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Want To Lose Your Job … Manage Your Boss! Learn the 6 Actions To Partner With Them Instead

This article was originally published on May 17, 2018, and has been updated. 

How often have you heard “managing your boss” or “managing up?”

I don’t know who decided this would make your life easier, and there are plenty of reasons “managing your boss” isn’t the right way to go.

    1. As someone who has been the Boss, I find it quite disrespectful.
    2. Regardless of your relationship with them, there is a vast power differential tilting toward your Boss.
    3. Most employees don’t realize the relentless pressure their Boss deals with, and you are just one more pressure—get over yourself!

That might sound harsh, but hear me out.

There are ways to build a better relationship with your Boss that doesn’t involve managing them.

So, what can you do?

Partner with your Boss!

You and your Boss are involved in a dynamic alliance which calls on both of you to partner in achieving your goals.

Before we move on to ways you can be a better partner to your Boss, let’s find out how well you’re partnering right now.

How well do you partner with your Boss?

Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions:

      1. Do you and your Boss share information, stories and tasks? (Y/N)
      2. Do you feel you’re playing on the same team? (Y/N)
      3. Do you have a joint interest in the goals you are trying to achieve? (Y/N)
      4. Are you and your Boss strongly aligned in the pursual of goals? (Y/N)
      5. Do you associate comfortably in an informal setting? (Y/N)
      6. Do you know where you stand? (Y/N)
      7. Would you say you work well together? (Y/N)
      8. Do you trust your Boss? (Y/N)
      9. Does your Boss trust you? (Y/N)
      10. Would you say you are currently “partnering with your boss”? (Y/N)

Total # of “Yes” answers ____

How did you do?

8–10 “Yes” answers: You have a solid partnership with your Boss. Focus your attention on ways to improve it.

5–7 “Yes” answers: Working together could be more productive and pleasant. Focus on deficits in skills, differences in work styles or management approaches. Then find answers to help improve them.

1–4 “Yes” answers: Your partnership with your Boss needs work. Focus your attention on issues of work style, trust, skills, and ethics. You will probably want to build a plan to approach your Boss about resolving some problems together.

6 Tips for Partnering With Your Boss

If your partnership with your Boss could be improved (and let’s face it, there’s always room for improvement), you won’t want to miss these tips for partnering with your Boss.

1. Try to understand your Boss.

You need to understand your Boss and their working context:

    • Goals and objectives
    • Pressures and issues
    • Strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots
    • Preferred work style

Then, you need to do the same for yourself!

2. Don’t try to reform your Boss.

Your Boss is human with strengths and limitations, so it’s a far more productive approach to build on strengths rather than trying to remedy limitations.

3. Build on strengths.

One effective way to support your Boss is by keeping them doing what they are good at.

4. Focus strengths on things that matter.

Strengths matter, but their real value only comes when applied to the things that matter.

Start by asking, “what do they need from me to perform?”

5. Find what works.

This is not about “crawling” to the Boss.

It would be best to start with what you consider the right thing to do. Find ways to communicate these to your Boss and have them accepted.

6. Build your relationship.

Build your relationship based on regular, open communication built on trust, respect, and understanding.

When taking these steps to build a better relationship with your Boss, you will also want to deal with your frustrations about being overloaded.

How to Avoid Being Overloaded or Having Your Time Wasted

Your Boss is paying your cheque; asking you to do work shouldn’t be a surprise or considered illegitimate.

What is not legitimate is an overload or waste of your time.

If you feel it’s come to that point, here’s what to do next:

    • Tell your Boss when you are reaching the saturation point.
    • Make her aware of the consequences if she tries to overload you, “Yes, I could get that done by then, but that would delay this….”
    • Don’t say “yes” to everything your Boss asks. Negotiate!
    • Ask your Boss to prioritize when they give you a list of tasks.
    • When asked to do something, get details and, if possible, say you’ll get back to her or take a look at it.


    • Work out what the job involves.
    • Find out who else could be affected.
    • Go back with an answer, “Here’s what I can do.”

Something to remember.

Your Boss is your Boss, and you will never win in a power struggle with them. If you think you can do better: get qualified, apply for the job, and give it a shot!

But in the meantime, building a better relationship with your Boss and partnering with them instead of managing them is a great place to start.


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Discover the eight tips to building a better partnership with your #1 stakeholder

… your Boss



7 Questions To Prevent Fear Of Leadership Failure

I am coaching a bright and shiny leader who came to me very upset and quite emotional. She has an excellent reputation for delivering results.

She was struggling with her current project. Her boss was starting to press her for deliverables.

She was working longer and longer hours without results.

What was going on? She asked.

“I am a good worker and leader, yet I am failing?”

We talked. I asked probing questions to allow her to take the emotion out of the situation and to allow her to shift focus from busy task-orientated work to actions that will move towards success.


Are you focusing on moving to success?

Fear of failure can often drive our actions. We work long hours, sacrifice personal time and put our heart and soul into what we’re trying to achieve, only to find that we’re spinning our wheels.

Most of us accomplish a list of tasks daily but have little to show for it. Success depends on you getting things done.

If you’re not moving closer to your goal achievement, you are not getting things done the right way.

7 Questions

Ask yourself the questions I gave my client:

      1. Did I provide the service my stakeholders deserve?
      2. Did I focus on the activities that allowed me to be the most productive and efficient I could be?
      3. Did I reduce or eliminate distractions so I could focus on what gives the best chance of success?
      4. Did I make decisions that delivered the best results for all involved?
      5. Did I act with integrity in my personal and professional relations?
      6. Were my thoughts and actions focused on accomplishing my goals?
      7. I did not make excuses to let myself off the hook.

Get a coach or a mentor.

Did you answer ‘no’ to any of these questions?

Do you know how to change those no’s to yes?

Get a mentor or coaching to explore why and how you can improve future actions and achieve the desired results.


Because results are the only thing that matters!

80% Of Projects Fail Because Of ‘People’ Issues … Here Are 6 Things You Can Do To Reduce That Risk

I have been coaching a CEO whose company is developing a poor record of delivering products and projects to their customer’s satisfaction.

Click here to learn more about my Coaching packages

It isn’t critical – yet – but in the current market there are lots of competitors who are cutting prices and making big promises. His unhappy customers have options, and although they like my client as a person, friendship isn’t a compelling reason to do business with him.

My client runs a professional project management company and has the PM processes down to a science, yet they are failing their clients … they are failing at stakeholder management.

What happened?

They mapped out who were their stakeholders. They consider matrixes of the influence & power each potential stakeholders had. They developed strategies that were customized to each stakeholder. Nevertheless and despite all of that work … still they fail.

Simply put, they forgot that following proven project methodology does not deliver success; people do.

All of those ‘stakeholders’ are people, and you can’t manage people like little boxes with cute little communications plans. The people who are your stakeholders all have egos, emotions, career aspirations and family problems.

A recent The Harvard Business Review article reported that people account for 80% of the factors that contribute to a project’s failure. Their analysis indicated that the average Project Manager had competency in three times as many “technical” topics as “people” topics.

Think about that for a moment: 80% of the causes of project failure rely on the competencies of your Project Managers are worst at!

Here are six things you need to do to changes those odds:

  1. Get to know your Stakeholders – develop a comprehensive understanding of who they are, what they care about, what are their stated and unstated drivers, what they care about and how they relate to your success.
  1. Engage your Stakeholders as early as possible – It is a very natural human response … no one wants to be surprised by the change. Egos get fired up when they are excluded until they are expected to get onboard.
  1. Listen with both ears open – Listen to what the person is saying and watch for those non-verbal clues. Sometimes they are only telling you what they think you want to hear; sometimes they are nodding in agreement, but their language is saying no-way; etc.

Click here to read about how silence can improve conversations

  1. Stop communicating with your stakeholders – talk to them. Communications are the tools but talk with your stakeholders like human beings.
  1. Use policies and processes as a carrot and not a stick – doing something because of rules or history is dumb. Work with people to find out what they need out of this project and piggy-backed on that to create win-wins
  1. Create communities – Gather people who care that your project succeeds and work to achieve everyone’s success.

 Click here to read about getting the most out of people.

The Beast, Fort McMurray & Leadership: 5 Actions You Need To Lead

On May 5th, 2016, a wildfire tore through Fort McMurray with a ferocity so intense the fire was nicknamed the ‘Beast.’ Hundreds of firefighters, police and heavy equipment operators fought a running battle with a formidable foe to save the City. In the end, 80,000 people were evacuated, and 2,400 structures were incinerated.

A leadership responsibility that was once unimaginable was suddenly real.

Responsibility without authority is one of the worst situations any leader can face, and natural disasters are the epitome of responsibility without authority. In a case such as this, someone has full responsibility to lead, but the authority belongs to Mother Nature. In the Fort McMurray Wildfire Operations Centre, people who had the moral, ethical and responsibility to protect their community, but zero authority to impact what the ‘Beast’ would do.

What were my takeaways?

I had the privilege of working with and watching these people put herculean efforts into evacuating the residents, protecting their community; and, then planning how to get 80,000 people home.

What can you use to lead with confidence when authority is entirely outside of your control?

Here are five suggestions:

1. Own the problem. Like it or not, the problem is yours, so step up to the plate. Nobody asked for the fire, but they had to deal with it. That means you must publicly and privately embody the handling of the crisis and recovery.

In the days following the battle to save Fort McMurray, the Fire Chief made an emotional public statement to say that this had been the worst days of his professional life, but that the community would recover.

2. Intervene early and often. You must rely on your team, but if they fail to meet the mark, you and your organization are at risk. Insert yourself into the process, pepper managers with questions, exercise your good judgment, make changes to plans if needed, and make sure they know that you are on top of the situation.

Click to read about micromanagement.

During the response, the Operations Director challenged plans relentlessly for validity and that they were the best work that could be done. This is precisely the time when measured micromanagement is required.

3. Become the face and voice of leadership. Make sure to communicate relentlessly and honestly to your people throughout the event. The reassurance of seeing a leader, taking things firmly in hand, cannot be overemphasized.

During the fire, the Premier took a steady hand on the leadership. While she relied on her experts to provide technical briefings, she communicated clearly that the Province was in charge; the situation was perilous; people were to evacuate; and, everything was being done to tame the Beast and get people home.

4. Mind your messages. Think through your messaging carefully and ensure your leadership team reinforces and complements what. Urge prudent behaviour. Never blame once the crisis hits, even if someone failed to follow your advice. Be there to reassure, to solve, to support, but never to chastise or to leave folks to their own devices.

Throughout the fires, all levels of government and non-governmental organizations spoke with one voice and message. There were few, if any, missteps. This was vital to provide confidence and clear, unambiguous messages to the evacuees.

5. Show humanity. In the same vein, it is up to the leader to show not only strength and impact but also compassion and kindness. Tell stories, honour heroes to encourage people to help one another, and then reward them for it.

Micromanaging Is A Good Thing

If your boss has ever micromanaged you, did you assume it was because they didn’t trust you, or maybe you’re just crappy at your job?

You’re not the only one who feels that way about micromanaging.

The idea that all micromanagement is bad or that being micromanaged means you’re doing a bad job is one of the biggest management myths out there.

In fact, most supervisors don’t even realize they’re doing it. They honestly believe they’re doing a good job.

To be sure, there are times when micromanaging is overdone, unnecessary, or even destructive. But not always.

(Click here to read about the four drivers behind destructive micromanagement)

To frame this conversation, we need to be clear that a boss has one primary responsibility: to meet the organization’s objectives. 
While micromanagement has a bad rap, it’s sometimes a necessary part of managing people and ensuring objectives are met.

The idea that all micromanagement is bad is a myth. In this post, I’m going to share how micromanagement can be a useful tool. 

When is micromanaging a good thing?

Here are two situations where micromanagement is required:

1) Implementing new projects or systems.

With familiar projects and systems, giving employees space to work is efficient and effective.

But when implementing something new, micromanagement is necessary to make sure everyone is on the same page.

New projects or systems do not have established workflows. As a manager, it’s your job to fill the gap by checking in on a consistent basis to make sure the project and systems are implemented properly and are monitored for risk and effectiveness.

Is this micromanagement?

Arguably yes—but when done well, most employees appreciate this as leadership, support, and guidance.

Implementing new systems and projects at work can be hard on everyone. Here are 9 questions to ask to help you determine your organization’s readiness for change. 

2) Poor performance.

If you have people who are not performing, you had better start micromanaging.

In polite parlance, this is called performance-management but make no mistake—it is micromanagement.

Want to learn more about performance management fails and how to fix them? Click here. 

Have honest conversations about why someone may not be performing, followed by close up and personal supervision to ensure they will improve.

When is micromanaging a bad thing?

Micromanaging because you are a bully, afraid, or not willing to deal honestly with performance issues is a huge mistake on the part of a manager.

But micromanaging because you and your organization’s success depends on it? Fair game.

Just be honest about why you are doing it.

If you’re interested in going deeper or moving your career to the next level, you’ll also want to have a look at my 1-on-1 coaching services.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check these out, too:

Six Tips to Partner With Your Boss
9 Stupid Management Practices (and what to do instead)
The 6T’s To Know What To Delegate

Read More

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