Managing your boss -
An easy guide
Management goes up as well as down - Make your work
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Everybody talks about "leadership training" and how important it
is to be a good manager and leader. The truth is that most of our
time is spent as "followers" and nobody is ever trained to be an
"effective follower". Even the Managing Director has to report to the
Chairman and most people spend most of their day doing things that
they were told to do - the only difference is that the higher you get
the more of the work you can delegate!
Being an effective follower is different to being an effective
leader but you need both skills for survival.
- Generally have: more status, more experience, more resources
and more power.
- Bosses depend on their staff (Don't have dog and bark
- Bosses need information. You should report on progress and
non-progress. Both are important.
- Generally have: a better detailed understanding of the job,
more up-to-date information and better customer contact, easier
access to the team, information and data (not the same thing!).
- Depend on your boss for security and survival - if your face
ceases to fit it can be very uncomfortable.
- Have access to power because real power is taken, never given.
3. You need to understand your boss and his needs
- What are his goals and objectives (both stated and unstated)?
- What are the pressures on him?
- What are his strengths and weaknesses?
- What is his personal work style - autocrat, democrat,
What you do not understand you cannot manage. Analyse your
4. You need to understand yourself and your needs
- What are your goals and objectives (both stated and unstated)?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What is your personal work style and do you resist or depend
What you do not understand you cannot manage. Analyse
5. Develop the relationship
- Ask how you can make it easy and more relaxed for him - it is
always better than guessing!
- Does it fit both your needs and styles and mutual
expectations? Is it a formal relationship (Written reports, memos,
formal agendas for meetings, regimented hours) or an informal
relationship (Verbal reports, notes, unstructured, flexible
- Identify the expectations. What is a good or bad performance
- Minimise your use of the boss's time and resources.
Management is about relationships. Define the relationship,
start to build it and manage it. NOW!
6. Set realistic expectations
- Clearly identify his expectations of you.
- Never accept unrealistic expectations - this is programming
yourself to fail. Identify the things you cannot do at the start
and state plainly that the expectations are too high. Doing this
at the start is painful but rest assured it will only get worse
the longer you delay it.
- Get him to define what he wants. If in doubt then do an
outline and get him to approve it - it is easier than doing a
whole load of work and then finding out that you were headed in
the wrong direction!
Set realistic, achievable and mutually agreed expectations.
7. Win his support
- Establish a human context for relaxed conversations. Get
comfortable with your boss so that you can say the tough things
when the time is right. No gossip ever.
- Be willing to share the credit for new ideas and work. He can
take it from you anyway if he wants to.
- Review projects together regularly. Tell the boss quickly
about any concerns and agree what action to take. Keep him
informed - bosses hate bad surprises but most can live with
- Set small goals and meet them. Win small battles to show that
you can do it. Get a reputation as a winner and build on it. Boost
his confidence in you and your work
Start to build his support by earning it. NOW!
8. Independent work - the pleasurable surprise
- Most people allow their day-to-day work take up 100% of their
time. They will never be stars.
- Stars will develop methods to compress their day-to-day work
into 80% of their time. This releases 20% of their time for
independent star work.
- Pick a small project, develop the idea (without committing too
much money) take the idea through to completion and ready to
- Take the completed project to your boss and ask him to sign it
off. Your boss now has a pleasant surprise in the form of a
completed project - You too can be a star!
Decide on a small project for yourself. Don't wait. Do it
9. A4 Pages
- All bosses want solutions not a long rambling open-ended
discussion about a problem.
- Define the problem in less than 3 paragraphs on an A4 page and
present your recommended solution in a final paragraph.
- Give it your boss and ask him to approve it and sign the
- He gets solutions not problems. You get approval to proceed
and the solution that you wanted. "Win-Win".
Prepare some A4 sheets and try it. NOW!
10. The bosses from Hell
- Believe in power and responsibility - they have the power, you
have the responsibility!
- Take all the credit (when done) and even worse they
Leave quickly, it is easier, quicker and less painful.
Last edited: 11/03/10
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