Your boss is a catalyst to your professional growth

KEY FACTOR

Your boss is a catalyst to your professional growth


Whether you are a manager or just aspiring to be one, one key to success is how you manage the relationship with your seniors at the work place. Of course, you’ve got to manage down with subordinates and manage sideways with peers, but in the everyday mix of things, managing ‘upwards’ is often ignored or overlooked. However, that relationship is critical to achieving work, career and personal goals.

An effective, mutually-beneficial relationship with your senior’s needs attention. Here, it’s important to ‘mentally define’ the image of the person designated as your ‘boss’.

New definition

Firstly, in today’s new-age work place, the term “boss” seems passé.  There have been several instances where young professionals have clearly conveyed that bosses most importantly need to ‘walk the talk’ first and command respect from their team and colleagues through their behavior, professional approach and managerial skills. Bosses can no longer simply demand respect merely due to their age or designation. This image certainly doesn’t convey a spirit of ‘partnership’. In fact, I believe having a ‘partnership’ approach, is key to an effective and successful relationship with your seniors at the work place.

Today the work place is characterised by high performance levels, greater transparency, sincerity and strong inter personal skills.  Therefore, the relationship with your senior is better viewed as the means through which meaningful work is accomplished towards a common goal of the company’s progress and growth. One must also consider that this process is also an important contributor to both your and your senior’s persona growth.

Don’t think so much of the person as your ‘boss’, but rather as a ‘facilitator to new roles and opportunities’ — a catalyst to your own professional and personal growth, a conduit to upper management and definitely your best job reference one day!

Managing relationships

Your boss might be the most wonderful person and a masterful manager, but don’t think that, that the relationship does not need to be worked on. The truth is anyone who helps to shape your career and job must be at the top of your priority list. After all, it can’t be ignored that your boss will have a strong network, which you can use to your advantage as a point of reference. Moreover, bosses are usually preoccupied with other things most of the time and have their own alligators to keep at bay. You must cultivate a relationship that is respectful, open, productive and mutually supportive. Doing your part to make you and your boss succeed pays generous dividends. So, what can you do to nurture this relationship? Establish boundaries up front: It’s helpful to not assume you know what’s important to the other person. Several individuals, who are now regarded as great leaders, were at some point of their careers also answerable to a senior. Many have found creating and communicating a list of preferred working conditions that one can offer, extremely beneficial, whether they are solicited or not.

Take initiatives

For example: taking the extra initiative of trying to know what is the level of feedback your senior would like and how often; how autonomous he likes to be; how much support he needs. Even clarifying hours of work and style — rigid, flexible, is helpful to know in advance.

If possible also learn about the persons outside commitments — school, community service, family. Your senior is bound to respect you much more for making the first attempt towards making a relationship a success! Knowing what you need or want from your boss, then sharing and negotiating work style issues, is a great way to launch a new relationship.

You can also take a step further and pose a few questions: “What do you need from me to make our relationship work well? What’s important to know about your style with other colleagues? What are the top three things professionally that matter most to you and as a team we must reflect in our behavior?” The answers should give you lots of data about your new boss and be viewed as a sign that you are intent on success.

Some helpful reminders on effectively managing your relationship with your senior:

1. Focus on results first, relationship issues second: Do your job well and achieve great results. Be someone your boss doesn’t need to manage. Then focus on the relationship to yield even better results and more satisfying work. Be committed to the deadlines assigned by your senior and help him to achieve his.

Your performance, effectiveness as a manager and ability to accomplish set targets, is the first step towards building trust in your relationship. Few years back when cricketer Rahul Dravid was not considered for one day team he commented very clearly that the decision of selectors was not in his hands but focusing on the game and on his performance definitely was.

2. Recognise that no boss or subordinate is perfect: All of us have idiosyncrasies, shortcomings, life crises and bad days. If you like each other, great. If you become friends as well as colleagues, consider yourself lucky. You might just find that some such professional relationships might not be the very best. If you do, simply get over it, do your best anyway and use the experience to learn how not to manage others. In a situation where you might not be a fan of your boss its best to focus on what we are learning from each other in the context of work and avoid conveying any negative feelings or actions.

3. Tendency to talk about the past: It’s in your best interest to understand that what is past is gone and one needs to embrace the present change. With a tough task master, the challenge is more exciting. While earlier your boss might have been more lenient, your present senior might be just the right person to bring out your best abilities.

Managers like you are future leaders and companies today need leaders who can ensure performance today and in the future. An environment as challenging will polish your professional skills, help you be proactive and match up to the speed of current times.

Such experiences truly need to be treasured and will help you prepare for more challenging times ahead.

4. Be flexible and open to learning: There have been several instances when young managers get a negative response from their bosses on certain issues even after many trials. Often the natural outburst is anger, bad mouthing and negativity. At such times, don’t react immediately.

Think about the situation at hand and intelligently explore and understand why your senior either refused the proposal or your suggestion.

Control  your ego

Do not let your ego come to play. Think about what other information you could provide to support and strengthen your case. View the matter objectively, in a matured manner. To solve a problem go to your boss with all facts of the problematic issues. Give solutions and use his experience to arrive at the best solution.

5. Identify and maximise “win-wins.” Know where your goals and those of your senior’s or boss’s intersect and hit those targets so you both succeed. I have always tried to outline what my most important areas of focus are for my team or my territory and then confirm that they are in alignment with my boss’ priorities. If they aren’t, then we need to discuss the disparity and align future goals.

Loyalty factor

6. Be an extension of your office: If your boss is neck deep into a project or assignment, offer to assist, contribute or take on some work without regard for credit. Suspending goals temporarily to focus for a moment on what matters most to the boss sends a strong message of loyalty, flexibility and co-operation.

7. Accentuate the positives to enhance the relationship and keep honest communication, offer honest and positive feedback: “That additional information you shared gave me a much better understanding” or “Your feedback on that report was useful.”

8. Don’t get judgmental and avoid reacting to every situation: If issues arise, address them early and calmly before tension builds. Focus on how real-life situations affect you and your work. Don’t dwell on personalities and feelings, which are totally subjective.

Avoid dredging up the past or speculate on what ifs. If poor communication is the problem, offer potential solutions, with emphasis on your actions. If you can’t re-establish a solid interaction, ask a trusted adviser for assistance with new approaches.

9. Remember, the boss has the last word: In a strong relationship, the boss might invite you to preview, modify or critique strategies. Offer constructive feedback but accept that you don’t have ultimate responsibility for outcomes. Empower your boss in his dealings with superiors by giving them all the information needed for them to make a well-informed decision. You may not always agree with decisions or actions and they may indeed turn out be wrong, but don’t criticise or sabotage afterward from the sidelines.

The writer is President of SCHOTT Glass India.

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