What if it’s not you that needs to change, it’s the leader you are dealing with? Your boss is toxic, a jerk, or just otherwise unhelpful. Or, maybe they are just average. How do you approach the subject that they need some help, because if they can improve their influence that will have huge benefits on the whole team?
Did I just fire you up? Maybe you were saying “yeah, that’s right! My boss is the worst! He/she needs some serious help!”
If so, let’s talk about that. But full disclosure – we’re going to talk about how you can improve, not just just your boss.
Improve Your Influence
What we are really trying to do here is influence your boss to make an adjustment. That’s not a simple task, but we’ll cover some basic principles.
Leadership and influence are much more than official titles. Sometimes people with the greatest influence don’t have any formal authority at all. Huge example – Ghandi. Simple example – I’ve had people in organizations that I’ve worked with that didn’t manage anyone, but everyone respected them and listened because they had established themselves as knowledgeable, valuable, and seeking to benefit the organization. They weren’t in it for themselves.
Increasing your personal influence beyond any formal authority can take time, but it’s worth it. Especially if you are trying to work with your boss to take an action that they may see as uncomfortable at the outset. Here are a few ideas:
- Cultivate personal connections – if people really know the kind of person you are, they are more likely to assume positive intent (that is, if you’re a good person, which I think you are)
- Serve others before yourself – make your mission to help the team/organization rather than being self-interested. When you present new ideas, show how they benefit the greater whole.
- Extend trust – I wrote about this in a previous blog post, but in order to earn trust we have to be willing to extend it first.
- Help people win – as you literally provide opportunities to build people up. When people see that you helped them overcome a challenge, their desire to help you drastically increases.
Give Before You Ask
There is a principle of influence called “Reciprocity.” Simply put, people feel obliged to give back to others if they have been served or helped first. For example, if a friend invites you to a party they are hosting, don’t you then feel obligated to invite them to something in the future? Or if a colleague does you a favor, you will often say “I owe you one” and truly mean it.
So what can you do to help your boss in a way that they feel obligated to help you? What would they truly appreciate?
Let me clarify – I’m not talking about brown nosing here. I’m talking about putting yourself in their shoes and understanding how you can make their life easier in a way they will truly appreciate. When you do that, you’re doing good for the organization, and your influence with them will improve.
Pull, Don’t Push
I’ve written about Newton’s 3rd law of motion multiple times – “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This has a huge application in the world of influencing others. If we try to push them to do something, they will often just push back and resist. If, instead, we can find something outside of your suggestion that naturally “pulls” them toward taking a certain step, they are much more likely to consider it.
In our current case, you are trying to suggest that your boss could use some leadership coaching. Well, in order to even suggest this, we need to be able to frame it in a way that puts it in line with something they want. What does he/she really want? What are they trying to accomplish? What career goals do they have? What metrics or KPIs are they judged on?
If you can connect how leadership coaching would help them reach goals or accomplish things they care about, you’ll find that those desires they already have will “pull” them towards it much more effectively than trying to “push” them into coaching.
Maybe what they really need is an example of the effectiveness of coaching that they can see. So, perhaps you need to be the guinea pig and get coaching for yourself. This may be another win for you, as you get that coaching help to level-up your own leadership and career.
Any other thoughts, questions, or ideas on this subject? I’d love to hear them!
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