Each boss has their own management style. But how can you identify her style and adapt? Read on.
There are five steps you can use to help you deal with your boss effectively thus creating value for you, for her and for your organisation:
- Accepting that your boss is your boss.
- Identifying and adapting to your boss’s management style.
- Helping your boss to look good.
- Keeping your boss “in the loop.”
- Allowing your boss to make mistakes, and helping her out when she does.
1. Accept That Your Boss is Your Boss
The statement above may sound a bit odd. After all, a boss is obviously a boss, right?
Well, not always in the eyes of some overly ambitious people. Perhaps you know someone, or there’s someone in your own team, who feels that she’s smarter and sharper than your manager. She may resent having to work for someone who is younger or older, for example, or who has only recently joined the company.
This ambitious person might feel that she should be the one “in charge,” instead of her immediate superior, and she simply refuses to acknowledge that her boss has the power and authority to direct her work.
This type of attitude can often lead people into trouble, and may even derail a promising career. After all, no organisation is going to retain someone who is creating disagreement among the ranks, lowering morale, or damaging productivity.
In the end, the manager is unlikely to lose this kind of power struggle. Instead, it’s usually the overly ambitious person who’ll end up in trouble.
So, if you’re in a situation where you feel that you could do a better job than your boss, the best course of action is to hold your ego in check, and make the best of the situation. She may have certain skills or experience that you haven’t thought about or don’t know about.
The best thing to do is to accept your circumstances. You could even go one step further and do your best to make her look good. She’ll likely appreciate your help and you will have improved your reputation as a hardworking and reliable member of the team. In addition, she’ll be more willing to give you support and recommend you for new opportunities in the future.
2. Identify and Adapt to Your Boss’s Management Style
There are as many different management styles as there are bosses, and there is no one “right” style.
In a creative organisation like a start-up, for instance, a relaxed, laid-back approach may work well. However, in other, larger organisations, a highly defined, hierarchical style may be more appropriate to achieve the necessary levels of quality and safety.
Whatever environment you find yourself in, it can be helpful to take some time to identify and understand the type of management style that your boss prefers, so that you can adapt to it. In other words, find out what style works best for her – and then make it work for you, too.
Look at your colleagues, and observe the strategies that they use to adapt to your boss’s management style. A simple and effective way of doing this is to look at what attributes she values and praises in other people, and then develop some of them yourself. This will help you to meet her expectations and manage your work more effectively.
Of course, you’ll have your own preferred working style, too. But, bear in mind the number one rule, which is that your boss is your boss. Therefore, it is better to adapt to her working style than to expect her to adapt to yours.
However, there may be some aspects of your working style that your boss may want, or need, to accommodate. If this is the case, let your boss know what she can do to help you carry out your tasks to the best of your ability.
3. Help Your Boss Look Good
(and Never Make Her Look Bad)
This may seem like obvious advice too, but team members can focus so much energy on their own careers that they forget to help the people around them – including their boss.
One of the ways that bosses win promotion is by getting the best from their people, and by helping them to produce outstanding results. Remember that a “win” for you is a “win” for your boss, and vice versa.
Most managers won’t forget it if you help them to achieve recognition, and they will, in turn, make sure that your efforts and hard work are rewarded. Here are some ways that you can help your boss to look good:
- Solve problems effectively. If you’re asked to do something important that seems impossible, do your level best to think creatively.
- If you can’t solve a problem yourself, make sure that you can propose a solution when you go to your manager for help.
- If you do encounter a potential challenge, keep your boss informed. Bosses hate surprises – and their bosses hate it even more!
- Meet your deadlines. If you’re going to miss one, tell your boss well in advance, and explain why you won’t be able to meet it.
- Do your job in such a way that you leave little room for complaint. Ask for feedback from your boss and other senior people that you work with, to ensure that your work meets their standards.
- Produce truly outstanding results.
- Demonstrate loyalty and commitment.
- Never, ever criticise your superiors – it will eventually get back to them.
At the same time, make sure that you never behave in a manner that makes your boss look bad, or act in a way that requires her to defend and make excuses for you. After all, if you do something that your boss has to defend, then her superiors will begin to ask themselves whether she is in proper control of her team, and, indeed, whether the team is effective at all.
4. Keep Your Boss “in the Loop”
For a manager to do her job well, she needs to make good decisions. And, to do this, she will need timely, accurate and valid information from you and from the other people who she manages.
These are the people who need to be her “eyes and ears” when it comes to team projects, inter-departmental relationships, and the latest developments within the organisation and the wider industry.
Team members who can provide her with this type of business-critical information will likely be highly valued. However, be aware that this doesn’t mean “telling tales” or spreading rumours! If you do this, you could risk losing the trust of your colleagues, your boss, and other powerful people in your organisation.
Here are some suggestions that can help you to keep your boss firmly in the loop:
- Keep your boss updated on new developments. When you are given new information or hear about any new developments that will likely impact your team’s tasks and projects, tell your boss straight away. This will help her to address any challenges that might crop up more efficiently.
- Never suppress bad news. Be direct, and tell your manager about any issues immediately. This will give her time to evaluate them, respond to them, and make any necessary adjustments. You want to avoid your boss saying, “I wish you’d told me about this six weeks ago. Now we don’t have time to do anything about it.”
- Be accurate. Don’t rush to tell you boss rumours or information that you’ve heard “through the grapevine.” Validate this information first. You need to be sure that your information is accurate before you pass it on.
- Be proactive. If you identify a solution to a problem that affects your team, share it with your boss. Bosses want their team members to be creative and resourceful, and to come to them with solutions, not just problems.
- Talk regularly to your boss about your career development. Most managers will be happy to help you to progress, but they can’t do this if they don’t know what it is that you want or what skills you need to develop. It’s in your boss’s interests to discuss these things with her team. This way, she’ll be able to manage it more effectively, because she’ll have a better idea of her people’s strengths and weaknesses.
5. Allow Your Boss to Make Mistakes and Help Her Out When She Does
Even a good boss can make mistakes. After all, no one’s perfect.
Don’t set your expectations of your boss too high, particularly if she is new or inexperienced. Remember, everyone has to have a first experience of managing others, but it would be asking a lot of a new manager to get everything right from day one.
Just like you, your boss will have certain strengths and weaknesses. The secret is to build on both of your strengths, and either eliminate your weaknesses or compensate for them.
So, when you see that she is struggling with something that you know you can help her out with, pitch in! Part of your job is to support your manager. She’ll likely appreciate your assistance, and it will improve your reputation as a resourceful and reliable team member.
There are a number of other ways that you can help to keep your boss focused on her priorities, such as:
- Provide a draft of some work that she needs to do – for example, an agenda for your team meeting. Most managers will appreciate this because it saves them time and it’s usually easier for them to edit an existing document than to start from scratch. However, remember to check with your boss that she is happy with this approach before you implement it.
- Prioritise or schedule the things that you need your boss to do. She’ll likely have lots of different demands on her time, so help her out by letting her know when her input is critical and when it’s not.