2013 will be a good year. It will be a good year because you will make it a good year. Hopefully you have already accomplished at least 1/12 of your goals and have a good plan for this month. Be sure to share your goals with your coach and with your Mastermind Team. This month I would like to share some thoughts on Managing Your Boss. If you do not have a boss, use significant other or spouse and I think these thoughts will have meaning.

A Checklist for Managing Your Boss

There will always be those who view the concept of managing upward as flattery and manipulation. Others hold the common belief that if bosses are wise, they donít need to be managed and such efforts will be viewed solely as attempts to play office politics.

But managing upward is not about ambition, promotions or raises. Itís about the job and how to be effective at getting things done.

Hereís a review of key points from a classic Harvard Business Review article originally published in 1990, and it remains pertinent today. ďManaging Your BossĒ was written by Professors Emeriti John J. Gabarro, PhD, and John P. Kotter, PhD.

Mutual Dependence

Two people can be temperamentally incapable of working together. Personality conflicts occur all the time. But when they happen between bosses and managers, differing personalities are only a small part of the true problem.

People usually have unrealistic assumptions and expectations about the nature of boss-subordinate relationships. They fail to recognize that itís one of mutual dependency between two fallible human beings, so they avoid managing the relationship altogether or do so ineffectively.

Some managers behave as though their bosses are not dependent on them. They donít see how much the boss needs their help to do his job efficiently; how their actions can severely hurt him; and how they truly need to be cooperative, dependable and honest.

Other managers see themselves as completely independent of their bosses. They gloss over how much information they need from the boss to perform their jobs well. In truth, a boss can play a critical role in linking managers to the rest of the organization, making sure priorities are consistent.

Other managers assume the boss is a clairvoyant who will magically know which information or help is needed and magically provide it. This is dangerously unrealistic.

Managers must recognize that mutual dependence between two fallible humans requires two components:

    1. Having a good understanding of the other person and yourself, especially regarding strengths, weaknesses, work styles and needs

    2. Using this information to develop and manage a healthy working relationshipóone that is compatible with both individualsí work styles and assets, is characterized by mutual expectations and meets the other personís most critical needs
Understanding Your Boss

Managing your boss requires you to understand him and his workplace context, as well as your own situation. Some managers aren’t thorough enough in this regard.

At a minimum, you need to appreciate your boss’s goals, pressures, strengths and weaknesses:

Coming up with good answers is far less important than taking the time to ask yourself hard questions and honestly examine your strengths and weaknesses.
  • What are your bossís organizational and personal objectives?

  • What are his/her pressures, especially from his/her boss?

  • What are your bossís strengths and advantages?

  • What are his/her weaknesses and blind spots?

  • How does your boss like to get information: memos, emails, meetings, text or calls?

  • How does your boss handle conflict?
Without this information, a manager is flying blind and problems are inevitable.

Understanding Yourself

Youíre not going to change your (or your bossís) basic personality, but you can learn which traits, habits or behaviors impede or facilitate working together.

A manager is typically more dependent on the boss than vice versa. This dependence inevitably leads to a degree of frustration and anger when oneís actions or options are constrained by the bossís decisions. The way in which a manager handles these frustrations largely depends on predispositions toward those who hold authority positions.

The Counter Dependent Manager

Some peopleís instinctive reaction is to resent the bossís authority and rebel against his or her decisions. A manager may even escalate a conflict to inappropriate levels.

Psychologists call this pattern of reaction to authority ďcounter dependentĒ behavior. The counter dependent manager sees the boss as the institutional enemy ó a hindrance to progress and an obstacle to be circumvented or, at best, tolerated.

Reactions to being constrained are strong and sometimes impulsive. These managers strongly defend their sense of independence and self-sufficiency, making it difficult to accept orders, especially from a boss who tends to be directive or authoritarian.

The Compliant Manager

At the other extreme are managers who ignore their anger and behave in a compliant fashion when the boss makes what they know to be a poor decision. These managers will agree and conform, even when a disagreement may be welcomed. Often, a boss wants push-back and would easily change a decision if given more information.

The Passive-Aggressive Manager

A third style involves the passive-aggressive manager, who may appear to be compliant and cooperative, but holds counter dependent beliefs of anger and rebelliousness. This manager can be even more dangerous and disruptive because the reaction is covert. Instead of arguing and expressing resentment, he or she will sabotage in subtle ways.

Reactions to Authority

Bosses donít have unlimited time, encyclopedic knowledge or extrasensory perception, nor are they evil enemies. All bosses have their own pressures and concerns that are sometimes at odds with a managerís wishes ó and often for good reason.

If you believe, on the one hand, that you have some tendencies toward counter dependence, you can understand and even predict what your reactions and overreactions are likely to be.

If, on the other hand, you believe you have some tendencies toward overdependence, you may question the extent to which your over compliance or inability to confront real differences may be rendering both you and your boss less effective.

Developing and Managing the Relationship

Ultimately, the burden falls upon the manager to learn the bossís expectations. Working for someone who tends to be vague when expressing expectations can be difficult, but savvy managers always find a way to overcome barriers.

No doubt, some managers will react to this article with disdain, arguing their jobs are complicated enough and they shouldnít have to invest time and energy in managing upward. They fail to realize how managing the boss can actually simplify their jobs by eliminating the potential for severe problems.

Final Thoughts:

2013 will be a good year if you decide it will be good year. What do you need to do to make 2013 the best year ever? Use your Coach and your Mastermind Team to make it happen. If you do not have a Coach or Mastermind Team give me a call or drop me an e-mail and I will help you get the support you need.

Coach Jerry

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Jerry Pinney

For the last twenty-two years Jerry Pinney has been president of his own consulting firm. Currently he focuses his efforts on providing executive and personal coaching to persons who are interested in improving their quality of life and consulting to small and mid-sized companies and nonprofits. He is a facilitator for peer advisory groups with The Alternative Board and is a Certified One Page Planning Consultant. Jerry has over three decades of experience in the food industry, and possesses a unique perspective of customer service, marketing and strategic planning. In addition to overall general management qualifications, Jerry has proven expertise in operational planning and business development. His food industry career started at Jewel Food Stores followed by a long career with IGA, with their retailers, wholesalers and ten years as Vice President of Marketing. In addition Jerry has served as Vice President of Membership for the National Grocers Association, Sr. Vice President of Procurement for Shurfine International and Executive Manager of The Zenon Hansen Foundation.

Jerry has also served on a number of nonprofit boards including: President of the Volunteer Center of Northwest Suburban Chicago. He is currently a Project Manager for the Executive Service Corps of Chicago. Jerry’s ESC assignments have included coaching for several Executive Directors, and consulting on various Board Development projects and on a number of strategic planning projects.

Jerry Pinney & Associates
102 East 32nd Street
Chicago, IL,
phone: 312-842-4577,
fax: 312-842-4705

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