3 Ways to Manage Your Boss

By Beth Caron Nilssen

Since posting part 1 of this blog about "managing up," I came across a slight variation on this concept:

“Under the right circumstances, this reporting relationship can be a two-way street: in addition to taking orders, savvy subordinates can find ways to influence those above them. This idea, sometimes called ‘leading up,’ has the potential to improve the organization’s overall effectiveness—and in the process, make everyone look good.”*

 

Hmm. While I agree with the two-way street idea and that it can improve a business’s effectiveness, I’m not sure how I feel about changing “managing” to “leading.” In my experience, these aren’t necessarily the same thing (a topic for another blog). And the whole “savvy subordinates” phrase makes me scowl.

So, yeah, let’s stick with “managing up,” which isn’t a new concept for me. I’ve always thought about how I could make my working relationship with my bosses better, and that certainly starts with trying to understand how they “work.” So, managing my boss is an idea I’m comfortable with. But, on the heels of hiring a new member of our franchise development team, I started to face the fact that if I’m managing my boss, then my direct-reports are probably managing me.

Which, of course, is a good thing! And, it got me thinking about how I manage people, how they manage me, and how I manage my own boss. Here are a few things I came up with:

1. Know how your boss likes to receive information.

Notice I didn’t say, “how your boss communicates.” That’s important, too, but it’s more important to know whether, for example, she likes to receive long, detailed written reports or prefers “just the facts.” My previous boss preferred a full, detailed report. He wanted to read the whole thing. My current boss wants bullets points and then follow up with a conversation. Both approaches are effective, but quite different. It was my job to realize this and change my communication style.

Corollary to Rule 1: Know how often your boss wants to hear from you. He or she may want just a midway check-in and a final deliverable. Me? I like people who communicate—a lot! In general, don’t drive me crazy with every detail, but don’t ghost me, either. When I delegate a project to someone, I like them to confirm they’ve received it, understand it, and they’ll get back to me shortly. It’s important to find the sweet spot with your boss.

2. Know how your boss makes decisions.

This is related to how he or she communicates. My boss likes to talk things over, ask questions, and discuss various scenarios. This works well for me, too. If I’m baffled by something, I’ll stop by his office, and he invariably says, “Yep, let’s talk through it.” (Hmmm. It just occurred to me that he may have figured out how I like to communicate.) The opposite would be a boss who likes to mull over a decision over before deciding. You probably won’t get an instant answer from someone like this so, unless it’s urgent, don’t push.

3. Know what your boss thinks about deadlines and priorities.

This can be tricky, especially if your boss is constantly throwing you projects, some at the last minute. In that case, you have to know when to drop something—and what to drop—when an urgent task comes along. If I’m your boss and I don’t tell you, ask!

For me, the key to managing or being managed is forming a relationship—a trusting relationship—among team members. One of the things I like most about working at the Great Clips corporate office is our connections, not only through work, but also on a personal level. And, this extends beyond the home office to our connections with the franchisees. It means we’re invested in one another’s success, and just like good managing, that goes both ways, too.

* READ MORE: Four Ways to Influence Your Bosses without Alienating Them