Once upon a time (also known as the ‘old days’), companies operated from the top down. The boss told you what to do, and you did it. Today, employees don’t often wait for the boss to make the decision. And many bosses want people to feel empowered and take more initiative. With the pressures and constraints my clients are working with today, employees need to work together with the boss, not simply for the boss.
What that requires from employees at every level is a skill set that allows them to manage the relationship with their boss effectively. Effective and clear communication is an essential part of managing another person, whether you are managing up or managing down. It also entails understanding the world in which the other person operates, their needs as an individual, their strengths and weaknesses, and the pressures and constraints they deal with on the job.
How can you develop this critical skill set?
Spend some time observing the boss. What do they well? What areas are they weak in?
Then: Anticipate the weak areas so that they do not cause you a problem. If they are terrible at meeting deadlines, start asking for what you need earlier than when you actually need it.
Talk with your boss about goals. Learn about their priorities. Ask them to identify the critical issues in the department.
Then: Ask how you can help the team with those things.
If your boss (or you) telecommute or spend a fair amount of time out of the office, you have less time for your relationship and more time for work. Your boss may have a lot of priorities and you are only a small piece of them. Make sure you have a regular time to connect.
Then: Always have an agenda for your regular time together so you are getting information you need to have, not just receiving information.
Figure out your boss’s style, pace, energy and likes. Are they a morning person? Do they like reports, emails, voice mails or meetings? Are they fast paced or slow and methodical? To they take on more than they can handle well but try to handle it anyway?
Then: Match their energy. Every time you do, you are creating rapport.
While your boss may not be a ‘perfect boss’ there are things you can do to manage things so that the relationship is more effective. Stop waiting for a flawless boss and figure out how to create a better relationship than you currently have.