“Hey, Boss, You Need Some Help…”
September 13, 2011 1 Comment
One thing is certain – you work with someone who could become a better boss (even if self-employed, like me!).
But what if your boss is really lacking in leadership skills, to the point where it’s becoming a serious detriment to the business, and negatively impacting those whom he/she is leading?
If you’ve worked at a few different companies, you’ve probably run into this situation. And it will be our topic of discussion tonight (Sept. 13) on LeadershipChat (please join us on Twitter at 8 pm ET – use the hashtag #LeadershipChat).
I’ve been there, and it can be a real conundrum. You want to see the company be healthy, and you want the best for your co-workers – including your boss – but it can be risky to go out on a limb and try to address issues with someone else. Here are a few words of advice:
1. Recognize that, by and large, people do not fundamentally change all that much. Are you dealing with a small habit here (a tendency to sneer when talking to people), or a major character flaw (an explosive temper)? Realizing that someone in a subordinate relationship will typically have the least sway, is it realistic to think that your words can make a difference? If you’ve seen a willingness to listen and think in your boss, some level of humility, then you stand a much better chance of success than if the person is arrogant and dismissive.
2. Do you have a pre-existing relationship of trust and transparency with your boss? If so, there’s a far better chance that you can privately and convincingly address the issue(s) at hand.
3. Speak in private, in a non-volatile setting. Lunch at a restaurant may be a good suggestion, because it is away from the office, and it gives time to digest and discuss the issue before facing the next work task. Also, you’re less likely to be screamed at in a public setting!
4. Affirm what is good, and demonstrate how flaws typically are an over-extension of a particular strength. For instance, an anger problem may be framed as an undesirable outgrowth of genuine business passion. It’s easier for your boss to save face before you, and before the mirror, when the flaw is positioned this way (note: this principle carries in many areas of life, does it not??)
5. Bring up very concrete situations – preferably quite recent – and explain the effect that occurred. To say to a boss, “you’re too indecisive,” isn’t going to be received as well as saying, “I have noted a tendency toward indecisiveness and here is how it impacted this sales situation last week – we may well lose that sale because I could not give the client a definitive answer on Wednesday when they asked for it.”
6. Explain how a certain characteristic or behavior makes you/other people feel. Often people are oblivious to the downstream effects. However, if you can show that your boss’ tendency to deliver cutting remarks when someone makes a mistake “freezes” employees from giving valuable input, it may help you boss connect the dots (“Hmmm…I’ve been wondering why no-one volunteers ideas in our brainstorming sessions…”)
7. Affirm your own commitment to the company’s good, and that of your boss. It’s easy for someone on the receiving end of correction to feel like they’ve lost face, and destroyed their influence. Let him/her know that you’re out on a limb bringing this up because you’re committed.
8. Continuously build an opportunity network as your contingency plan. It’s a lot easier to do the right thing when you know you have dozens of great people who have your back. Should you need to start looking for a new position, because the situation with a boss is intolerable, that is not the time to start networking – that’s the time to activate the network you’ve been building for years to help you find your next opportunity.
Be sure to read Lisa Petrilli‘s take in her post, Five Suggestion for When Your Boss Needs Leadership Help. Add Lisa’s five to my eight, and you’ll have 13, before we even begin getting more suggestions during the chat from all the great people who attend!
So, please join us at 8 pm ET Tuesday nights for LeadershipChat on Twitter. You’ll find a very smart and highly-motivated group of professionals who want to bring humanity and reality to leadership!