Few would disagree that bad bosses are a leading cause of many people quitting their jobs. Despite the fact that strong leadership is lauded and great leaders are worth their weight in gold, the bad apples are still plentiful and challenging to the masses. The irony is whether you perceive yourself to have a good or a bad boss, you still have the task of managing them as an unspoken part of your job description. Whether dynamic, mediocre, or disastrous as a boss, your ability to effectively manage him or her can be a significant predictor in leveraging or diminishing your professional success. The following seven tips are sure to help you effectively manage your boss and boost a more positive reporting relationship.
Tip 1 – Make Them Look Good… Every boss has a boss, bottom line, vision, and/or mandate to achieve. When you anticipate the organization or team need, prepare for the expected, anticipate the unexpected, and execute at a high level, your effort will often serve to make your boss look good. When they look good, you’re reaffirmed as a good hire and asset to their team. When you do your best and stay ahead of the curve, your leadership is a good reflection on your boss. And, they too have a boss or level of accountability they have to answer to. So, pay attention to the dynamic between them and their direct report. The more you have an understanding of their positioning with their boss, the more you can appropriately offer options to position wins for the team and your boss.
Tip 2 – Understand What’s Important To Them… Do you know what your boss values? What’s important to them? What’s in it for them? What keeps them up at night? Do you know their backstory? Knowledge is power. The more you know the easier it is to see your similarities and communicate based on what’s important to them. If you find the common threads between your experience and theirs you’ll have greater opportunities to connect and create a strong professional advocate for yourself. Take note that this is not about being inauthentic, it’s about finding points of connection that can make it easier to see the best in your boss and be similarly seen in return.
Tip 3 – Adapt To Their Work Style… What’s their leadership style? How do they work? How do they communicate and like to be communicated with? If you pay attention to how they lead, work, and communicate you can give them what they ask for in ways that are easiest to receive. If they like the big picture, have the details handy but lead and stay on the big picture. I once heard someone say speak in “their” native tongue and you’ll immediately increase your odds of success. In other words, if they speak French you’ll get no points for presenting a business concept in Latin. Speak in terms that lend to their preferred work style and their ease around you will best work in your favor.
Tip 4 – Pay Attention to the Politics… If your boss is at the very top of the food chain they’ve probably created the corporate politics, but if they’re in the middle, they too have to navigate the political landscape. Ease their anxiety by understanding the politics and not stepping on political land mines they have to attend to or be surprised by. Most bosses don’t desire, like, or accept surprises as a good thing. So, keep them strategically informed so they can best navigate and advocate for both you and the team.
Tip 5 – Let Them Get To Know You… In general, people are more comfortable with people they know and trust. Being anti-social, disinterested, or disengaged never helps you manage up, across or down. So yes, if you’re boss says we’re going out for drinks after work, you should do your best to make an appearance. Offer appropriate insight about who you are and communicate so they can get to know you and what you value. Your desired career path, how you want to be managed, what motivates you, and what you can do to add value in a way that is meaningful should not be a mystery or assumption. Being quiet or muted is not the best way to leverage your growth, movement, or momentum so give them an opportunity to get to know first hand. Then, volunteer for trainings, special projects, and leadership opportunities to give them further exposure to your skill set.
Tip 6 – Be Solution Focused… Managing up may not be easy but it’s easier when you’re being solution focused about problems that are at the top of their mind. Most bosses are not looking for you to hand them a list of problems. Instead, they want to know the problem and your thoughts beyond the problem. They want to know that you are troubleshooting the issue and leveraging greater results to rectify the issue and solidify great results. Your ability to be proactive versus reactive will not only raise your level of respect with your boss, but also your peers.
Tip 7 – Ask For Feedback… If you’re waiting for your annual review to ask for feedback, you’ve waited too long. Ask for feedback and be open to receiving it without resistance or potential defensiveness. It’s in your best interest to know how your boss sees you so you can best manage the perception. Not only do you want to listen to what they have to say, but take their feedback as an asset toward greater performance. When you’re known to receive feedback well, you will more than likely be seen as one who can take direction. Together, these attributes will definitely make you easier to manage in their mind and position you as a good candidate for more visible projects that need to be executed.