It's clear there are a number of common issues faced by business people across totally unrelated industries and environments. This series was created to provide some perspective and guidance to executives as they negotiate their way up the corporate ladder.
In 2001, I started the consulting and coaching practice, which came to known as The Business Success Coach.net. I'd just finished working with a very large multinational firm owned by one of the largest companies in the world. With 25 years as an executive in various industries across the US and Canada; I'd managed startups and overseen layoffs of thousands of people.
I had enough boardroom experience to be certain that many hassles faced by management today can be prevented.
Choose your Boss Wisely
The best Tip I can give anyone just entering business life is, "choose your first job based upon the boss and not on money or upward mobility prospects. How you learn the ropes in the early years will set you up for life." Once in, we all learn that Tony Soprano, Miranda Priestly and Ebenezer Scrooge have a few things in common. These fictional characters, inhabiting the world of television, novels and films, are the stereotype of a nightmare boss.
If any of them remind you of YOUR boss, you may be wondering what can be done to 'manage' her or him. As a business coach, hear the issue frequently mentioned, and it seems to be more prevalent each year. The relationship with the boss is a big concern for both recent hires and for individuals who've been with a company for a while.
New hires are often surprised to learn that the boss doesn't seem to care a lot about their career aspirations. For many people who've worked for a company for a longer term, these lofty expectations for how the boss should behave don't diminish over time. The expectations are, in fact, a big part of job dissatisfaction. For the more experienced, the relationship with the boss is viewed from the point of view of the individual's aspirations for professional growth through promotions, increased compensation, bonuses, and perks.
And so you want to learn how to 'manage the beast'. Can you? Should you? Who can help you learn how to do it?
If you are thinking about getting a coach to help you develop a strategy to deal with your boss, let me save you the time and money with some straightforward advice: Yes - you can manage your boss. In fact you'll get farther ahead if you learn how to use your boss' quirks to YOUR advantage.
Here are a 'Top 10' of Tips and Secrets I've seen used very effectively by managers over the years. I put it together with the help of Barry Agnew, a very good friend. Agnew is one of the finest marketing and sales promotion guru's I've ever met. Anyone seeking new ideas would be wise to talk to him. Email me for his contact info.
John's Tip #1: Results = Rewards. There will be times it seems that form and process are the most important things in your company and consequently to your boss. They aren't.
Over thirty years, I don't recall a single person getting a monster bonus at year's end or awesome promotion for following the company's process better than the rest of us. Over the long run, great rewards and promotions go to the one who gives great results.
John's Tip #2 Face time works to your benefit. So your boss is incompetent; & doesn't have a clue about the company, your job or even his own. Do you really have to waste more your time meeting with him (or her)? Yes, absolutely. And it's not a waste.
It's actually smart to spend time with your superior. Don't rely solely on email or voicemail. Your boss probably receives too many electronic messages already. And while it seems like efficient time management to communicate through email or voicemail, it does little good for your career if (s)he doesn't know much about you beyond the role you perform.
Go out of your way to talk to the boss about your responsibilities and accomplishments in person. Leave it to everyone else to fill up the boss' in-boxes.
John's Tip #3: A good listener is hard to find. Recognize that all bosses expect to be heard and then have their directions followed. So - "Listen, listen, listen. And remember that you have two ears and one mouth for a good reason."
Don't be one of those misguided types who debates everything they're instructed to do. After the first 1 or 2 times, it doesn't show anyone how smart you are. It just becomes tiresome. If this is tough at times, keep in mind that someone else in your company is ready and willing to listen to the boss. Better it's you.
Your Boss Works Late?
John's Tip #4: Be there. If the boss is at work, it'll be much better for your career if you are there as well. This isn't particularly convenient if the boss has no personal life, likes to work a lot of hours or thinks sleeping & vacations are overrated. Nonetheless it's usually effective if you want to get ahead. Let the boss know that you're there for the good, the bad and the ugly. (S)he'll see that you are committed to supporting him or her and the company. The boss will also recognize those who are never there as well. You want to be seen as the person who can always be counted on. That leads me to:
John's Tip #5: Just fix it. Bosses like and reward people who tell them after the fact that a potential problem was identified & fixed before it became an issue needing them to get involved. When we behave this way, bosses feel confident that they have the right managers in place (and having such great staff makes the bosses look real smart!). Bosses usually recognize and value initiative and resourcefulness - so go ahead, be confident in your own skills and resolve the situation on your own, then tell your boss all about your success.
Honesty Always? Oh Honestly!
John's Tip #6: Never make the boss nervous. Many execs practice "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." But this truth banner can be carried too far. In most cases, it's wrong to think that every time things appear to be heading south (or even when the mere possibility of such thing is on the horizon), you must brief the boss. While it may be a good tactic if the boss is a committed micro manager, usually this almost- compulsive adherence to full disclosure will just cause bosses to start seeing you as the person who regularly makes him or her reach for a bottle of purple pills. Remember Pavlov's dog. Make sure the boss doesn't associate you with bad news.
John's Tip #7: Never delegate up. However you got your job; someone thought you were capable of it. Let them keep thinking it. Understand that people in the executive suite usually aren't impressed by anybody who frequently runs upstairs asking for advice doing their job. Busy bosses simply do not have time to coddle their staff or to hand holding along every step. If it looks like you can't do the job without constantly going to your superior for guidance, it will become pretty clear to her or him that the company can do things faster (and better) without you. Not a good thing for anyone seeking entry into that executive suite.
Look Right. And Look the Right Way.
John's Tip #8 Your workplace isn't a democracy. If you haven't figured it out already, the North American business model is hierarchal. That means that the person above you doesn't need to consult or even discuss issues with you if (s)he chooses not to. Your voice or vote will not always count. Just remember: its your responsibility to do what it takes to understand what the boss wants and give it (which leads us to:).
John's Tip #9: Look up not down. If you look after your boss's needs before those of your own team, you increase your chances of getting your team looked after more fully. Your boss will recognize that you work hard to make him / her look good; and will be more likely to provide you with the resources you and your team need to do the job better.
John's Tip #10: Image is everything. Well, not everything but it's a really important thing. Your image or "presence" has a great impact in your professional life. Make certain you look appropriate for the role you want to have & not just your current one. Do the best you can with what you have. Be a confident communicator, particularly in person and when making presentations. The person with 'presence' is more likely to be regarded as a future leader than another who's more introverted.
There you have them. Use these Tips to your advantage. And if you don't agree with any of these Tips, always remember - only you should decide what's right for your situation before jumping in. This is your life.
John McKee is the expert and visionary behind http://www.BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an online destination for professionals, from small and large business owners, to entry-level managers to senior-level executives -- and everyone in between, who aspire to maximize their success in the business world. John is now a 30-year veteran of corporate boardrooms and executive suites and he provides ambitious business people with sound, first-hand advice by phone, using his wealth of experience.
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