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One skill that is essential for upwardly mobile executives is their ability to manager the boss. I know you are pretty good at managing your team members but what about managing your boss? Many are not strong when it comes to this area. They are either too meek and obliging ( never saying “No” even when circumstances warrant it) or they are mentally not prepared to visualize such a relationship in which they have to manage the boss. After all, they argue, he/she is the boss and how can I think of managing them?

Smart executives know how to manage the boss without kowtowing to them on everything. Here are my 7 Steps to Managing Your Boss:

  1. Know them as individuals: Know them as individuals. As people with feelings, aspirations and emotions- just like you. What are they good at? What do they like and not like? Are they “verbal” people who dislike reducing things to writing? Are they “written word” people who have no patience to listen to your presentations and arguments but would rather see them in a neat well argued report? Are they “larks” morning people who are at their worst late in the evenings? Are they ” owls” night birds who hate difficult meetings early in the mornings?
  2. Be on the same page: Understand the context in which they work. Gain perspective of their challenges and concerns. Often their decisions may not make sense to us until we know the perspective from which that decision was made. You would have perhaps made that decision too if you were privy to information you do not have in your present role. Your job is to help them achieve their goals.
  3. Be seen as trustworthy: Bosses, just like you, hate people who shout whatever you have told them in confidence to almost every one in sight. Be worthy of trust and you will be trusted. Develop a reputation for being sensitive to others needs for information, yet not giving away more than you ought to. This applies to customers, vendors, co-employees and other business associates alike.
  4. Be competent and well informed: Apart from being competent on the job ( for which there really is no substitute) be well informed. About your business, about what your competitors are doing, about new trends in the industry. These perspectives help you to engage in more meaningful conversations with your boss. Being competent and well informed will push you ahead in the list of those whom the boss would like to consult. You will be seen as a reliable sounding board.
  5. Deliver on what you promise: Bosses too have deadlines. They too have goals. Like you, they too are career conscious- have their ambitions and bonus plans. Deliver on what you promise to be seen as being reliable, credible and dependable. You might get away with over promising and under delivering once or twice but it will catch up with you sooner than later,
  6. Choose the right time and place: Be conscious of ego. If you want to make a point which might embarrass your boss in public, be sensitive to the way you put across the point. If necessary make a broad statement and explain details in private later. Choosing the right time and place is an obvious point- which many often overlook. They get it wrong by saying the right things in the wrong place or at the wrong times.
  7. Go with a solution, not just a problem: You are not the only employee the boss supervises. You are also not the only person he/she is concerned about. When they, like you, have ever so many things on their plate, they do not want to see you as yet another deliverer of bad news. Go to them with a problem by all means, but go with a solution as well.

Follow these steps and your relations with the boss would be far improved.

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This is Post No: 251 of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success.