Coaching a boss or leader might not be so different from when you coach a direct report, but how can you effectively and transparently send your message up the chain of command? Carefully, professionally and tactfully is a simple answer. Also, it may take a little more effort to get the point across. The key here is to be sure you deliver the message in a way that your manager will be open to. When done successfully, it can open up future dialogue and improve coaching conversations between you and your manager.
So how to begin coaching your boss? Well, first off you may not want to use the term coaching. Consider it an open and reasonable conversation with your boss that concentrates on feedback. Constructing it this way opens the door for more honest dialogue. Additionally, as a subordinate, you know first hand how the boss’s behaviors are affecting your colleagues as well as the bosses’ peers. Such a perspective is invaluable to a boss. So here are some ideas.
What can you do to support your boss? Most are used to their employees coming to them with problems and complaints. It’s an interesting reaction you get when you approach them with, “Hi Mark. Listen I know how much we’re all under the same pressure to produce and for you I can only imagine that it’s even more intense. So I just wanted to ask you what I might be able to do for you to possibly take some of that burden off, or if there’s anything you see in my production or performance that I could be doing better, in turn, making us all win.”
Create the opportunity to discuss expectations.
The law of reciprocity applies. After you’ve determined how you can make his life a little easier, eventually your manager can ask what he can do for you, which is your opportunity to ask if you can discuss the management style that you best respond to and how you want to be managed.
Set your boundaries.
Bosses don’t know boundaries. Like it or not, through many managers’ eyes, their No. 1 responsibility is to run the company, not worry about your feelings. So stand up for yourself and establish your role, but always give 100 percent. While most of the time it is not premeditated, people, especially your boss, will continually test you, over and over again, in the sense of what they can and cannot get away with when it comes to making requests and demands of you and how they can treat you. While a large percentage of people might initially be scared or intimidated to say something to their boss, in fear of some type of consequence or fallout, most of the time, managers are clueless about how they treat people and often don’t even know they’re doing it. Don’t be surprised when you drop off this article on their desk and they, in turn, thank you for it. To retrain all the people around you, including your boss, on how they can respond to you in a healthier, non-toxic way.
Helping the organization succeed is the purpose behind leading up. Coaching your boss is not a cakewalk but many bosses appreciate the support of the people on their teams.