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Help My Boss is Clueless


Have you ever said to yourself, ” My boss is clueless?” “What is the boss thinking?” or “Why did they do that?” or “He/she just doesn’t seem to understand.”

Do you have to just sit there frustrated, or can you do something about it?

Everyone has a boss. Even a Fortune 500 CEO has to answer to the board and shareholders. Fortunately, you probably don’t have that problem, but you do have a boss. Let’s be honest, sometimes that boss can seem a little clueless and you’d really like him or her to better understand what your team does and how their decisions can sometimes make that difficult.

Maybe it’s time to lead your boss.

What? You can do that? Yes, but in a careful and subtle way.

Before we go any farther, let’s be clear about what “Leading the boss” really means. This is not an effort to undermine the boss, or make him or her your puppet. The goal is to help the boss help you so you both succeed.

Start by understanding that your boss has many 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 the boss is responsible for and what their stressors are. Then draw a line between that and your responsibilities.

Now that you know how your responsibilities fit in with the 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 is respectful and shows you want to help the boss succeed.

The day before your meeting, provide a read-ahead synopsis of what you plan to cover.

When you have your 30 minutes (stay within the agreed upon time) lay out what your team is doing and give a few success stories. Make sure you tie your presentation to what you learned about the boss.

At the end of your presentation you can mention one or two (no more) challenges your team is facing and your proposed actions. This should start a discussion where the boss may say something like, “How can I help?” It doesn’t always work that way, but you will at least have let the boss know that you are actively working for company success and to make his or her life easier.

Leave a summary before you go. Make it positive. Suggest you repeat this meeting in 6 months.

Will this magically transform your boss? Not instantly, but it will help to keep the 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.
That’s a good start, but you will probably find the boss isn’t always going the direction you think is best.

Well they can do that. That’s why they’re the boss. But, what you see as a problem may be just a lack of understanding, either on your part or the boss’s. After you’ve established a trusting relationship you can try these steps.
• Remember what you learned about the boss. Where are they weak or what really wears them out? Try to find ways to help in these areas. Of course you don’t have any more time than the boss does, but there may be ways you and your team can help. For instance, the boss may have to provide data for a company report. He 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 for a decision that is beyond your pay grade, always take solutions. You’ll give the boss options making her job easier and she will begin to develop trust in your thought processes.
• If you want the boss to do something in 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.” Make it his idea.

Now, if you’ve been reading this carefully, you may have realized that a good boss should initiate these actions. So, if you have leaders who report to you, are you being a good boss?

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