Thursday, May 8, 2014

What Your Boss Really Wants From You

Guest post from Steve Arneson:

As an executive coach, I’ve worked with hundreds of people in all types of organizations. Each person has their own story, of course – a unique narrative that includes their skills, experience, strengths, weaknesses, and relationships.  While every engagement is different, these people all have one thing in common; their boss always plays a central role in the story.  That’s why my first coaching question is “what does your boss really want from you?” 

Now, some of my clients have great bosses, so we discuss the relationship briefly and move on.  However, a lot of my clients don’t work for a great boss.  They’re not clear about his views, or don’t understand what she really wants… and all of this is impacting their engagement, performance, and happiness.  

The Unexpected Solution

I’m talking about the unknown expectations; those hidden motives that may drive your boss’s behavior - the real reasons behind her agenda.  If you don’t understand what the boss wants from you, you’ll likely be worried, frustrated, and disengaged; you certainly won’t be delivering your best work. 

I wish there was an easy solution to this problem. The first thing my clients want to know is: “how do I change my boss?”  Do you know what I tell them?  Forget about changing him.  That’s right, the hard truth is that all of your efforts to improve, fix, or convert your boss won’t work.  The solution is changing your own approach to interacting with the boss; the transformation has to be one you undergo… in your awareness, attitude, and behaviors.

The Power of Insight

I believe the secret ingredient to improving your boss relationship is insight.  Insight allows you to understand what makes your boss tick – his underlying motives.  To help you recognize his motives, I’ve developed 10 questions that will give you the insight you need to figure out where your boss is coming from; I call this first step in the process “study your boss”.  The resulting insights will help you explain his work style, behaviors and motives.

Next, you must look objectively at the relationship from the boss’s vantage point; I call this step “consider the boss’s perspective”.  In this step, I’ve created five questions for you to answer… does the boss view you as an asset or a liability?  Finally, you have to turn all of this insight into self-awareness and behavior change.  In short, you have to take responsibility for the relationship.  If the first two steps are about gaining awareness, this step is about turning those insights into action.  In this final step, you have to adjust your attitude, commit to modifying your boss story, and adopt new behaviors designed to improve your relationship with the boss.  

Your Most Important Work Relationship

Look, your relationship with your boss matters – a lot.  It’s the most critical factor in your engagement and enjoyment of the job.  If you have a great boss, he’s motivating you to work hard, develop your skills, and thrive in the role.  However, if you have a bad boss, he’s likely the cause of your frustration, disengagement and stress, and he probably isn’t getting the best out of you.   

I believe you need to be the catalyst for improving this relationship. You don’t have to be a victim – you can proactively change your attitude and behaviors.  Start by studying your boss to really understand his motives. Next, take an honest look at how she sees you, and be prepared to incorporate that perspective into your plans for change.  Then, armed with these reflections, rewrite your story and adjust your attitude.  Try new behaviors, and stop destructive ones. The point is to figure out what your boss really wants from you, and try harder to make it all work.  
You can do this; you can change your relationship with your boss.  But you have to make it happen.  I know you want the boss to change, but I wouldn’t sit around waiting for that miracle.  He’s not going to change or adapt to your style; you need to adjust to his.  You must look at this relationship differently, and take responsibility for improving it.  You can make a more enjoyable work experience for yourself, one where you’re working more productively with the boss.  But you have to put in the work, and really take ownership of the relationship.  If you follow this simple process, I’m confident you can a build a better relationship with your boss!

About the author:

In What Your Boss Really Wants From You, author Steve Arneson shows readers how to find the answers to fifteen essential questions that will help to understand their boss’s motives. The first part, “Study Your Boss,” features ten questions that will help readers figure out their boss’s leadership style, goals, work relationships, and other factors that drive his or her behavior. Given that understanding, readers move on to five questions that reveal “How Your Boss Sees You.” Finally, readers bring it all together and develop a plan to “Take Responsibility for the Relationship.” Vivid real-world examples demonstrate Arneson’s advice in action and show clearly how this process can help readers to gain a more meaningful, productive, and enjoyable work life.

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