Getting Support from your Manager

Last Updated Feb 26, 2009 6:16 PM EST

The desire to win is so widespread among human beings that it is often called the "competitive instinct". Whether the desire to win is instinctive or learned is a matter of debate, but the amount of human resources that are devoted to sport all over the world (from children's school sports to the Olympics) is testimony to the desire to win. We all have some of this desire in us, to some degree. Managers in particular generally have strong desire to win. Many managers are aggressive, argumentative and stubborn. They enjoy arguments and discussions, which they often win because they are good at expressing themselves. They interpret facts to suit themselves and can be tenacious and stubborn in their beliefs.

Such people are made managers because organisations will often succeed if they have goals and stick to them; and it often does not matter whether the goals are optimal. Managers who lack this drive typically lack stability in their decision making, which in turn makes them organisationally disruptive. Good managers, who have stable opinions, stated forcefully and with self-assurance, are most important to organisational development.

If you are working for such a manager, how do you get their backing? A good way to gain support for a new proposal is to ask the manager for their help and to tell them you value their opinions. These people respond well to flattery. Their egos make them unable to stop themselves from helping you. You should try to find out where both your opinions concur and then try to widen the area of common agreement.

Another technique is to sow the seeds and let them germinate. The best method is to use examples of large organisations as references or quote from articles in well-known magazines. If you can, try to establish the idea that adopting the proposal will draw favourable attention to the manager. This technique is particularly used by public servants when dealing with their ministers. They are particularly good about getting the minister to adopt a proposal by convincing the minister that originally it was his or her own idea.

As these people are opinionated and dogmatic you are bound to have differences. However they like people who stand up to them --- it proves that they share with themselves the key characteristic of backbone, so you must stand up to such managers when needed, but you should be tactful and avoid putting the manager on the defensive.

How competitively driven is your manager?

  • Robert Gerrish

    Robert Gerrish is a coach, author and professional speaker and the founder of Flying Solo (, the Australian online community for solo business owners.