I am not a quiet person.
When I see someone going down an incorrect path, I will say something. That holds true if you’re my friend, a member of my family, and even my manager.
I’ve recently not had such good luck trying to help my manager out by sharing my wealth of accumulated knowledge. In my twenty-five years of doing this assistant thing, I’ve picked up a few things along the way. Why wouldn’t I share with my current manager a trick that one of my former managers employed successfully?
Turns out, not everyone wants my opinion or thinks my idea is best. I’d like to say I’m okay with that, but I tend to argue my point until it’s completely understood. So, I went through my checklist on how to appropriately and respectfully disagree with my manager, just to make sure I was doing everything right:
Always show respect first – I definitely do this! My manager worked hard to get to his position, and I respect the road he has traveled to get there. It’s not hard for me to show that respect – I always feel it, and it comes out in all I do.
I work hard to earn my right to an opinion – I try to make good decisions in my position and apply the knowledge I’ve learned from my fabulous managers when working on behalf of my boss. So, hopefully, I’ve earned the respect of my manager, and that helps me share an opinion with him and be taken seriously. If necessary, I prepare a couple of examples of my former actions to support my delivery of this particular opinion. I show my manager that I’ve earned the right to disagree.
My ethics are sound – I don’t share shady opinions. I share good ones that don’t hurt people and are not against the law.
I share my opinion in private – The last thing I’d want to do is call out my manager (or anyone, for that matter) in a room full of people. That would be breaking my first rule of always showing respect first. I wait until we have time alone and then bring up my thoughts.
Always start on a positive note – I’m not talking about saying, “Hey, I love that tie you’re wearing.” That would make me look disingenuous. But if I’m sharing an opinion about a process or about a person on our team, I will always start out with what’s working about that arrangement before I launch into my thoughts for improvement.
I keep my eye on the benefits (and those should be for the company) – Anything that I’m suggesting should change should come with my thoughts as to how the company will benefit. Is it time saved for my manager or for the team? Is it going to eliminate anguish or change the morale of the group? Just like making a sale, I present my opinion (features!) and tell my manager why it will work (benefits!).
If you can, start out your manager/assistant relationship with the expectation that you have an opinion you’re willing to share – Once, when my favorite manager and mentor ever was about to part ways with me, I told him I didn’t think I could ever work with anyone as well as I worked with him. In his wise way, he told me, “You will do fine, so long as you have a manager that takes feedback.” And he’s absolutely right. I have since moved on from that company as well and I made that a part of my interview discussion with my new manager.
I followed all my rules on disagreeing with my manager and trying to get my point across. But, you know what? That doesn’t mean he’s going to agree with me or take my advice. And that’s okay. I will sit back and watch him make a decision that doesn’t seem right to me. And I will learn great things from that decision when it works. Or I will gain more respect from my manager when his idea doesn’t work as well as mine would have. Either way, it’s a win for me!
Next Post: Wednesday, January 21