How to manage your boss

taming your bossI found an excellent set of articles on Slacker Manager about managing your boss by: 1) Understanding Yourself; 2) Understanding The Boss; 3) Understanding The Relationship. This applies to just about any relationship where you need to work with someone towards common goals.The best point he makes is that people perceive differently. No matter how well you get your message across, it’s still interpreted in a different context, i.e. inside someone else’s melon. I think most people who want to be really brilliant managers should study psychology instead of an MBA. Business at it’s most basic depends completely on human relationships, and psychology may not be perfect, but it’ll help you understand those relationships better than an MBA could.The ‘Yay Me! File is simply a standard manila folder that you keep good stuff in. Just drop in notes when you’ve accomplished something great, or if you get an email from a happy customer. Just drop that stuff in the file. This isn’t too important in my case, as I’m in a small company and we have wide-open channels of communication. But in a big ‘ol corporate you’re going to have to market yourself, especially around review time, because people are so involved in what they’ve accomplished they’ll forget whatever the hell you managed to do well.There’s a management theory (hat tip to Drucker) that says that all managers are either listeners or readers. It’s not limited to just bosses, of course. Everyone can be classified as either a listener or a reader.I’m definitely a reader. I hate it when people blather on about something, and expect me to mould their gibberish into something coherent and understandable. Take your time to put your thoughts on paper before expecting me to deal with it. I love brainstorming, but don’t expect me to think for you.Knowing your boss’s problems and/or pressure points can make a big difference in both how you approach the boss and how they perceive you.If you’re looking to make more money without brown-nosing, then you need to be seen as a valuable and supportive employee who takes initiative, and this is how you’ll get that notion lodged in your boss’s grey matter. Instead of telling your boss about a problem, or even worse, bitching about it behind her back, you need to:

  1. Define the problem. Make the problem easy to understand, e.g. our support desk can’t keep track of tickets.
  2. Explain why the problem happened with a brief analysis, e.g. the support folks are writing stuff down and losing the paper “accidentally”.
  3. Find a possible solution. This is crucial! People hate hearing about problems, so make it easier on them by proposing a solution, even if you know it has rough edges, e.g. we can use this free software called Roundup to track tickets.

The temptation to drop back to task-management can be very strong, because process management is difficult, abstract, and frustrating. The other temptation to drop back to task-management is that middle management is being retrenched everywhere these days. So as soon as you focus on process management alone, you’re seen as middle management, and you’ll be first against the wall when the revolution comes. In a small company it’s often the case that as much as you’d love to manage process, there’s not usually anyone to manage, so you’re constantly switching between process and task management and feeling the heat from it. But that’s still better than most corporates!

2005.03.08