Typically undeterred from taking on a tough challenge, this week’s Leadership Chat on Twitter will focus on something we’ve all struggled with at one time or another: what to do when your boss needs help as a leader.
This isn’t an easy topic because it has so many layers:
- Simply by feeling this way you’re acknowledging that you want something to change; and change is rarely easy
- Recognizing that someone needs help requires a personal decision about whether you want to be the one to talk with the person about it
- Asking someone to change can easily bring on feelings of defensiveness and insecurity; which must be eloquently maneuvered or avoided in order to move forward.
- There is inherent risk; risk of loss of the relationship, a sense of trust, or perhaps even your job
- There is also opportunity for tremendous gain and personal growth
Given all these layers, what’s the best way to approach it? We’ll ask all of you to share your stories and experiences regarding what’s worked well, and not so well, at Leadership Chat tomorrow night. In the interim, here are my five suggestions to get you started:
1. Spend some time clearly articulating on paper what kind of leadership help you believe your boss genuinely needs. Obviously, you have to take all of the emotion out of the situation to really be fair about this. Let’s face it, generally when you’re feeling like you have a “bad” boss there’s typically some underlying emotion there.
Let go of the emotion and write down exactly what you’d like to see your boss do in regard to improving their leadership. Aim to genuinely help, and don’t move forward until that is truly your objective.
2. Come up with three realistic ways your boss could make the change you’re requesting. For example, if you believe your boss needs to stop micro-managing and trust you/your team to accomplish your own goals, then structure a plan that can be proposed for how to build trust and get to that point.
By arming yourself with realistic, thoughtful solutions you convey a sense of seriousness and commitment.
3. Think about whether you’re the right person to have this conversation with your boss. Some people will never be comfortable having this conversation, but if you want to see real change take place it may simply have to happen. If there is an HR department to turn to for help, that may be a good option to consider. For those of you without a formal structure within which to work, you may simply need to give a lot of thought to a way to have this conversation without making your boss feel threatened.
Words matter. Your approach matters. Your decision here is critical. Choose the right person and the best approach that creates a non-threatening atmosphere.
4. Be ready and willing to support your boss and make changes yourself, as appropriate. If your own approach has made it difficult for your boss, admit it and be willing to change. If you have responsibility for part of the proposed solution referred to in step#2, outline how you’ll be fulfilling that responsibility.
Remember, the more successful you help your boss become, the more successful you will become.
5. Tap into valuable resources and share them with your boss in a helpful and subtle way.
For example, Les McKeown’s book Predictable Success is brilliant for helping leaders get clear on the right steps to take at different phases in a company’s life cycle. If your boss is struggling strategically and tactically, this might give them the insight they need to step up their leadership.
If your boss needs to understand and embrace the critical importance of loving your customers – and you, the employees – then share with them this brilliant book by Brains on Fire on the importance of bringing love into business, and this eye-opening blog post by Mack Collier on the difference between how companies market themselves vs. how rock stars do.
If your boss is an introvert, I’d be honored if you’d share with them my Introvert’s Guide to Leadership – it may give them some tools to help them move beyond their comfort zone. And if you’re an introvert working for an extrovert this post should definitely be shared with your boss. Of course, I hope that many of the posts here on my Visionary Leadership Blog will be of value to you and your teams!
These are just a few examples to get you started. In sum, find great resources, talk about how they’ve helped you, and share them with a genuine desire to help your boss excel in their role.
What are your ideas? What’s worked well for you?
Steve Woodruff and I will be addressing these questions and more when we host the next not-to-be-missed edition of Leadership Chat on Twitter tomorrow night, September 13th at 8:00 pm Eastern Time. Please join us!
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Photo is Help! by Dimitri N.