This is a hard one. You know the boss, the supervisor, the “leader” who doesn’t know what they don’t know. Who thinks they have all the answers. You don’t want to be a smart-ass. You want to be helpful.
Having been on both sides of this equation, I know it’s difficult and sometimes feels impossible. It doesn’t have to be.
There’s lots of help out there. Amazon has 129 books under “managing up.” Forbes.com and Harvard Business Review (www.hbr.org) have articles on this subject. I also found blogs like Quickbase (Link to: www.quickbase.com) and TINYpulse (Link to: www.tinypulse.com) with good information.
Basically, it comes down to this: How would you like to be treated if you were the boss? Do you want whiners or problem solvers?
If there is a problem, issue, or struggle affecting your team, take it to your manager, but with a solution. It may not be the right solution or the best solution, but it shows initiative and provides a place to start.
Figure out your manager’s communication style. Observe them. Are they more receptive to ideas in the morning or afternoon? Do they come in early, stay late, or both? Mirror their style in a positive way when presenting your solutions.
For example, when I have a really great idea, in my excitement I want to share it right away. Unfortunately, not everyone will share my immediate enthusiasm. I have to know this and accept that if I want my solutions to be seriously considered, I have to present them in a manner that will be heard and understood.
Does this mean sending a pro/con email? Does it mean a formal report submitted on the third Thursday? Or can I catch my boss in the hallway?
Understand how your manager takes in information.
This feeds into another basic tenet of this subject: understand what is important to your boss. What are their priorities? What are their goals for the year? Present solutions that reflect those priorities. This makes your supervisor’s job easier and makes you a more valuable member of the team.
Because you want to excel in your position and prepare for the next step in your career, ask for feedback. This shows you are interested in their opinion and value their experience. Maybe this could lead to a mentor relationship.
To wrap this up, I’d say the best way to “manage” your boss is to do your job, pay attention to communication styles, and be considerate to your manager and colleagues. You may be in a situation that is untenable, where problem-solving, hard work, and good manners are not appreciated. I’ve had that job and I left that job.
We all want to be appreciated. It’s up to us to take the first step and show our own appreciation to others. Even bosses.