February 05, 2005

Good Day Team,

The coach’s challenge this week revolves around managing your boss. In the January 2005 special issue of the Harvard Business Review, there is an interesting article entitled “Managing Your Boss”. The article talks about “the process of consciously working with your superior to obtain the best possible results for you, your boss, and the company.” Interestingly enough, many people don’t often think of managing up, unless it’s for political reasons. And yet, our relationship with our superiors is critical to our daily experience at work as well as our overall performance. Who writes our performance review? Who do we spend much of our time with in meetings? Who often links us to the rest of the organization? Who is our mentor?

Each of us experiences unrealistic assumptions about our bosses. We often think that the boss will magically know what information or help we need and in assuming that, we don’t ask for what we need or want. We often behave as though our bosses are not dependent on us. We fail to see how much they need our help and support. We also tend to think that they are infallible and have all the answers. When we think of how many times we’ve been afraid to tell our boss the truth, it’s surprising that most bosses get a full picture of what’s really going on. If we don’t tell them what’s going on, who will?

The challenge here is to develop and maintain a strong, healthy relationship with your boss. It requires taking responsibility first for yourself and then for the relationship. Some bosses spell out their expectations very explicitly. But most do not. Ultimately, the burden falls on the subordinate to find out what the boss’s expectations are. As a coach, I’m often surprised when a manager comes to me with a difficulty they’re experiencing with one of their team members, and I discover that neither the manager nor the team member have talked about the real issue. None of us likes to have difficult conversations consequently, more often than not, both parties avoid talking about what’s really going on. One way to deal with this is to find out how your boss likes to receive information. Some bosses don’t respond well to face to face conversations. In that case, try sending information in written form first, and then following up with a conversation. Most bosses like to be informed before they are confronted with a problem. Try finding a compatible work style with your boss. Peter Drucker, the well known consultant and author, divides bosses into “listeners” and “readers”. If your boss is a listener, you brief him or her in person then follow it up with an e-mail. If, your boss is a reader, you send the e-mail first, and then talk about it.

Here are some other helpful points for managing your boss:

* Make sure you understand your bosses preferred work style

* Always consider the context. What pressures is your boss currently under? What goals and objectives are they working towards?

* Assess yourself and your needs. Your style, your strengths, your flat spots and what you need to be successful.

* Be dependable and honest and keep a steady flow of information passing between the two of you.

* Selectively use your boss’s time and resources. Remember… you have one of them and they have many of you!

“If you forge ties with your boss based on mutual respect and understanding, both of you will be more effective”. John J. Gabarro and John P. Kotter

Have a great week!


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