One of the number one reasons many people hate their jobs is their boss.
And one of the best kept secrets to career success is the ability to manage up.
We were great at this as teenagers. If we got a few bad grades, but still wanted to use the car and not have a strict curfew, we would communicate with our parents and create an agreement that clearly outlined what success looked like. Once the adults in our lives became professors and then bosses who have no personal attachment to us, we stopped managing up.
Like dogs, most bad bosses don’t know any better. Instead of crapping on furniture, they crap on you with loads of work and they bark when they don’t need to. They were never trained to be leaders or good dogs—the kind we call “man’s best friend.” Most bad bosses are workaholic employees who got promoted because of how many hours they worked, not the value created. As a result, they were inefficient employees and now they are inefficient managers with power. They feel insecure because honestly, they don’t know how got promoted except for tenure/time.
But all dogs can learn new tricks if we train them right and here are the 4 steps to do so:
1. Ask them how their success is measured
An employee’s value can only be measured by their results. Unfortunately, power is associated with the amount of responsibility one has. But someone can have a high position without impacting the company’s position.
Your boss likely has a boss. And what stresses most them are the numbers they are being held accountable to given the resources they have the autonomy to use by their boss. Those numbers could be profitability, revenues, cost, retention rates, inventory turnover, market share, etc. As your boss’s team member, you need to know their top 3 metrics because that’s all that really matters to them.
2. Ask them how your success will be measured
Given those 3 numbers, you were hired to help your boss move the needle someway somehow. Every job that exists was created to solve a problem and it’s important for you to understand the problem that you are really there to solve and the metrics of success.
You may be an attacker or defender. An attacker is someone who is trying to increase the upside and generate more revenue than before. A defender is someone who is trying to decrease the risk and decrease expenses.
Once you align with your boss on your top 3-5 metrics of success, create a visual dashboard and let that be the center of every meeting or 1-on-1 you have with them. That allows you to leave personalities off of the table.
3. Deliver and gain trust
Once you are clear on their metrics of success and you have aligned on yours, the next step is to gain trust. And the only way to do that is to deliver high quality work on time.
You have to perform. Period.
If you don’t perform, they will never let up. Every time you do perform, you get more breathing room. Once they are clear on how your success helps them and makes their job easier, they realize that their real job is not to micro-manage you, but to get out of your way and clear other obstacles out of your way so that you can do your thing.
4. Ask for what you need to continue performing high
When a company hires you, they assumed that your high performance in your previous job will naturally carry over. But a seed that flourished in one culture won’t necessarily flourish in another because the conditions are different. Therefore, it is important for your boss to know your conditions for success.
Do you perform better in the morning or evening? What’s the best way to communicate with you? Via email? Phone? In person? Do you work better alone? In pairs? In large groups? Do you thrive in numbers or with people? Are you an opener or closer? Do you need absolute quiet to work? When we each examine our proudest professional moments, we will see patterns that we replicate so we can shift from high performance by chance to high performance by habit.
We either allow people to walk over us or we train them on how to treat us. You have to manage your manager just as much as they manage you.
Wishing you more happy hours,