I had a discussion this week with a coaching client who said he is ‘struggling to get on with his boss’.
‘Our styles are different, and I don’t feel supported by her’ he said.
‘I’m a very say it as it is person and she’s much more about keeping people happy’ he said.
‘It can be difficult in meetings when I think we should do one thing and she thinks we should do something else – I’m not trying to undermine her, but I get frustrated that some of the things we talk about could be fixed easily without going round the houses’, he said.
If there’s a version of this playing out for you with your own boss or someone more ‘powerful’ in the organisation, it can feel frustrating, confusing and disempowering.
A couple of things stood out for me:
‘I’m not trying to undermine her.’ And yet…. When he shared some examples, the language he used did sound ‘undermining’. (I certainly had a couple of ‘ouch’ moments!)
‘I don’t feel supported by her.’ I hear this phrase a lot and there’s often an assumption that people ‘know’ what support we want. But do they? Let’s get really clear on what we mean.
Of course, I’m not trying to make my client ‘wrong’ but we’re often unable to see ourselves as others see us and it can help to understand our own part in any situation. First seek to understand and all that.
So, what to do?
Firstly, it’s important to make sure you both have a shared vision and goals even if you might have different ideas about how to get ‘there’. (If you don’t that’s a conversation in itself!)
Secondly, it’s important for my client to find colleagues who may agree with his ideas – not with a view to ‘ganging up’ on his boss but in a way of building relationships and getting buy in for his ideas.
Thirdly, this is probably an ‘elephant in the room’ conversation that needs to happen 1-1 with a view to finding a way through together. In fact, it’s likely to be a number of conversations but let’s start with the end in mind and build from there.
My client is going to get the ball rolling in his next 1-1.
He’s going to send this note prior:
‘I know we don’t always agree on how to tackle some key issues which was apparent in our sales meeting this morning but I’m glad we’re still aligned on our three key priorities. Could we talk about this in our 1-1 on Tuesday? I think together we could be a force for nature and I’d like to find a way I can support you and we can be more joined up given the challenges ahead.’.
What I love about this is that highlighted phrase that is likely to make his boss open to discussing this issue too (after all, she loves to keep people happy!).
I also thought that those different styles could be a huge benefit – one style complementing the other – if harnessed in the right way.
If you’re struggling with your boss, think about what you can do to influence the situation.
If you truly believe you can’t (and you’ve tried) it could be time to consider your next move.