And Then, There’s Managing Your Boss!

By Nicole LaBeach, Ph.D., MCC

Few would argue bad bosses are a leading reason for people quitting their jobs. Despite strong leadership being lauded and great leaders being worth their weight in gold, there are those who significantly challenge the masses. The irony is whether you perceive yourself to have a good or a bad boss, you can’t negate the task of managing them as an unspoken part of your job and or role. Whether you’re engaged with a dynamic, mediocre, or disastrous boss, your ability to effectively manage him or her is often a significant predictor in leveraging and/or diminishing your own success. The following tips are sure to help you effectively manage 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 serve to make your boss look good. When they look good, you’re reaffirmed as a good hire and asset to your team. When you do your best and stay ahead of the curve, your leadership not only has the opportunity to positively affect others but reflect well on your boss. Not to mention, your boss often has a boss and/or level of accountability they have to answer to. So, pay attention to the dynamic between them and their up-line. The more you have an understanding of their positioning with their boss, the more you can appropriately offer options to position wins for both them and your team.

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 it offers greater opportunities to connect and create a strong professional advocate. Take note this is not about being inauthentic, its 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 – Understand & Adapt To Their Work Style… What’s their leadership and work style?  How do they work? How do they communicate? How do they 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 for them to receive. If they like big picture, have the details handy but lead and stay within the big picture. I once heard someone say speak in their native tongue and you’ll immediately increase your odds of being heard and being successful. 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 style and their ease around you will most likely 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 you experience. However, 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. Instead, keep your boss strategically informed so they can best navigate and advocate for both you and the team within the political climate.

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 general, its not in the relationships best interest for these insights to be a mystery or based on assumptions. Being quiet or muted is not the best way to leverage your growth, movement, or momentum so give your boss an opportunity to get to know you first hand. Then, volunteer for trainings, special projects, and leadership opportunities to give them further exposure to your leadership and 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 top of mind to your boss. Most bosses are not looking for you to hand them a list of problems. Instead, they want to know your suggested solutions for forward movement. They want to know you’re 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 their level of respect for you but may even extend between you and your peers.

Tip 7 – Ask For Feedback… If you’re waiting for your annual review to ask for feedback, you’ve waited to long. Ask for feedback and be open to receiving it without resistance or defensiveness. Most simply, 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’re more likely to be seen as one who can take direction and best utilize it. Together, these attributes will definitely make you easier to manage in their mind and best positions you as a good candidate for more the visible projects that need to be executed.



 For more insights into managing your boss, contact Nicole for a consult about your specific situation.