To be a good, smart manager, you need to work well with your own manager. And communication is the bedrock of a good relationship with any boss. How well are you and your boss doing? Take this quiz and find out.
For each of the following statements, give yourself a rating of 1 to 3, 3 being "usually true."
___ 1. I can ask for help without feeling embarrassed.
___ 2. My boss recognizes the good things I do.
___ 3. I understand what my boss expects of me.
___ 4. My boss coaches me toward improvement when I need it.
___ 5. I am aware of the reasons for the major decisions my boss made this year.
___ 6. I know several specific things I can do to get a better rating at my next.
___ 7. My boss understands my personal goals.
___ 8. My boss lets me know when I miss the mark, but without putting me down.
___ 9. I feel free to disagree with my boss when we talk.
___ 10. My boss is aware of the basic problems I have to cope with in doing my job.
What do your scores mean?
Add up your ratings. If your total is 23 or more, you and your boss are communicating well and have the foundation of a good supportive relationship. If the total is between 14 and 22, your mutual communication is average at best—not necessarily so weak that you're likely to have a bad relationship, but certainly leaving room for improvement. And if your total is 13 or less, then you probably don't have a very good relationship with your own manager—and can see the consequences in your ability to lead your own team and get its work done.
What to do? First, remember that communication is a two-way street. Look over the items that you rated "1" or "2" and ask yourself: Have I asked for this? Does my boss know this is something I want or need? While it's true that some people are just not cut out to be bosses, failing to provide you with the feedback and support suggested by these items doesn't mean your boss is a bad manager. He or she may be busy, distracted or simply a person who defines some of these benchmarks differently than you do. Perhaps your boss feels, for example, that you do, or should, feel free to disagree when you talk. Check your own assumptions, expectations and behaviors.
Once you've done that, and it's clear to you that it's your boss who needs to communicate better with you, then ask more questions and practice active listening, just as you would with your own employees. It can be challenging, certainly, to muster the tact to politely and constructively tell your boss that he or she isn't making sense or isn't listening to you. But be patient and friendly and make sure you're paying attention to the nonverbal cues or between-the-lines messages that may provide you with the answers you need.