So here we are: the final installment of "The Secret Art of Managing Your Boss.´ I hope the previous three posts were
helpful (part 1, part 2, part 3). The previous two "things"?? (Know
Yourself; Know Your Boss) kind of talked around the actual relationship with
the boss. Now, in part 4, we can address
it directly. I´m leaving the slide
graphic out of this post, since it doesn´t really add anything-there were only four
bullet points and they´re listed below.
Context and Content
When communicating with the boss (or anyone), there are two
things to keep in mind as you consider what´s taking place (remember double
loop learning?): context and content. Content is the actual message that is being communicated-thoughts and
ideas. Context consists of the situations,
feelings and environments that surround the content. Most folks only think about the content of
the message without explicitly acknowledging the power of context, even though
they are impacted by it. You´re wise to
pay attention to both elements. Context,
like perception, is a shifty devil. Situations and environments change in the blink of an eye, and what was
once unthinkable, becomes standard operating procedure.
Irrespective of what type of boss you´ve got-a reader or a
listener-you´ve got to be able to not only identify problems, but also to
identify solutions, and other variables that impact the situation. The best way to do this is to pitch a
proposal. And the best way to pitch a
proposal is to adopt the classic three-part memo. Here´s a template for your use-it´s in
Microsoft Word and you can just file it away and reuse it as needed. The basic idea, though, is to break apart the
pieces of the message. There should be a
block of text that describes the problem, a block of text that does a brief
analysis of the problem, and a block of text that details the proposed
solution. Each should build upon the
other, in order to make a bombproof case for change. This way of organizing information is called "chunking"??
and "info-mapping."?? Tech writers excel
at this kind of stuff. Learn more at
infomap.com (no affiliation, I just admire their methods).
The goodwill account isn´t anything you can quantify or put
your finger on, but it´s something to be aware of. Pretty much everyone keeps track to some
degree of who´s done what for them. Those who have done something for me have a balance in my goodwill
account. Those who haven´t, don´t. It´s much easier to say no to someone who
doesn´t have a balance. The "7 Habits of
Highly Effective People´ book has a specific name for what I´m calling a "Goodwill
Account,´ but I just can´t remember it. Actually, I can´t remember much from that book, aside from "Sharpen The
Saw.´ What´s that tell you? Being aware of both your balance in your
goodwill account with your boss, and being aware of how you treat your boss due
to their balance, is a good exercise. It´s
nothing that needs to be addressed explicitly (someone in a seminar asked me if
they should keep a spreadsheet of the goodwill account-not a good idea), but
you ought to check in and see how the account is informing your interactions
with your boss.
Here we are again, with our old friend Mr. Feedback. By now you ought to have a good grasp of
feedback at both the task and process levels and how you can use feedback to
keep your boss accountable. In my
estimation, the two largest leverage points for managing your boss are
continuing to seek to understand your own self, and becoming an expert at appropriate
feedback interactions. Use appropriate
feedback to help your boss help you.
I´ve really slammed through a lot of theory and tactics in
these four posts. It´s my intention to
revisit sections of them from time to time and expand upon some of the
ideas. For now, though, feel free to
drop me a note if you have any questions, or need clarification.