How to Coach Your Boss to Success without Losing Your Job
Leadership success centers on bringing out the best in others, even your boss.
Most leaders don’t enjoy being told what to do. Use questions rather than directions. But avoid manipulation.
3 strategies to avoid:
#1. Don’t mandate:
- You should…
- Why don’t you…
- It would be good for you to…
- Don’t you think it would be good to…
#2. Don’t manipulate:
Hidden agendas elevate distrust, sabotage relationships, and limit influence.
The best way to be transparent with your boss is to understand her strengths and commit to help her succeed.
#3. Don’t impose:
There’s a feeling that others should be like you. Don’t listen to that feeling. Don’t impose your strengths and passions on your boss. She isn’t you.
When you evaluate people through the lens of your strengths, they feel rejected.
Use questions to coach your boss:
Help your boss find clarity and direction by asking questions that leverage her strengths and align with her goals.
Suppose your boss wants more input from the team.
- What would make YOU feel safe to give input to your boss? How might you bring that to your team?
- What might you do to make it safe for people to give input?
- What team activities might create interactions where people are speaking openly with each other and with you?
- How might you lead/model the way when it comes to openness and transparency?
- I hear you saying that you want input before you make decisions. How might you let others know you value their input?
- What might you do when you see the behaviors you want?
- How can I help?
What are some ways to coach the boss?
Dan, this is extremely timely for me right now! Thanks so much!
My pleasure, Michael and best wishes.
Very Interesting: “Help your boss find clarity and direction by asking questions that leverage there strengths and align with there goals.” So I’ve worked for the same guy for 16 years now, founder of company, at one time for years a one man band, lots of experience etc. I’ve utilized the line of questions referenced (or variants thereof) for years to direct him and then solicit real feelings or thoughts. My style in this has worked well as he does trust me and my directions and thoughts and knowledge. I am the one who carves out the “different direction” possibilities, the road less traveled ideas and while they are not always adopted, most are in some format utilized along the way. It’s really a matter of knowing the “boss” what do they need, how do they need it and in what format. I also have to understand that we sometimes have to crawl before we walk or run on the challenges presented so ultimately break down those ideas in that format.
Thanks Roger. It’s useful and encouraging to read your experience. Congratulations!
Just be a straight shooter, never look back.
Thanks Tim. That’s a little scary. 🙂
If we are straight with our Bosses and clients, the understanding develops our character and who we become. Perhaps “Straight shooter” is out of context.
Hi Dan and all, I like the comment ‘how can I help’? I know this is about coaching bosses but one of my previous bosses said that to me as we were approaching a big project. It was amazing to have that statement of unequivocal support from him. Because an arrogant guy doesn’t ask that kind of question
Have a great weekend !
Thanks Cate. We go further when we feel someone is pulling the rope with us. I think we dare more and enjoy the work more.
Very helpful – will be using for a lunch and learn with new professionals!
Best wishes with your lunch and learn, Leah.
You can’t “coach” your boss … that’s an inversion of the power dynamic, and doomed to a blowback effect that inherently will “blow up” in your face (“Hoist upon your own pitard,” to quote The Bard).
You CAN “coax” your boss, with the TACTICS you delineate (among others), but the strategy is always win/win/win (you/me/we)…
Persuasion always trumps manipulation, but you BETTER be right … know thy Self, know thy Other, and know thy path. Trust leads.
3rd Eye Aligned. Do NOT doubt. And don’t be an ass (and thus lose your job).
Thanks Rurbane. “Persuasion always trumps manipulation…” — powerful.
Perhaps an exploration is preferred to being right.
Coaching might include being over or in a power position, but I don’t find it so. I suppose the power of coaching is to help others find their power.
Serving through coaching doesn’t require us to have power over. It does require power with.
Depends on who you are struggling with, I suppose.
I didn’t mean coaching “over” (in terms of an inversion), I meant that your boss ALWAYS is more powerful (in authority) … and therefore is going to take attempts (by subordinates) at “coaching” him/her as an inherent threat to their status. We are only human after all.
How do you work through when your boss views everyone through their strength lens?
This is an exceptional question (always relevant, therefore always a complexity).
Obviously, gaining/earning a relationship of transparency (first), then trust, is essential. How you do that is always situational/circumstantial, and continually temporary, therefore consensus on ethics (how and why we relate the way we do) is paramount, and fundamental.
Empathy. First, understand their perspective (lens) and if you can acknowledge it’s value, then you can offer an alternative perspective. But only offer that after you understand the other persons perspective. Boss or not.