How to get your manager to really listen to you - a full perspective

Make sure your voice is really heard by those at the top with these insights from a seasoned manager and novice employee.

All managers and bosses need to hear feedback and suggestions from their employees for a well-run business. As an employee, it can be intimidating to give suggestions to your boss. Even when you do find the courage to do so, it can feel as if your manager isn’t actually listening to your feedback when ideas aren’t acted upon or forgotten altogether.

Alison Leishman (Strategic Director) and Boitumelo Masihleho (Brand Journalist) came together to discuss how an employee can get the attention of the man or woman in charge, from the respective points-of-views of a long-time manager and fairly new employee.

Resonate

Co-founder and managing partner at InVisor Consulting, Steve Tobak, says that when presenting ideas or suggestions to your manager, it’s important to know and present the ideas in the terms that resonate with your manager and we couldn’t agree more.

Passion and conviction really do go a long way in making sure what you present to your manager resonates with them. Some managers have a healthy dose of scepticism.

Ali, the manager: “When staff present a new idea, I’m known for asking the ‘but why’ and ‘so what?’ and what will this mean for the team, the customer, and the customer’s customer,” says Ali. “I ask these questions not as a sceptic but to get our team to be looking at the idea from more than one viewpoint.  If they can answer these questions, or are brave enough to say they don’t have all the answers right now, then that will resonate with me. It shows that they have looked at this strategically or are in the process of doing so.”

Boitumelo, the employee: “I think it’s important to pay attention to how your boss prefers to communicate and adapt to that,” says Boitumelo. “If you know your manager likes things explained more visually than through text, then do that. I think you’re more likely to have what you are presenting resonating with them more if it’s similar to how they communicate.”

Do the homework

It goes without saying that doing your homework before presenting anything to your manager is non-negotiable. But what exactly should you include?

Ali, the manager: “I would say I would know that presentation is well-thought out if the idea has looked at multiple test case scenarios.  As a manager, I like to know that this is not merely serving the needs of one individual or problem but the impact that it will have throughout the business or the client's campaign is considered. This is particularly important for inbound marketing and when using HubSpot,” says Ali. “You need to have an understanding of the strategy so that you can see how the pieces fit together.”

Boitumelo, the employee: “It’s all good and well to show data but it’s more crucial to be able to interpret the data into an action plan,” says Boitumelo.

Test your idea

Dan McCarthy, director of Executive Development Programs at the University of New Hampshire says asking your co-workers if your idea is easily understandable, and getting constructive feedback is a good way to see if your manager would be receptive to your idea.

Ali, the manager: “I think it’s great. I am a strong believer in two brains are better than one! It’s always good to have a second point of view to test if your idea is good or not because sometimes you become immersed in the client or campaign and an outside set of eyes provides some clarity and a new perspective.”

Boitumelo, the employee: “As someone who is fairly new to the industry of inbound marketing, I would definitely want to get feedback or suggestions from my co-workers on something I’d like to present to my manager,” says Boitumelo. “I think it’s important to understand that people might not love your idea and that it isn’t personal.”

Tip talking to manager

Don’t leave them in the dark

Ali, the manager: “I would advise that no matter who your manager is, you should always make sure that you are giving feedback and not leaving them in the dark,” says Ali.  “It’s important to ensure that they receive updates on tasks you’ve been allocated before a deadline and of course delivering on deadline.

“Another tip is to ensure that you understood what is required of you - so much confusion and conflict is caused by unclear communication between people.  Reframing a brief goes a long way to ensure clear communication - but just don’t do it after every conversation, that becomes exhausting. No matter who your manager is, my advice is show dedication, passion, enthusiasm, and a curiosity in everything you do and you will achieve great results.”

Boitumelo, the employee: “I find it is really important to ask questions of what your manager expects from you once you’ve presented your idea or strategy, so you are not left confused as to what the next steps forward should be,” says Boitumelo. “The way forward may change in the weeks to come after the initial presentation so I think it’s important as an employee to not be rigid in the details of your idea.” 

The perfect timing

Everything may be important, but not everything is urgent. Your manager has many things on their to-do list, so picking the perfect time when they’re not only physically available but also mentally, will help them. Tobak says that “if you think that your boss is distracted on something more important like a major product launch, pick a better time; you may not have more than one opportunity so make sure to do it right.”

It doesn’t always work - and that is ok

Letting employees know that their idea isn't really the right fit for the business or the client is an important part of management. “Usually, I ask reflecting questions to assist them, and myself, to clarify our thinking,” says Ali.

“It’s through these questions and evaluating possible implications and outcomes that together we determine if what they’re suggesting is something to pursue further and implement. If it isn’t, I handle it by explaining where I think the challenges lie and together we decide to try again or to leave it be and go in another direction.”

Managers and bosses are as different as all people differ from each other, so there will never be only one way that will work for all. Remember that your manager is human too and that keeping a good professional relationship with them will always help in getting them to really listen to you.

Improving productivity is always on any good manager’s priority list. Get our Productivity in The Modern Workplace ebook for some tips and try our marketing calendar and impress your manager today.

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