Tuesday, 16 August 2011 10:43

Managing Your Boss

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Most project managers have one. Yet attending to their demands and idiosyncrasies can be nerve-wracking. Wise project managers engage good boss management strategies. Boss support, guidance, mentoring and influence will be your reward.

After all, bosses are not exalted and invincible gods. They are human beings with special roles and authority as well as the requisite levels of human weaknesses, problems and pressures.

Under these demanding conditions, most boss relationships unfold in two possible directions: the 3Rs Resistance-Resentment-Revenge or the 3 Cs Clarity-Co-operation-Commitment.

The 3R cycle is characterized by ineffective communication. This causes levels of resentment. People expend valuable energies getting even. Such a work environment becomes destructive not only for individuals but for the entire organization.

On the other hand, the 3C cycle begins with people clarifying what is required. People cooperate and commit themselves to excellence. Personal self-esteem and group performance is enhanced.

Assess Leadership Style

Recognize leadership skills inherent in your own boss. This assists you to understand your boss better. You also benefit by becoming a better manager. The more effectively you manage subordinates, the more leverage you will command with your own boss. "To lead, one must follow" ... Lau Tzu.

Leader #1: The Press Leader

These leaders pretend to be drill sergeants. Low self-esteem and a strong fear of failure drives them. They are impressed by outward displays of busyness rather than by results. The leader treats people as expeditors who obey orders. They tolerate no mistakes. Trivial details snare their energies and attention. They over-supervise and manage by punishment. Doing so squashes self-esteem amongst the ranks.

How to handle the press leader? Quickly discover on-the-job limits. Determine whether your boss is simply tough or ruthless. The tough leader precisely delegates authority balanced with appropriate responsibility. The ruthless one disregards human factors. If you choose to resist the press leader, do it privately, not within view of colleagues. This way your leader will not lose face.

Support your position with plenty of evidence. Otherwise, you lose.

Leader #2: The Laissez-Faire Leader

This leader abandons staff. These leaders provide little or no support in tough times. They stipulate little of what is expected of employees. They provide virtually no guidance on how to accomplish tasks. While the press leader may hover over an employee's shoulder, this leader does nothing to train or guide. While the press leader over-manages, the default leader overlooks.

Managing The Laissez-Faire Leader: The individual who is self-motivated and needs little praise will work well under this type of leader. This leader craves facts such as costs, statistics and research findings. Provide these facts and figures for your boss, while at the same time try to stress some human elements. Encourage your boss to clarify exactly what is to be accomplished.

Leader #3: The Participatory Leader

The participatory leader is adept at communication procedures. Under this type of boss, employees are given precise feedback and recognition when deserved. The participatory leader strives to involve employees in the assessment process. He or she is inspirational and innovative. The participatory leader customizes the type and amount of feedback required for each employee.

Managing the participatory leader: The most effective way of dealing with the participatory leader is to feed back the same techniques that he or she uses with subordinates. Keep them informed of what does and does not work. Since this type of leader is interested in results, your opinions will be heeded.

Leader #4: The Develop Leader

This leader goes a step beyond the participatory leader. The develop leader fosters staff self-esteem, autonomy and competence. Techniques for success are isolated and taught to subordinates as the need arises. The develop leader empowers staff and nurtures a feeling of reverence, not in the boss, but in the employees themselves.

There is often a high staff turnover rate for employees of develop leaders. But it is a good one because it is upward. Because this type of leader creates such a high level of competence amongst the ranks, there is always someone to take over when someone moves up.

Both the develop and the participatory leader expect good performance from their subordinates. This expectation is communicated not only verbally but through a trusting working relationship that encourages autonomy.

Weaknesses and strengths exist within us all but being aware of the bosses can help manage the relationship on an on-going basis. Keep the below points in mind -

Boss Weaknesses

  • Lack of Training: Is your boss a whiz at finance, but uncomfortable dealing with human elements? Few managers score As on both task and people-oriented responsibilities.
  • Unclear purpose: Can your manager clearly define goals? A clearly understood purpose assists everyone to fulfil their roles.
  • Fear of rocking the boat: Does your boss resort to the familiar while stifling new ideas? Managers must adapt to changing values and needs.
  • Being a saviour: The boss who insists on expending valuable time and money to keep proven weak people afloat helps nobody. This boss ignores competent staff. At best, this approach postpones the inevitable dismissal day.
  • Having to be right: Even the most talented executive must be willing to make amends when they have been wrong.
  • Low compatibility: A manager must be willing and able to create alliances with peers, superiors and subordinates. Compatibility is mandatory in the executive suite.
  • Demanding agreement: Many bosses find it difficult to accept different points of view. Bosses should seek acceptance and assistance, not agreement.
  • Confusing efficiency and effectiveness: Efficient workers get things done quickly. Effective staff achieve the right goals. The two should be balanced, with priority going to effectiveness.

Boss Strengths

  • Causes agreement: Idea exchanges lead to the best possible solution. Everyone's opinion is welcomed and valued.
  • Manages with continuity: Issues are discussed at regular intervals. This minimizes surprises and last-minute fire-fighting.
  • Matching people with work: An effective leader carefully considers not only work experience but personality traits when staffing an assignment.
  • Understands the job: A good leader will develop trusted, valuable employees who strive to contribute to the organization because they feel needed. The successful leader knows the way, shows the way and goes the way.
  • Respect feelings: Emotional needs of employees are recognized. Employees are offered a guiding hand when making decisions. They are not simply handed the solution.
  • Gives employees autonomy: Once a level of trust is attained, the more autonomy an employee can handle, the better the employee and organization will be.
  • Eliminates Boredom: Allows individuals to adapt the work to suit their needs, as long as the job gets done.
  • Seeks results, not methods: New methods to improve effectiveness should be sought, but not at the expense of results.
  • Employs positive feedback, not criticism: Focusing on the positive rather than the negative is a proven technique in affecting a desired change in behaviour. This boss "catches subordinates doing something right." "A soft answer turneth away wrath" ... Proverbs.
  • Combines co-operation with competition: Organizations, which encourage groups to be simultaneously co-operative and competitive, produce the greatest chances for success.

Follow these steps to keep the boss happy.

  1. Learn what your boss expects and values.
  2. Strive for high-quality results.
  3. Solve as many problems as possible without the help of your boss.
  4. Keep your boss informed.
  5. Be your strongest critic.
  6. Get regular feedback from your boss.
  7. Differ with your boss only in private.
  8. Save money and earn revenue.
  9. Be a good leader yourself.
  10. Promote only valuable ideas.

Your boss is not interested in the storms you encountered, but whether you brought in the ship.

Don't forget to leave your comments below.


Harry B. Mingail combines a Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Business Analyst Professional (CBAP), Mathematics/Computer Science and Business Administration designations with 25 years of BA, PM and management consulting as well delivery of webinars, workshops, mentoring and keynotes. 

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