Podcast Episode 96: Greatest Hits Episode: How to Manage Your Boss

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So many of us think it’s our boss’s job to manage us. I’d offer your success lies in managing them and learning this skill is crucial to your professional success. 

In this episode we’ll discuss: 

  • Why managing up is a pivotal career move
  • How to improve the way you manage your boss 
  • How to partner with your boss and her boss
  • Tips for navigating your own mind drama when managing your boss

What people want is a leader that can help them shape and shift towards changes in the organization and the marketplace. They want someone who will support, stretch and guide them so they can move the professional mountains in front of them.

Mentioned on the Show:

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Read The Transcript:
Hey friends, 

This week’s episode is a discussion on why managing up is so important for your personal career success. 

Your boss plays a pivotal role in your success or failure. 

We need our boss so that we are in the know, get the resources needed to perform and to secure opportunities for promotion and development. 

Sometimes these relationships can be uneasy. And we are going to unpack that today. 

You’ve been working at the company and doing well. Then you get promoted and you are now managing people. 

What I often see happen is one of two things. Either 1) suddenly it feels like you work in a completely different company or 2) or nothing has changed except your title. 

If you were previously an Individual contributor, or an IC, that position may not have prepared you for management and the management of others. 

You got promoted because you were a high performer and you may not have had to think about how to motivate a team. Or you are not sure of the delineation between your role as a manager and your previous role as an IC.

 I’ve seen this challenge grow with remote working because if you are a new manager how do you manage if you don’t see people beyond the Zoom meeting? 

This hall monitor approach of many corporations is quickly coming to a head as more and more remote work looks like it’s going to stay that way – at least for a while. So often the concept of managing becomes a title and not a discipline. The unfortunate reality in many workplaces is that management becomes about taking credit and placing blame rather than managing and motivating people. Don’t be that person. 

It’s important to remember that while it may be nuanced in your organization your role as a manager or leader is to create capacity for others. It’s not to do the same work they are doing or to micro-manage them. That’s only going to create resentment and tension because no one that I know wants a helicopter parent. 

What they want is someone that can help them shape and shift towards changes in the organization and the marketplace. They want someone who will support and stretch them and guide them so they can move the professional mountains in front of them. 

Same things you want as a new boss right?

When it comes to your new boss, my question for you is how do you view your boss? 
Are they a coach or an evaluator and/ or a judge?

This can feel really confusing and at times threatening. Your boss can be a tremendous help and inspiration. In order to get the help you need to grow in your role, you may have to reveal some shortcomings. 

But now you are thinking, if I do, they will interpret your weaknesses as faults or may drive you to a performance plan where they want you to improve your weakness. I find that when we lead with strengths-based concepts like “this is when you will get the best of me” and let them know how you work best and can deliver the highest quality results. 

Similarly, let them know when you are not at your best and let them know. So we are not defining weaknesses per se, but instead letting the boss know how you work and what you are willing to work on to improve. 

I honestly find the easiest way to solve the strengths and weakness question is to do a gallup Cliftonstrengths34 assessment. 

This is why I am a certified strengths coach and take my clients through the assessment. It gives you language beyond your strengths to your blind spots. 

You can choose what you want to convey and how you want to convey it. Just know that strengths and weaknesses are not opposites. One does not become the other. Working on a weakness doesn’t make it a strength, sure you might improve, but it’s by definition never going to become a strength. 

And figure out your boss’s strengths. This is what you need to leverage so ask or strategically watch when they are in the flow. When does their excellence show up? When do they seem most content at work? 

When we are viewing our new boss through the lens of ‘are they now our friend or foe?’, this may be where you find yourself striving to feel capable and in control but in reality you may be viewing your boss as a threat. 

And now You’re even more confused because just a few months ago, before you were promoted you felt like you were a real asset to the organization. A bit of feeling on top of the world.

When you are operating under a long haul mindset that bosses and authority are a threat than I assure you that you are not going to be able to deliver long term. 

Yes, being in the fight can generate some badass strategy thinking and clever ways of showing up, but that fight energy is not sustainable without a cost to your relationships, creativity, and health. 

 So what do you do? 

First, don’t judge and categorize your boss thinking that they are either all judge or all evaluator. This is a variation on all or nothing thinking and we know that people are messy and nuanced. None of us is ALWAYS anything. 

Next I want you to reflect on your history. Ever hear the expression that if it’s hysterical it’s historical? 

Get clear on your thoughts around authority. 

Are you dragging your baggage with you? 

Have you felt this way with a boss before? Do you constantly bend yourself into a pretzel to get approval for bosses and you seek that validation in order to feel good about yourself? 

Do you find yourself in unquestioning compliance or resistance? Reflect on your history here and make note of the feelings you’ve created.  

Don’t presume the boss will always be the same. You are not always the same. Think of them as having dual roles that shift and morph depending on the situation. 

I’d suggest that you want to strive for mutual dependence. They need you for their success. And you need them for your success (and opportunity, and money and…whatever else you are going for).

On a broader scale, your boss wants you to collaborate, lead initiatives, and develop your team. They want you to stay current, be a cross athlete, and drive your own growth. 

If you want to see how they will operate, test their willingness to provide support on something less risky. Then you get to see if the coach or the evaluator shows up. 

Find out what’s important to them: strategy, planning, decisiveness, collaboration, and consensus, and develop and display those skills in a collaborative way. 

You may also want to showcase that you have a unique skill that the department needs to be successful. Just be sure to position yourself as an ally, not a threat. I’ve seen many people weaponize and withhold their excellence until the boss was almost genuflecting. Sure it may work in the short term but now you’re just the dick of the department. Because if you do, good luck with your future relationships. 

And for the most part your ability to perform is a key factor into creating a solid relationship with your boss. Your results, yes. But also are you being supportive of them and your peers, your direct reports? Are you keeping the boss informed? 

And this goes for all people at all levels, be generous and assume that everyone has the best intentions, you may need that grace one day and the faster you extend it the faster you’ll build mutually generative relationships

Ok, the boss’s boss. Depending on your organization this is the person who ultimately approves your raise, your professional development, and your role changes. They are going to have a broad perspective on the organization and the pipeline. So how do you get to know them? Here are a few ways that I have been successful. 

Stay in the know. 

If you are in a meeting with her make sure you know what’s going on in the organization, the industry and you are up on the latest trade news. This may provide you with fertile ground for a chat. 

If he has a public achievement, send an email and congratulate him. We are all human and it’s nice to be recognized. 

Reach out to her. Make sure you mention your current boss’s name so that she doesn’t think you are jumping the box. Tell your boss you are going to email her but you are not asking for permission. You are providing aircover. What do say, you could ask her about industry organizations you are considering joining, or professional development courses you are considering taking. Invite her to an industry event you are attending.  

Ok my friends, you got this. You can step into this role by managing your mind, getting clear on your strengths and being a good partner to your boss. 

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Ever experienced any of the following?

Constantly job-hopping, hoping this will be “the one” where you’re finally seen, valued, and promoted for your talents.

Struggling to understand why you are secretly miserable in this job, that on paper, checks all the boxes.

Feeling ungrateful because none of the opportunities you’ve been given seem to fill this gaping-career-shaped hole you have and you’re always left wondering “is this it?”

Frustrated that you can’t seem to figure out how to show up with executive presence, form relationships you need to feel secure in your position, or speak up eloquently and be heard

Then my friend, you’ve experienced The Corporate Identity Crisis. 

Here’s the good news…on the other side of every good crisis is clarity, direction, and the possibility for a totally different life. 

I’ve helped hundreds of clients amplify their strengths, increase visibility, create their career narrative, and design a bigger and brighter future using my proven framework.

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Have a great week and I will see you next time.