Managing the Boss

Careers are built on Relationships  

‘It’s who you know not what you know’

‘Your Network is Your Net Worth’

’Solutions not Problems’

The above slogans are well known in the world of Leadership and Business. But what do they really mean? What clues does they give us to managing bosses and difficult conversations effectively?

We know that communication and relationships are important. Managerial studies now prove the quality of our relationships determine career progress. However, despite this fact, managing the boss remains one of the greatest skill gaps amongst aspiring leaders.  

Being Valued  

If we accept rewards as dependent on the acknowledgement of bosses. It makes sense to invest in the skills that bring positive focus to acknowledgement to your work. Being appreciated for your work requires more than just hard work.  It means your leaders must see what you see and understand what you understand.

It means they must be able to feel connected to what you do, contribute and report on. Which in high-pressure, unforgiving environments can be extremely challenging.  

Leaders Also Require Managing

Most leaders are promoted on their ability to get results. This means most will think, manage and communicate in ‘result based language’. This can present a challenge to good communication.  

Picture the scene. A hardworking project manager tries to explain the herculean effort of his team only to feel dismissed when asked “How does that connect with our bigger strategy’

The result is a familiar disconnect which leaves many employees feeling ‘unappreciated’ and/or leaders feeling frustrated.

The relevance of ‘learning to manage upwards’ is therefore an essential business discipline that is rarely taught. A science that when mastered can change the trajectory of a career, project or wider organisation.

2 Proven Methods to Manage and Communicate Upwards

Successfully managing your relationship with seniors requires excellent strategic communication. Here are two proven ways to communicate brilliantly with the boss.

Lead with the Big Picture

Good communication is about meeting a person on their ‘turf’. This is speaking to where their focus and energy resides. We term this finding the right frame.

If we know that most leaders think in the big picture, our communication must always begin with their big picture.  This will be the fastest way to solve the boss’s primary problem which may be to achieve a strategic aim/goal.

A good example is a recent political story from the Conservative Party in the UK. A lot of communication used by internal staff when speaking to leaders would begin using the practical opener ‘To Get Brexit Done we need to XYZ’. The opening line would frame information being presented as a high priority solution, consequently getting the ear of party leaders.

Leading with the BIG picture uses the leaders’ language to create a frame that gets the response you are seeking.

Manage Bad News with a Big Promise

The most challenging element of managing upwards is presenting bad news. A strategy we coach our clients in is to use the Bad News Big Promise Method. This means being able to take your conversation from the present to a better future with great skill and consequent impact.

The method involves presenting bad news succinctly with a greater emphasis and energy on what can be done going forward.  Using this method effectively can be life changing. The shift in communication energy directs the focus of your seniors into a better future place. Helping you leave a positive impression despite challenging circumstances.   

In summary, your relationship with your boss is possibly one of the most critical relationships you will ever have. Therefore, being able to invest in developing a range of strategic skills to communicate effectively and upwards is the difference between being side-lined and getting the acknowledgment you deserve.

Billal Jamil – Head of Executive Coaching

To find out how we can support you with your coaching requirements email us on: [email protected]

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