The Multi-ManagerMuhammad Zeeshan Ali, PMP, PMI-ACP
“Experience of working with multiple managers simultaneously”
During the early part of my career, I believe that I was very lucky to have a chance to work in a large PMO. The employer also had very well-defined processes in place and because of that, there were always a lot of things to learn. But despite all the good things and learning opportunities, there was always a big challenge for me and it was that I had to assist and report to two Senior Managers simultaneously.
The challenge was not simple, starting with the fact that both of them worked in different time-zones which had overlapping hours almost close to none. So when the first manager was almost closing on things for the day, it was the start of things for the other manager. In order for me to have better visibility and enable me to provide a reasonable level of support, I had to have a reasonable amount of overlapping time with either one of them.
The other dimension was that they both had very different working styles. One of them religiously followed the processes while the other was more inclined toward delivery being more client-oriented. This effectively meant that they both had different reporting mechanisms and their whole approach was reciprocal to each other. And to add to the challenge, they both didn’t use to go along too well with each other.
As I have discussed in my article “The Best Teacher”, the toughest of managers and situations are the ones that teach you the most important things and get the best out of you. I took on the challenge and as a result, I had a learning experience of my lifetime. It was one of those things which you don’t get to learn in any book but only through experience. The reason for me sharing this experience is that anyone, in the same situation, might be able to make use of this experience.
The first challenge was to align me with the manager’s office timings. I divided my work hours accordingly and gradually aligned the expectations of the managers accordingly so that they are aware that I am available for a certain time slab during the day. This strategy helped me in many ways. First of all, I was able to concentrate on certain important items during the day. Also, I learned to plan my work as per my available bandwidth and also how to prioritize the work and how to communicate on the things which were being missed out on. Also in case of work overload, I was always able to determine and communicate the delays and set realistic expectations.
The other thing I took care of was that both the managers differ in reporting format and report generation methodology. I based the company on processed and devised one format to be used for both. For one manager, internal reporting was the missing part while for the other, it was the external reporting. The standard format took care of both the missing parts. As I mentioned that one manager was process-oriented while the other was client-oriented so the reports were standardized with sections for both internal and external communication.
Also, the data gathering, for these reports, and reports generation methodology were standardized. Once the reports were ready for review, based on the new format, both the managers could always make the required changes/modifications as per their liking and requirement. What was important for me was that I was able to find a middle ground that proved effective and productive for me.
The other thing I learned was about being a professional when working with two different persons, especially seniors, who don’t go along too well. Had to make sure that I don’t pass on unnecessary information across both managers especially that is not related or productive for them. Both the managers were true professionals in this regard themselves. For me, I had to make sure that any delay in any of the manager’s work is not due to the other manager.
The process which seemed very painful, in the beginning, turned out to be great learning for me and what I learned has always proved an asset for me.