Coffee mug saying I love my boss.
I recently wrote about what a donor wants: to be known, to be treated as a partner, to be told the truth, and to know that their giving is making a difference. These are the things your donor wants.
Now I want to talk to major gift officers about what your managers want – and I’m assuming some things about the person you report to. I’m assuming that he/she is a good manager who is fair and just. Being “fair and just” is as important as being a good manager. It’s about an ability to listen and guide. It is about courage to tell you what you need to hear. It’s about sorting out conflicts in a manner that honors all the parties. It is about caring about you and helping you grow and succeed.
If that is your manager, then I believe I know what he or she wants. Your manager wants from you:

  1. To be respected. It’s not your manager’s fault he is the manager and you aren’t. Or that you think someone else should be the manager, not the person in the management seat right now. The fact is that you have a manager. And she would like for you to respect her and her authority. There is something magical that happens when an employee treats a manager with respect. Believe me, it works better than running around with a bad attitude, which never works.
  2. To be understood. It is not easy to be a manager. You have to manage the expectations of those above you, as well as your peers. You have to deal with employees who are different. You have to deal with very delicate and sometimes explosive situations. It is not easy. And it is always very, very helpful if your employee understands that your job is not easy.
  3. To be cared about. Being a manager is one of the loneliest jobs in the world. You are often held at a distance. You are often misunderstood or blamed if things go wrong. You have to make choices that will often upset someone. It is not easy – and it is lonely. Managers would like to be cared for. Not in an emotional, sappy way. Just simple caring. Just a kind “thank you for all you do; I know it isn’t easy” would be great thing to tell your manager every once in awhile.
  4. To get the results you promised you would. I find this item very interesting. Your job description, when you accepted the position, became your contract with the organization to deliver a certain result for certain pay. If it was written well, your job description is the organization’s (your manager’s) statement about what she needs you to do, and a body of work that the organization has decided justifies a certain salary and benefits. This is a huge deal. Some people sat around, long before you showed up and said: “This is work that needs to be done, and it will contribute value to the organization. Therefore we will pay $X to get this work done.” That’s it. Now, your accepting that job means you have agreed to deliver the results they asked for. Why is this interesting to me? Because, over and over again, Jeff and I see MGOs who shift to a position of justifying and defending why they can’t get the results they promised they would, when faced with the reality that they can’t do the job (or with circumstances that make fulfilling their employment promise difficult or some other excuse). I saw one situation recently where the failing MGO actually started talking about how their main job was to develop relationships, not raise money. Hmmmm…. Your manager wants you to get the results you promised.
  5. To be responsible and work hard. That means to show up on time, make a serious effort in the face of difficulty, follow through on things, be dependable – all the traits of a good employee.
  6. To tell the truth. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Telling the truth. But sometimes it is difficult, I know. There is one situation I am dealing with right now where the person is always “promoting everything enthusiastically,” i.e. spreading the word with embellishment. Everything is fine. Nothing is as bad as it seems. There are no problems, etc. This is a form of lying. A manager does not need this. The truth is good. And ultimately, it is easier.
  7. To receive constructive criticism well. Every person on the face of the earth needs constructive criticism, because there is always something that each of us does that needs some work. That is reality. Your manager needs to be able to process this material with you without any drama.
  8. To value others. This means playing as a team member – not always being a lone wolf. There is nothing more frustrating for a manager than an employee who does not value his fellow team members. No one person is so important that everyone else on the team needs to stop what they are doing and serve them. The finance person, the program person, the secretary or admin person – all of them contribute to the success of the MGO. If you are disrespecting anyone on the team, please stop because, first, it is not right. And secondly, you are headed down a path of failure. We are all in this together.
  9. To do what is right. Sometimes doing what is right goes against what matters to you. That is when you have a choice. Always do what is right. It is good for you, and your manager wants that. If your manager wants you to secure results even if the way you secure them is not right, pack your bags and run away as fast as you can.
  10. To be flexible. Phew, this one is tough! I am a very structured person and, over the years, I have had to learn how to value spontaneity and other options over my plan. Why did I learn this? Because often those other ways are better than the plan I had. And every workplace is filled with changing circumstances, often moving at a quick pace that demands quick adjustments. Your manager needs you to be flexible so that the team can get the team results.

There may be other things your manager wants, but these ten come from my 30 years of experience of managing, watching others manage, and sitting at the feet of wise managers who have given me wise counsel. The main thing I have learned is that hardly anything in life is solely about me, even as much as I want it to be. And that getting the results I promised to others – with a good attitude and team spirit – is what is important.
Jeff and I realize that not all managers are good managers. If you are in that situation, my advice is to try to help, as best you can. If it becomes unbearable, then leave. You do not need your spirit broken by someone who has not grown up yet.
And if you are a manager of MGOs reading this, remember this one point: being a manager is a sacred trust. You have been selected to get results through a very special group of human beings. Each of them has her own dreams, desires, passions and fears. And it is up to you to help each of them succeed and be all they can be, while they get the results you need from them.
Treat them with care, honor and respect – just as you would want to be treated.
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