“I have no idea what he is doing!” said the manager. “And I don’t feel good about it.”
And that is how it all begins – the downward slide of what was a good relationship into a dark pit of suspicion and conflict. We have seen this over and over again in the life of a manager and a major gift officer. And it doesn’t need to be.
Your primary job as a MGO is to nurture and relate to a group of assigned qualified donors. Your secondary job is to let your boss know what you are doing. It’s pretty difficult, sometimes, I know, because you wonder if your boss really cares about what you are doing. He or she is so busy. There is so little time.
Political savvy and skill can help ethical, competent MGOs promote their work to others in the organization. And it’s important work to do. Here’s why:
1. People up-line need to know the good things that are happening with donors so they can be encouraged just like you are.
2. People up-line need to have feedback about what donors think so they can modify organizational policy or systems to better serve those donors.
3. People up-line need to know you are doing your job. You might say it’s the manager’s job to stay in touch with you. True. But I have never left it at that. A little tasteful and practical self promotion is always a good thing.
Here are ways you, as a MGO, can promote your ideas, your position and your objectives with those above you and around you.
1. First, be sure you are delivering what managers want. Things like…
• Getting results with donors—again, this is your primary job. Do this well and communicating up-line will be a joy.
• Demonstrating DIP – drive, initiative and push. Employees who consistently deliver high quality work with high energy are employees who managers value.
• Managing your expenses and use of time.
• Building relationships with them and others.
• Making them look good.
• Being loyal and truthful.
2. Be pro-active with up-line managers in providing information and building relationship. You need to be “present” with those above you. Out of sight, out of mind is an operating principle here. You may think those in authority are thinking about you with great frequency. The fact is they are NOT. This is why you need to create appropriate information and touchpoints for up-line consumption. Appropriate touchpoints can be:
• Regular reports on performance to show how your caseload is doing against published expectations.
• Sharing your thoughts on philosophy and strategy to demonstrate you are in touch with the technical aspects of your job.
• Regular emails of stories from the donors who you touch so you demonstrate the effectiveness of your work.
• Passing on information and items of interest that are of interest to the manager above you – this info may not have anything to do with your job or may be personal in nature.
The point of all this activity is to be “present” with those above you – to capture share of mind – to show value – to create relationship, empathy and appropriate dependence.
3. Clarify your message. What is the message you are trying to communicate? Is it that you are a good MGO; that you are an expert in your field; that you are needed as an important part of the team; that your point of view on the decision that is going to be made is the correct one?, etc. – the point is to know what you are trying to communicate and being clear about it.
4. Show confidence in everything you do. It is true that you don’t always know what to do in every situation. It is OK to say “I don’t know” and then proactively seek information and solutions. There is nothing more frustrating to a manager than an employee who acts like they know when they don’t. Your demonstration of confidence is not about knowing everything. It is about knowing what you don’t know and actively seeking information and solutions. This is true confidence!
Letting your boss know what you are doing first involves knowing what you are doing and where you are going, the subjects of my earlier posts. Secondly, it’s about always being a learning person, able and willing to admit what you do not know and seeking counsel to learn about it and enhance your skills. While the first points (where you are going – what you are doing) are about concrete information and plans, this second point is solely about your attitude – one that is characterized by humility and service.
Your manager wants to be successful too. And your sharing of information and proactively seeking solutions helps you and him or her.
Lastly, please remember this important point. Over the years I have seen many situations where a MGO is getting the numbers but NOT relating or informing the manager about what they are doing. It is NOT pretty. Results are important. Relationship is also important. Results without relationship will not last over the long term.