of effort but, rather, that they have channeled their effort in the wrong direction. To quote one client:

“Alex, I realized that everyone thinks they are working hard in their own mind. To advance my career, I realized I had to work hard in the eyes of my manager.

A good way to keep this in the forefront of your mind is to think of your manager as one of your customers. Just like every customer, they have requirements that need to be filled and frustrations that they wish could be handled by someone else. If you can figure out how to do that while also servicing your actual business customers, you will be in a very enviable position.

I can help you get there. Together you and I can create a tailored plan to identify exactly what it is that your manager values and start putting together concrete tasks to maximize your value in their eyes.

If you would like to hear more about how we could work together to help you get what you want when it comes to your career, you should check out my career coaching service.

Check it out and we can get started on helping you get a better career.

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