How To Manage Your Boss

March 30, 2012

The largest determinant of whether someone stays or leaves their job is the quality of the relationship with their boss.  This relationship can service as a huge source of inspiration and support or for some people or it can present a very frustrating and difficult to understand set of dynamics.  Here are 4 tips on how you can improve your relationship with your boss to the point that you are able to manage them as well:

1)      Re-Establish Trust

 All relationships must be built on a solid foundation of trust.  If there has been an incident in the past that has caused you to now mistrust your boss, you will want to start here in order to begin again, if you will.  The best way to do this is based on a cognitive tool called the ‘Johari Window’ which  purports that the best way to build trust is by sharing something about yourself that the other person does not know and then to seek their feedback about your relationship.  The more that you practice this together and open up yourself to the other person, the more they will begin to trust your intentions and motivations and vice versa.  Practice explaining your ‘line of thinking’ with your boss and ask questions of them so that you will understand where they are coming from and why.  Trust will grow exponentially as the two of you seek to understand one another more fully.

2)      Demonstrate Your Competence

 The two things that people most often want from their boss are more freedom and an opportunity to have a say in matters that impact their work life.  These two factors will likely increase when you have proven to your boss that you are competent and have earned these privileges. In order to demonstrate your competence, look for opportunities to display your expertise and your strengths. Some examples of this are: taking on a leadership role with a particular committee that overlaps with an area that you are passionate about, asking for an opportunity to try on a sales role for your company, offer a speaking engagement for your colleagues in which you can expose your expertise within a particular subject matter.  All of these scenarios will allow your boss to see you outside of your typical role and be exposed to a side of you that they may know nothing about. In addition, all of these scenarios require a great deal of courage and initiative-both of which are always greatly appreciated by management.

3)      Uncover their Values

 It is critical that you figure out what is most important to you boss if you want to learn how to better manage them.  Oftentimes folks can present to their boss what they perceive must be most important to them, but notice that many of their meetings end up taking a very different direction than what they were expecting.  Work towards asking your boss, point blank, what are the most important factors or measurements for them when it comes to the performance of their team/department, etc? If you are not comfortable asking them, this could serve as a great discussion to have with your colleagues.  Once you have uncovered what is most important to you boss as it relates to their responsibility of managing you—work towards beginning each of your meetings addressing that particular area first and foremost.

 4)      Use a ‘Directive’ Approach, when appropriate

 Now that you have established trust, demonstrated your competence and figured out what is most important to them—it is time to start using a ‘directive’ approach with your boss, when a situation calls for this level of intervention.  When a situation arises in which you have a legitimate solution to a pressing problem and the urgency for a resolution is high, it will serve you well to be very assertive or directive with your boss in suggesting a timely solution.  The more often that you are able to provide this needed level of support to your boss, the more personal power you will establish with them and thus giving you a larger opportunity to make your own requests and suggestions within the relationship.