The most important person in your professional life is the person who your manager is beholden to. In a large organization, it is simple to identify this person: it is your manager’s manager. In a smaller company, it could be a C-level person or a customer.
You see, the thing is that your manager is driven by two things: intrinsic motivation and external pressures. If your manager was only driven by internal impulses, your product would be driven by priorities that make sense: greater product quality, better work-life balance, consistent processes, calm work environment, etc.
But internal priorities are not the only thing in real life. There are budgets and timelines that must not be exceeded, people that must not be displeased, reports that must not be forgotten, bugs that must never be visible and so on. These are things that have a direct relationship to the stability of your manager’s job.
Managers insulate you from those external pressures, sometimes knowingly, but sometimes unknowingly because they are just focused on getting things done that they don’t have the time to explain to you what is going on in their world. But just because you don’t know about it doesn’t mean that you are not affected by it.
It makes sense for managers to share some of these pressures with their team members and for the latter to try to gain an understanding of what the manager is up against. This helps them work towards not only the real goals of the project, but also the goals as defined by other stakeholders that cannot be quite put on some project mission statement.