Managing your boss

Managing your boss means consciously working with higher level manager to obtain the best possible results for you in the traditional top-down organization. Effective managers not only take time and effort to manage subordinates, but also their bosses. An inability to manage upwards is usually costly.

Personality conflict is only a very small part of the problem. According to a Gallup study, half of all employees in the United States have quit jobs at some point in their careers in order to get away from their bosses. The bigger issue is people have made unrealistic assumptions and expectations about the nature of boss as in subordinate relationships. It involved mutual dependence between two people in order to be effective manage the relationship.

On the one hand, the boss needs help and cooperation from employee to do the job with honesty. Some managers see themselves as self-sufficient with little dependence on their boss. However, this view is damaging because the boss can help to link him/her to the rest of the company. Some managers make the wrong assumption about the boss would know what help their subordinates need and provide them. But this is not a reasonable expectation for another human beings. Effective managers accept this fact and talk primary responsibility for their own career development.

Managing a situation of mutual dependence requires good understanding of yourself and the other person in terms of strengths, weakness, work styles and needs. The information is then used to develop healthy working relationship that is compatible and meet the mutual needs of the other person. You need to gain an understanding of your boss’s goal, pressure, objective, blind spots in order to avoid unnecessary conflicts and misunderstanding. Effective managers seek out information about the boss’s goals and problems. They find opportunities to ask question to test their assumptions.

On the other hand, you can have a higher level of self-awareness by reflecting over past experience. Typically subordinate is more dependent on the boss than the other way around. This constraint results a negative feelings or even a rebellion. Escalation of the conflict for the sake of fighting against institution enemy hindering progress could be impulsive. This reaction is called counter-dependent behaviour by psychologists. According to a study, power imbalance in favor of the supervisor as a root cause of abusive supervision. There would be more trouble when the boss is authoritarian. The boss becomes the enemy and lost trust. Research shows that the experience of having a bad boss can be similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.

On the other extreme, some subordinates swallow their anger when the boss made a poor decision and not to give any disagreement. It is damaging to view the boss as all-wise parent who should know best and protect them in their career. This unrealistic view of unlimited time, knowledge of everything is difficult to change as it is deeply rooted in personality. However an awareness of the extremes is useful to understand the implications on how you behave in relation to your boss. You can understand and even predict the reactions of counter-dependency or over-dependency relationship with the boss that making both of you less effective.

After a clear understanding of yourself and your boss, you can establish a working relationship that fits both of you. A research shows that higher engagement in its various forms tends to predict a range of positive organizational outcomes, such as individual job performance, team effectiveness and customer satisfaction rating. Subordinates can adjust their styles in response to their bosses’ prefer way to receive information between reading and listening. Other adjustments include decision-making style between ad hoc basis and delegation.

Creating a compatible relationship also involves each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The subordinates should not passively assume that the boss would explain his or her expectation very explicitly in great details. Instead the subordinate should find out what the boss’s expectations are. Effective managers find ways to get that information such as informal meetings depending on the boss’s style.

Developing a workable set of mutual expectations also require subordinate to communicate your own expectations to the boss. It is important to influence the boss to value your expectations and set a realistic standard.

The amount of information needs depending on different boss’s style. Effective managers recognize if they are underestimate what their boss need to know and find ways to keep them informed. Not only the good news, but also escalate problems even though the boss may not want to hear about it for the good of the organization.

A commitment to an optimistic delivery date may please a superior in the short term, but it would become a source of displeasure if not being honest. A boss can more trust on the subordinate if he is more consistent. The boss could work effectively if he or she can get fairly accurate data. Trust is required in order to delegate and not to check all of a subordinate’s decision.

It is wise to be selective to draw on boss’s time on important issues rather than trivial matters. Time and energy are required to manage the relationship and effective managers realise the importance of this activity to simplify their job by eliminate potential problems. After all, you are ultimately responsible for what you can achieve in an organization by knowing the need to establish and manage relationships, including the boss.

Leadership that gets results

Research found that six distinct leadership styles have a direct impact on the working atmosphere and financial results in terms of revenue growth and profitability. The six leadership styles include coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting and coaching. More importantly, it indicates that leaders with the best results do not rely on only one style, but depending on the business situation. To lead effective, manager should switch between different styles flexibly. All styles have a measurable effect on flexibility, sense of responsibility, level of standards, sense of accuracy of feedback, adaptedness of rewards, clarity people have about values and level of commitment to a common purpose.

First, coercive leaders demand immediate compliance. The top-down decision making is the least effective in most situation as it kills new ideas at early stage. The problem with this style is that the team may not able to act on their own initiatives with lost of their sense of ownership. However, this dominant power work best during turnaround as it can break failed business habits and change people to align new ways of working quickly in the same direction. For example, as one former Apple employee said about Steve Jobs, “When Steve was pissed off about something, it got fixed at pace I have never seen… people reacted that fast out of fear.

Second, authoritative leaders mobilize followers towards a vision. By making clear to people how their work fits into a larger vision for the organization, this is most effective style in most business situation. Followers understand why and what they do matters, thus maximizes commitment to common goals.. The standards that revolve around that vision is the singular criterion on the performance feedback. A quote from investor John Doerr, he likes to say “Classic entrepreneurs do more than anyone thinks possible with less than anyone thinks possible”. People also has freedom to innovate, experiment and take calculated risks. However, this approach fails when the team members are more experienced than the leader and regarding him as arrogant.

Third, affiliative leaders create emotional bond and harmony. It revolves around people by valuing individuals’ emotions more than tasks and goals. The leader manages by building strong emotional bonds and get the benefit from loyalty. It has a positive effect on communication as people like one another. They share ideas and inspiration, thus enable innovation and risk taking. The leader motivates by providing lots of positive feedback for recognition and rewards. They are also good at building a sense of belonging. This style should not be used alone as a focus on praise can allow poor performance to go uncorrected. People can also feel lost if there is a lack of constructive advice on how to improve.

Fourth, democratic leaders build consensus through participation. By spending time to reach decision collectively, leader builds trust, respect and commitment, thus drives up flexibility and responsibility. From my personal experience, the mobile app project I am in, we have a leader who is willing to listen to followers’ concerns in order to keep the morale high and realistic about what can be accomplished. The drawback of this approach is no consensus after wasting time in long meetings, result in people feeling confused and leaderless, and escalate conflicts during crisis. However, this approach work best with able employees can provide guidance and generate fresh ideas.

Fifth, pacesetting leaders expect excellent and self-direction. The leader sets extremely high performance standards and exemplifies them himself. He is obsessed with doing things better and faster, thus demanding more from poor performers. This style destroys the morale of employee by overwhelming demands of excellent. The leaders did not explain clearly with the guidelines, while people often guessing what the leader wants as well as not feeling being trusted to work in their own way. Research shows that when employees do not feel trusted by their manage, workplace productivity suffer. People feel no feedback was given and directionless when leader is not present without knowing how personal effort can fit into bigger picture. However, the approach works well when all employees are self-motivated and highly competent with little need of coordination.

Sixth, coaching leaders develop people for the future. They have employee identify their unique strengths and tie them to their personal and career aspirations. They encourage employees to establish long-term development goals and help them to achieve with a plan. This style would provide many instructions and delegate employee challenging assignments. Coaching brings positive effect on business performance result, flexibility, responsibility and commitment. This style works best when the employee are already aware of their weaknesses and would like to improve. On the contractionary, it does not work if the employee are resistant to change their way.

The most successful leaders lead by excelling in the art of a variety approaches. Studies have shown that the more styles a leader exhibits, the better. Leaders who have master four, especially authoritative, democratic and coaching, have very best business performance. And the most effective leadership switch flexible among the leadership styles. They are sensitive to the impact they are having on others and adjust their style to get the best results.

Few leaders have all six styles and even fewer know when and how to use them. The leader can build a team with members who employ styles she lacks. An alternative approach is to expand their own styles. Leaders must understand each emotional intelligence competencies and work hard towards increasing the quotient of them. Enhancing emotional intelligence is possible with practice.

With the research, leaders can get a clear picture of what it takes to lead effectively and how they can make that happen. Since the business environment is constantly changing, leaders must play the styles with the right ones at the right time and in the right measure in order to get results.

How to motivate your problem people

In order to get people to follow your lead, the only way to succeed is by getting the people to motivate themselves. The common mistakes managers make on their attempts to motivate problem people is by using the sales pitch to push solution, hoping to get the employee to listen and agree with the logic of their position. However, different people has a different motivational drivers, values and bias, which result in a different ideas about what is reasonable. This mismatch of perceptions create unsatisfactory outcomes as the fundamental rule of management is that you cannot change people’s character. You cannot control people’s actions most of the time. Change comes from within or not at all.

Instead of pushing solution on people with the force of argument, it is a better approach to pull solutions out of them. It prompts them to clear the obstacles that impeding their motivation. The leader needs to rethink what the problem employees can reasonably be motivated to do. This involves a shift in perspective and look at the employee not as a problem to be solved but as a person to be understood. An investment of time is required to create a resolution to the problem. Manager needs to understand what the employee are really care about from a series of informal conversations that will give you insight into. This includes seeing the world look from the employee eyes, understanding the expectation and desires molded by key past experience.

After the analysis, the managers need to break out of the narrow mind-set and not to limit the options for solving the problem. You should let go of your desire to bring one predetermined solution, but willing to switch to an array of possible outcomes. You should reframe goals so the employee can meet them by putting together a list of options of the possible outcomes. Your goal is to identify the unsatisfied feeling and offer new opportunities to help your employee’s driving passions.

On the application, some of the intrinsic motivation factors of myself in the IT consulting firm includes achievement, recognition for achievement, the work itself, responsibility and growth or advancement. I really enjoy programming and seeing many users to enjoy using the code I wrote in production for a mobile app for an airline in Hong Kong. Despite there were many dissatisfaction resulted from poor project management by senior levels, our team managed to work together with extra hours at night and weekends in order to successfully deliver the product without a tight schedule. However, at the end of the project, the team got really frustrated due to lack to recognition for all the hard work. Instead of appreciation, the senior managers was blaming for the quality drop and pushing to fix on the number of defects, despite the unreasonable deadline set by them was the root of all problems. Many team member resigned and look for other job opportunities which also give a better external motivations from earning more money.

After my resignation, the director of the company scheduled a meeting and asked me to stay. The tactics he used include listening to my concerns and understanding my interested direction for career growth, which is the in the area of big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence. He then offered me with a project that would perfectly fits into my motivation and I was excited to work on this new challenging project about chatbot. The motivation problem was resolved and I get back to high performance.

After I made a decision to stay, then it became my challenge to get my team members to stay. Neuroscience suggests that when it comes to motivate action, reward may be more effective than punishment. The “go” signal is triggered by dopaminergic neurons deep in the midbrain that move up through the brain to the motor cortex, which controls action. Positive feedback was more successful at motivating people, therefore, I did one-on-one conversation with each team members to understand their own personal concerns and offer positive rewards, such as money for buying lunch and snack during office hours. According to research, conditional bonus were, on average, more than twice as effective as the unconditional bonus. It resulted in a sales increase of 24%. Another research shows that when employees are willing to go beyond their formal roles by helping out co workers, volunteering to take on special assignments, introducing new ideas and work practices, attending non-mandatory meetings etc, their companies are more efficient and effective. Therefore I need to adopt a servant leader’s mindset and try to prioritise my team’s work at the intersection of passion and contribution.

In 2014 Deloitte study found that “up to 87% of America’s workforce is not able to contribute to their full potential due to lack of passion for their work.” It becomes more important for leader today to apply the method to motivate individuals, and also help to motivate the entire work group. It can boosts everyone’s morale by dealing with poor performers in the team and send a strong message that poor performance does not always mean immediate dismissal. People will see the culture that prefer problem solving. It leads to a healthier and more productive organisation.

Learning Charisma — Transform yourself into the person others want to follow

Charisma can be learned. We can practice to acquire the ability to inspire followers towards a clear vision and instill deep levels of trust. We can earn the charismatic skills by effort even though we were not born and naturally gifted. We can be more leader likes from the other people perspective using the Charismatic leader tactics (CLTs).

The word charisma was first popularised by the great, early twentieth-century German sociology by the name of Max Weber. The power of of charisma is to motivate. The leaders have the ability to use reasoned rhetoric, establish moral credibility as well as evoke followers passions. The followers have a sense of purpose, be inspired to achieve great thing and even blind faith. In the research, nine verbal and three nonverbal tactics are identified.

First, by using metaphors, similes and analogies, charismatic speakers can help listeners to understand, related to and remember a message. In my personal experience, this is especially important as a role as an IT consultant to convey technical content in business language with senior management. For example, to explain why our scrum team developers need to be cross functional, I would analog ourselves as a team of Navy SEAL special force with different specialisation. A sniper could not survive in the war room if he could only shoot, but not able to handle explosives. Similarly android developer should learn a bit about iOS development, just in case there is an urgent hot-fix in production environment. This explains well about the idea to learn and adapt in agile team.

Second, by using stories and anecdotes, it makes messages more engaging and help listeners connect with the speaker. It can motivate and inspired other people. Charismatic leaders are particular expression in their verbal communication with skills to look for ways to invoke common ground in audience. In Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, he talked about some of the most pivotal points in his life [6]. This is one of the best speeches that connect deeply with another person’s soul and best written from the heart. His stories are short but still inspires me to do great work by love what I do.

Third, contrasts are one of the easiest tactics that combine reason and passion to clarify your position with a dramatic effect. For instance, at the Inaugural address in January 1962, John F. Kennedy said “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” This is a powerful rhythm to draw attention and by polarising two concepts, make it more compelling.

Fourth, rhetorical questions can be used to encourage engagement. A good example would be the public speech “I Have a Dream” delivered by American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. This is a masterpiece to discuss the gap between the American dream and reality and inspire over 250,000 civil rights supporters defining moment of the Civil Rights Movement.

Fifth, three-part lists are another old trick of effective persuasion that distill any message into key takeaways. A famous example would be the Gettysburg Address by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. In his speech, his famous phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” influence the people during the American Civil War. We feel like the list is complete after we hear the third item.

Sixth, expressions of moral conviction and statements that reflect the emotions of the group. This establish the leader’s credibility by revealing the quality of your character to your listeners and making them align themselves with you.

Seventh, setting high goals and demonstrate passion helps charismatic leaders to inspire the followers. He or she must also convey confidence that the goals can be achieved. Passion cannot emerge unless the leader truly believes that the vision and strategic goal can be reached.

The three nonverbal are animated voice, facial expressions and gestures respectively. They do not come naturally to everyone but they are easier for the followers to process than the verbal tactics. Evidence shows that people who use them appropriately can unite followers around a vision that others can’t.

On the application, I can experiment and practice the tactics in my IT consulting firm since I recently got promoted to a team lead position for a technical challenging project about an mobile app in one of the airline in Hong Kong. Since the skills were not limited to public speaking but also in everyday conversations, I can create a stronger emotional connection with team members and make myself appear more powerful, competent and worthy of respect by applying the skills.

The best way to learn the tactics are preparation and practice. These key tactics arm myself before a public speech as well as one-on-one conversations in which I need to be persuasive and come out spontaneously. Every three weeks at the sprint end, I need to demo the product which is what our team has accomplished. By using animated voice, facial expressions and gestures, I can better show off the coolest features with confidence and get clients excited about our team’s work. With a balanced combination of the tactics, my presentation got a better feedback as a result based on the honest critics I received. It is wrong to think I cannot improve because I was not born to be naturally charismatic. With training and practice, I was able to significantly narrow the gap and make myself more charismatic in the eyes of the team members, which make me a more effective team lead for our project.