Editors Note: This is a fantastic guest post by Eduard Ezeanu of People Skills Decoded.
Imagine your boss like your pet. He may, unlike your pet, have the ability to think consciously, but like your pet, most of his decisions and actions are probably automatic ones, based on the stimuli he gets from the environment.
By managing these stimuli, especially the one you can manage the best (that would be…you), you can influence the way your are treated by your superiors in a way, you could say that you can train him. Thus, you can make an average boss a good one and a terrible boss a tolerable one, at least long enough for you to get another job or start your own business.
Coaching people into improving their communication skills and propelling their careers, I realized there are a couple of things you can do to train your superiors which work almost universally, and are worth applying by anyone. Here they are:
1. Choose an open-minded boss. Just like the right dog can be trained much easier than the wrong one, so can the right boss. This is why it’s important to start with the best foot forward, when you accept a job. And you do this by choosing the one where you have the most open-minded boss, which you have the best chances to influence.
Don’t hope for some exact science in identifying him; there isn’t any. The most important point is that during the interviewing process, you will also get at least one interview with your potential future manager. When you get this chance, don’t just answer his questions. Use it to ask him some of your own question, to challenge him, see how he thinks and how he reacts to opinions divergent from his own.
2. Make it clear what you want. Most bosses can’t support their employees even if they want to. Because they have no real idea what their employees want. And to a large extent, it’s the employees’ problem, because they do a lousy job at communicating what they want.
If you wish your superior to help you, you must get your wants across, and do it in a very clear way. “I want to be successful and enjoy my career” is NOT a clear want. You need to get much clearer than this, and communicate to them specific career paths you’re interested in, specific project you want to get involved in etc.
3. Reward them. When you want your dog to repeat a good deed, you reward him for it. Bosses work very much the same way. It’s important for your boss to see that certain positive behaviours towards you, like allowing you to leave early one day, will have a positive consequence, like you write a terrific report the next day, for which they can take credit.
And the consequence must not be positive for you in the first place, but for him as a manager. If it only stops at you, you’re going nowhere. Also, keep in mind that your manager may not see a certain positive thing as a consequence of specific behaviour of his. It’s your responsibility to point it the link, using either direct or more subtle methods.
4. Go above his head. This is a big no-no in most companies. But do you know why? Because it works! Going above your boss’s head is often a great way to get what you want and build some authority in his eyes. Sure, he might get pissed off initially, but he will understand you have power, and this is the most important thing.
So, if your manager will not support an idea you have but you know his boss might, go to his boos and talk to him about it. Then come back to your boss and tell him his boss supports the idea. Ideally, if you know you boss is likely to reject your idea, get the support of his boss first, then go talk to him.
With the right communication strategy, a lot of courage and good people skills, there is a lot you can influence in the workplace. And if your boss still seems just too hard to train, maybe it’s time to consider looking for a better one.
Eduard Ezeanu is a communication coach with an attitude-based approach. He helps others to improve people skills they find relevant and get top notch results. He also writes on his blog, People Skills Decoded. You can also follow him on Twitter.