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Train Your Boss

29th January 2013

I use this phrase a little tongue in cheek... but you CAN train your boss. 

When I first started in my current role - my new incoming manager & I had had a few previous "incursions". He is a Basque national, read a little here and you may understand why every previous encounter seemed to be a conflict.
 
When he first took over our division his tendency was toward micro-managing and he tended toward an adversarial style in the absence of facts or strong leadership from his reports. (Probably from his fear that things may be out of control and potentially reflecting poorly on him).
 
So the training began.
 
Safe hands. My first approach was to demonstrate that if he asked me to do something - I would get it done and I did not need to be told more than once. I needed to understand exactly what he wanted and by when. I would get his validation before final presentation to ensure that he was ok with progress. He needed to know that if he asked me to do something - me and my team would deliver the result & if not I would strongly manage his expectation with progress updates.
 
Trust. I needed to build a working relationship built on trust. I could not be at odds with his style or strategy. I needed to ensure I was onboard the bus and working with him. The only way I knew how to do this is to communicate, communicate, communicate. Not by email or instant messaging - but by regularly talking. I still regularly do this by syncing up with him at least once a week. He was an "offshore" manager, nine hours flight away but still in my time zone. Over time we built a framework of understanding, I understood his reasoning and came to greatly value his insight & his passion. I am sure it was a two way street as we would often have a meeting of the minds after we had thrashed through the issues. 
 
Values. He is without a doubt a workaholic. I have recently re-balanced my life to prioritise family, fitness and work. He was prepared to work 12 hours a day on a "day in - day out" basis. I will do the long hours when they are necessary but believe working 60 - 80 hour weeks is foolish. The way I helped influence his values here was to ask after his family, to keep him accountable on knowing his wife was ok with his work / life balance & that he was being a good dad. Each time he had a holiday I would ensure I asked after some of details of what he did and how he enjoyed it. I tapped into his love of rugby and fitness and made sure these elements featured regularly in our conversation. The focus of our conversation (and his thoughts) would inevitably not just be about work, work, work.
 
I can say that my current managerial relationship with him is as good as I have ever had in any manager. For me, a great relationship with management is one of the strongest aspects of job satisfaction - I would rather work with supporters than adversaries. So the investment has been well worth it.
 
You can, of course, use this same approach with customers and peers.

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