9 things that are stopping you getting what you want from your boss
Managing our bosses isn’t manipulation or sucking up and it isn’t just about career survival. In today’s world we have to learn to manage people when we don’t have formal authority. If you can learn to manage your boss, you will have the chance to learn many skills that can be applied to managing others to get resources to do the best job, not only for yourself, but for your boss and your company as well. Here are 9 things you might be doing that don’t help you to get what you want from your boss.
1) You don’t explicitly check expectations
Each boss has a different style and you need to find out the qualities and objectives your boss values most. Don’t passively assume you know what the boss expects. Find out. Does she like written reports and structured meetings or does he prefer a looser, more intuitive approach?
Bosses process information differently. “Listeners” prefer to be briefed in person so they can ask questions. “Readers” want to process written information first, and then meet to discuss. Decision-making styles also vary. Some bosses are highly involved. Touch base with them frequently. Others prefer to delegate. Inform them about important decisions you’ve already made.
2) You aren’t clear about your needs
Some people see the boss as the enemy and fight him at every turn; others are overly compliant, viewing the boss as an all-wise parent. Neither is likely to be completely true. You will need your boss to help you develop but don’t expect him to take responsibility for this — it is your job to think about what, exactly, you need and then ask him to commit to helping you achieve this. For example, asking for “training” is not a reasonable request but presenting a particular programme with a well-thought out rationale for why you should be allowed to attend and the difference it will make to the organization makes it easier for her to “sell” the idea. Or buy it if she makes the ultimate decision.
3) You don’t do what you say you will
You are trying to build a mutually trusting relationship and following through on your commitments is a large part of this. It also makes it more difficult for your boss to ignore his commitments to you.
4) You assume you know everything
Your boss, by definition, knows things that you don’t know. If her reaction to your wonderful idea is “no”, don’t just complain to your colleagues. Instead, respectfully ask your boss to explain her rationale so that you can develop your understanding of the business.
5) You don’t see your boss as a person
Your boss has a past and that past influences what interests him and his approach. If you understand where he comes from you can understand his strengths and weaknesses and so support him better. This is true for his past career (a boss who used to work in IBM is likely to approach problems differently from someone who came from Google) but also in terms of his hobbies. Knowing a little about what interests your boss gives you something to talk about that is not directly work-related.
6) You don’t keep her in the loop
People typically underestimate what their bosses need to know and may overestimate what they do know. Keep the boss informed about what you see and learn from your different position in the organization but only in a way thats fit her style (see number 1). Be forthright about both good and bad news.
7) You don’t show how you are making him successful
When you’re working hard, it’s easy to assume that your boss knows exactly what you’re doing. But even though he may have assigned your work to you, in the crush of daily pressures and changing priorities, your contribution can easily get lost in the shuffle. Worse, you could end up pursuing goals that no are longer important priorities.Self promotion doesn’t have to be slimy — keep track of everything you’ve accomplished or initiated lately, so that you’re prepared when the boss asks how things are going and for your performance review.
6) You don’t speak the truth
Integrity, dependability and honesty are valued by any good boss. When asked your opinion give it — don’t be a “yes” man (or woman!).
7) You only bring problems
Your boss is busy so don’t approach him simply with problems you have identified. Have a couple of possible solutions ready and be prepared to explain their strengths and weaknesses.
8) You complain (badly)
Complaining well is a test of your communication skills which are a key skill in managing. Most complaints are caused by broken commitments, stated or otherwise, so when making a complaint, it’s essential that you are able to:
• Clearly state your complaint and its impact without getting defensive or aggressive.
• Specify the real or implied commitment that was broken.
• Articulate how the responsible person can resolve your concern, being as specific as possible.
• Ask for their commitment to follow through as agreed.
9) You forget to say thank you
When your boss follows through on a commitment or helps you in any way don’t forget to say thank you. She’s a human being and we all need to be told when we do something right.
Dawn Metcalfe is an executive coach, trainer and leadership advisor. She is also the author of Managing the Matrix and Hard Talk™. Dawn is the founder of Dubai based PDSi, which helps individuals and teams get even better at what they do, and has worked with business leaders around the world to change the way they see the world, their behaviour and their impact on others.