Several key elements will contribute to your success. The first is the solutions you deliver to customers. A second element is your boss. A third is how effectively you influence people with your proposals. And a fourth is how well you communicate your ideas in your presentations. This section will cover the last three areas.
It's not unusual for someone to remark to me, "The challenge I have isn't with the people I work with—it's with the person I work for. How do I manage up?" Everyone who rises to a leadership position in an organization has worked for someone who is difficult to work for.
Sometimes the person is difficult to work for because he or she was promoted into the job based on sales or technical skills rather than on solid people skills. Sometimes the person may just have a different style. Sometimes the person may not realize there is a better way to manage. Here are seven solutions for those situations.
Remember that the situation won't last forever. At some point, something will change. The boss will get promoted, the boss will leave, you may move to a new job. Knowing this gives you the ability to take one day at a time.
Ask yourself what you can learn from this person. Your boss may have skills or strengths that you can learn from—try to look for them. If nothing else, you can at least learn what not to do. This can be highly valuable.
As long as the person doesn't ask you to do anything illegal or unethical, try to put yourself in his or her shoes. Try to understand what he or she really wants. Then, despite whatever misgivings you may have about whether it is the correct decision, put your best effort behind it. If you give it only a halfhearted effort or none at all, that will be obvious and limiting. Rather than head for that type of confrontation, work proactively to manage the situation.
If your boss puts off making decisions that you need in order to do your job, provide him or her with a recommended course of action based on your analysis of several possible options. The way you present your recommendation is important. Don't present it as asking for a decision. Suggest that you have identified the best way to proceed. Even if your boss disagrees with your choice and advises another path, at least you have a decision and can move ahead. It is a better approach than waiting for a decision that may not come.
If your boss gives you something to do but then never follows up, schedule a follow-up meeting at the time you are given the assignment. Make clear ahead of time that the purpose of the followup meeting is to make whatever decisions are required in order to move ahead. Proceed as described in the fourth item in this list.
If you are having a difficult time getting priorities from your boss, or you are expected to do everything or add tasks to the top of your pile without regard to what you are already working on, develop a set of priorities to present to your boss for his or her concurrence. Set priorities based on your estimate of the value the task will contribute to your organization. Use a simple numbering scheme, such as using 1 to designate the most important task, 2 for the next most important task, and so on. Show these to your boss and ask him or her to evaluate and revise them as necessary, making it clear that you will proceed based on these priorities. You may also want to show deadlines and resource estimates.
If your estimate shows you don't have enough time by yourself to complete all your assignments and you know your boss wants them all done, develop a plan for accomplishing them. See if you can get overtime authorized. Borrow people, bring in contract personnel or interns, develop a technology solution, or find other creative solutions.
" To be confident, fake it initially, and then scramble to come up with the goods. Confidence is something for me that I struggled with and still struggle with."
—Julia Roberts, actor