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5 Tips to Manage Your Boss

You need to have a good working relationship with your boss to succeed in your managerial role. While your core responsibility is managing your subordinates, please take note that managing your boss is equally as important.

Here are five tips to manage your boss:

1.  Seek to understand your boss well.

Make an effort to understand your boss well. Engage with your boss to find out the following:

  • His/her expectations of you. You have to know exactly what your boss needs from you. Unless you are clear about this, keep on asking and probing. Some bosses are very straight forward in informing their subordinates of their needs and wants. Many are not.
  • Ask him/her what success looks like. Get your boss to paint the picture of success for your role. What is success and how would he/she measure it? Is it securing the top three opportunities in your pipeline? Is it high staff morale? Is it increased in customer satisfaction by 5 points? Is it response time to customers within two hours? Is it retention of good employees? Capture all the variables that your boss describes as the determinants of your success.
  • How best to work together. Proactively ask your boss on his/her style of work. His/her likes and dislikes. Some examples are how frequent do you need to provide status updates?  What is his/her preferred methods of status updates? Is it face-to-face? Email or phone calls? How much freedom do you have in decision making? What would be the best way to monitor performance?


2.      Execute and deliver your commitments.

Always remember that you are paid to do your job. You have to manage yourself effectively and ensure at all times that you put in your best performance. It is important for you to take ownership of your performance goals. You are responsible to establish and lead the discussion on your performance goals with your boss at the beginning of the financial year.  A step-by-step process that you can consider following is listed below:

  • Draft your own performance goals in line with your organizational goal.
  • Share your thoughts with your boss on what you think your performance goals should be.
  • Listen to your boss’s feedback. Seek clarity.
  • Negotiate effectively with your boss to ensure that your performance goals are realistic and achievable.
  • Finalize your performance goals based on the mutual agreement that you have with your boss.
  • Agree with your boss on how your performance should be measured.
  • Update your performance goals document to reflect such agreement.

Once the performance goals are finalized, it will be easy for you to focus on execution. Stay focus. Pick the right fights. Prioritize tasks and activities selectively to ensure that you spend the most time executing on things that will help you deliver your commitments.

Treat your commitments as promises that cannot be broken. When you consistently excel in your execution and deliver your commitments, chances are you surely would be in the good book of your boss.

3.      Enhance predictability, Avoid surprises.

Bosses like predictability. As much as possible, they would want everything to go on as planned. Bosses hate surprises because oftentimes, surprises are bad news. In order to have a good working relationship with your boss, work on enhancing predictability and avoiding surprises.

For example, if you know that you are falling short from your targeted plan or commitments, talk with your boss. Inform him/her upfront of your challenges and reasons why you would fall short. Tell him/her how much you would be short. Identify a solution. Explain how you have already tried a few attempts and the key learning that you derive from them. Recommend specific approach and alternatives. Bounce off ideas with him/her. Discuss the approach and alternatives. Seek his/her feedback. Reach a mutual agreement on how to move forward. Renegotiate your performance goals to reflect the new changes. Readjust your performance goals and commitments, as agreed with your boss.

The key principle is to be open and honest with your boss on specific situations that would impact the results or performance of your department/organization. You are better off informing your boss early, rather than late. Such action demonstrates your conviction and commitment to the organization. The more time your boss has to take stock of the overall situations, the better off he/she would be in evaluating the best solutions that would keep the department on track with its commitments.

4.      Be a team player.

A new manager recently asked for my feedback. His question was, “My boss asked me how my relationship is with my subordinates. Not only that, he also asked me whether I am getting along fine with my peers. Why do you think he asked me that when I thought he is only concerned about my bringing the results?” I responded by saying this, “Obviously, your boss cares about how well you connect with both your subordinates and your peers. You are dependent on them to get results. Hence, it is important for you to “play” effectively with them. Imagine it like a soccer game. Every player has a different role, playing to their strengths. Every player has one aim though. And that is to score goal. And they need to work together effectively as one to achieve that.”

The facts are that your boss pays a special attention on how well you connect and work with your subordinates as well as your peers. Your boss continually seeks feedback from your peers on how well they work together with you. This is understandable as your success is dependent on how effective you help others succeed. As a manager, you are dependent on a lot of people working together doing different tasks to achieve common goals for the good of the organization.

You need to be a good team player to connect well with your peers and subordinates alike. How would you know whether or not you are a good team player? Three key attributes of good team players are:

  • Active participants with positive outlooks. Good team players come prepared for team meetings and fully engaged to help make things happen. They express their thoughts clearly in a respectful manner. In addition, they listen well. They are able to absorb and consider other people’s opinions professionally. They take criticism constructively.
  • Reliable and adaptable. They get the job done as committed all the time. They are open to embrace change and quickly adapt to the ever changing conditions. They are receptive to new ways of doing things.
  • Focus on sharing, supporting and solving. Good team players believe in continuous improvement through sharing information, knowledge and learning together. They extend full support to everyone in the team without placing any conditions on the kind of assistance or help they provide to get the job done. They focus on solving problems by openly discussing the issues and collaborating with the relevant team members to find the right solutions. They do not get involved in the ‘blame game’ whenever something goes wrong.


5.      Always raise the bar

Adopt performance excellence as your slogan. Dump mediocrity out of the window.

Your boss would always appreciate excellent performance and high quality standard of work on any given day. You should always aim to raise the bar. Push the envelope. Have a stretch goal in order to realize your full potential.

Raise the bar means having a bold and outrageous mindset to determine something that may sound impossible to accomplish. Here are the approaches to raise the bar:

  • Be precise. You need to be precise in articulating goals, tasks and activities. You have to explain what excellence looks like clearly to your subordinates. In fact, the more details, the better. With such clarity, your subordinates would be able to execute accurately and meet your level of expectation.
  • Be innovative. Create multiple options for excellence in order to increase your chances of winning. You have to have numerous choices available for your subordinates to utilize their specific talents, skills and creativity in a flexible manner.
  •  Be accountable. Establish accountabilities with your team members. Walk through the details with them. Explain clearly why accountabilities are needed. Address any resistance that you may encounter.
  • Develop skills. Promote continuous learning among your subordinates. Ensure that their skills are developed as required by their roles. It is critical for you to have all the relevant capabilities ready to rise to the occasions when you raise the bar.

Question: What are some of the significant experiences that you have managing your boss?