You have many challenges as a team leader. Is one of those challenges a boss who doesn’t seem to know what your team is doing? He or she appears to be more of a stumbling block than a helpful leader? Harsh? Perhaps, but let’s be honest, sometimes the boss can seem a little clueless and you’d really like him or her to better understand more about your team.
Maybe it’s time to lead your boss.
You can do that? Yes you can, but in a careful and subtle way.
Start by understanding that your boss has multiple inputs from many directions and may in fact actually be clueless about your team’s efforts. So, your first step is to make a concerted effort to understand what stresses her and what she is responsible for. Then consider where those stresses and your responsibilities intersect.
Now that you know how your responsibilities fit in with your boss’s responsibilities, make sure the boss knows. Here’s where the subtle part comes in. Try something like, “I haven’t given you an update in while. Can we schedule about 30 minutes where I can let you know how my team is doing and make sure we’re on the same page?” This sentence is important because it says two things.
1. “Let you know how my team is doing” rather than “What my team is doing.” The second phrase implies that your boss doesn’t know something about what’s happening in the organization. Although that is most likely true, let him say that.
2. “Make sure we’re on the same page.” This statement is respectful and tells your boss you want to help, not just talk about you and your team.
A day or two before your meeting, provide a read-ahead synopsis of what you plan to cover. Don’t provide this too early as it is likely to get lost. Many busy leaders will not review your read-ahead until just before the meeting anyway.
When you have your 30 minutes (stay within the agreed time) lay out what your team is doing and give a few success stories. Be very clear and concise. Make sure your presentation addresses issues you know are especially important to your boss.
At the end of your presentation you can mention one or two challenges your team is facing and your proposed actions. Keep this to just the one or two biggest challenges as you don’t want to sound whiney. This should start a discussion where the boss may say something like, “How can I help?” That’s the best case scenario, but it doesn’t always work that way. You will at least have let your boss know you are actively working to make his or her life easier.
Immediately after the meeting send your boss a brief, positive summary thanking her for the meeting and reviewing what was covered. If you have action items, state that. Then, get on the calendar to repeat this meeting in 6 months.
Will this magically transform your boss? No, but it will help keep your boss more informed about what your team is doing and what help you really need. Also, you will start to develop a more trusting relationship.
Even if you’ve followed these steps and are developing a better relationship with your boss, you may find he isn’t always going the direction you think is best.
Well that’s why he’s the boss. But, you can help. Try these steps, but only after you have developed a trusting relationship.
• Remember what you learned about the boss. Where is she weak or what really wears her out? Try to find ways to help in these areas. Of course you don’t have any more time than she does, but there may be ways you and your team can help. For instance, she may have to provide data for a company report. She doesn’t like it and you don’t either, but since you have to do it anyway, get your inputs in ahead of the deadline.
• If you need the bosses help, or a decision that is beyond your pay grade, always provide suggested solutions. You’ll give your boss options which makes her job easier and she will begin to develop trust in your thought processes.
• If you want the boss to do something a particular way, provide a proposal for discussion. If/when he agrees to your proposal, say something like, “I think you’re right, that would be a good way to approach it. Thank you.” Make it his idea.
If you’ve been reading this carefully, you may realize that a good boss should initiate these actions. So, are you being a good boss? Are you encouraging your team to help you be a better leader?
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