How to Survive a Terrible, User Boss

I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but approach this temporary situation in your life well, and you’re in the best leadership training program money can’t buy.

Observe your jerky boss’ actions and the impact.
Repeat.
Keep your comments to yourself.
Repeat (the hardest part.)
Seek out role models of better leadership.
Repeat.
Try some.
Refine.
Repeat.
Keep your boss informed of your progress.
Take a deep breath and thank her for her support.
Repeat.
Repeat.
Watch the A players flock to be on your team.
Ask them for their ideas.
Repeat.
Develop a strong network of peer relationships.
Repeat… go deeper this time.
Be as helpful as possible.
Repeat.
Repeat.
Repeat.
Address performance issues of the stragglers–set a higher standard (don’t skip this part or you’re just a nice guy, not a leader). 
Repeat.
Notice improved behaviors.
Repeat.
Ask for what you need.
Repeat.
Recognize upward trends.
Repeat.
Thank your boss for his support.

Managing Your Boss: Get the Support You Need in 10 Minutes a Week (Includes Free Tool)

When’s the last time you had a really great one-on-one with your boss? If your answer is anything but “in the last 2 weeks,” you’re not alone. A great cadence of good one-on-one meetings is unusual. Why? Well first,  everybody’s busy. It’s easier to cancel a meeting with a direct report than with your boss. Or perhaps, your one-on-ones drag on, lack preparation, or generally feel like a waste of time.

Whether you’re the manager, the one being managed, or both, one the easiest ways to take your performance to the next level is through great one-on-one meetings.

How to Hold a 10 Minute (MIT- Most Important Thing) Huddle

Of course, you need more than 10 minutes a week to build a great relationship with your manager. You need time to get to know one another as human beings and to focus on long-term goals and career development. What I’m about to share here is not a substitute for those vital sessions. This tool is for the in-between times: to help you stay focused each week to clarify expectations, to ensure the MIT stays the MIT, and to get the support you need.

It works like this. You schedule 10 minutes a week with your boss and come prepared to discuss the following:

  • What’s the Most Important Thing you accomplished last week? (This gives you an opportunity to ensure you boss is aware of the good work you are doing)
  • What’s the Most Important Thing you’re working on this week? (This helps clarify expectations and ensure alignment)
  • What support do you need? This gives you a structured time to ask for help AND also makes it easier on your boss if you keep a running list of anything that’s not urgent and can wait.

Our Winning Well clients who are using this approach tell us it’s done wonders to streamline their communications, clarify expectations, and eliminate wasteful work.

You can download the free MIT Huddle Planner here

5 Ways to Tame a Bad Boss

“Greg” called to share his news, “You know that situation with my boss is going a lot better! I decided to go on the offense and just keep him over-informed. He loves it. Now he stays off my back and I can do my work.”

Bingo. Another “bad boss” tamed.

5 Ways to Tame a Bad Boss

Sure I’ve met some loony tunes over the years. But I’m convinced that almost every bad boss situation can be made at least a little bit better with some proactive work on your part.

Sure he should know better, he’s the boss right? Perhaps. But do you want to be right, or happier at work?

We’ve got a lot more techniques in Winning Well and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, but here are a few to get you started. 

  1. Get Your Asks Together
    If you need additional resources, tools, or want to attend training that will make you a better leader, you need to articulate a solid argument. Come with data, not emotion. The P.E.R.S.U.A.D.E. approach is a proven methodology that will help.
  2. Communicate Frequently In Bulleted Summaries
    Like “Greg” it might feel like overkill on your end, and if it is, your boss will tell you. But I’ve NEVER minded my team keeping me informed in easy to digest ways. Find a coding system that works for you both (e.g. FYI UPDATE ________ (project name) in the email heading.)
  3. Follow the “No Blindside” Rule
    If you’ve got bad news, be sure your boss hears it from you. Use the Winning Well D.A.R.N. method  of bad news giving.
  4. Ask How You Can Make Their Job Easer
    It’s likely your boss is dealing with pressures you don’t fully understand. Ask how you can be most helpful. Of course be prepared with a good answer when she turns the table and asks how she can best help you.
  5. Let It Go
    I know, easier than it sounds. But harboring resentment never does a relationship any good. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Forgive as needed and try again. 

5 Questions to Ask When You Can't Let It Go

“John,” the CEO of a fast-growing start-up, was visibly frustrated when I asked him what he needed me to work on with his team. “I love my team. And they care so much! They’re full of great ideas….”

I waited for the BUT.

“BUT,” Sometimes they get stuck on an idea and can’t move on. We’re moving fast and sometimes that means failing fast and letting go of ideas that didn’t work. Can you put some of that into your Winning Well bootcamp for them?”

I love it when curriculum design becomes blog post fodder.

Now the truth is, there was more to this story as I unraveled the layers… a solid dance of knowing when to hold-em, fold-em, walk away and run.  We worked on both letting go AND how to P.E.R.S.U.A.D.E. your boss.

5 Questions to Ask When You Can’t Let It Go

If you’re in a position where others are encouraging you to “let it go” when your heart says “hold on,” here are few questions to help you decide.

  1. Why am I so passionate about my idea or way of doing things?
    Are you coming from a place of true confident humility, or is fear or ego getting in the way?
  2. In one or two sentences, why am I so committed to my position?
    We must do _______ because __________ and if we don’t _________, the consequences will be __________.
  3. Who is encouraging me to let it go and why?
    It’s highly likely they have additional perspective. Be sure you understand it.
  4. What are the potential consequences to the big picture if I don’t let it go?
    Take time to really understand the pros and cons.
  5. If you were to let it go, where else could you focus your time?
    Sometimes you have to lose a battle to win the war. Fighting and holding on takes time and energy. What else can you accomplish?

The truth is, sometimes the answer is to let it go–holding on too tightly to your position, can slow down results and damage your career. AND sometimes the answer is to fight for what you know is right for the business and the people within it.

Winning Well Bootcamp

P.S. Speaking of managing up, this week I was honored to do a guest post for my friend, Dan Rockwell, on his Leadership Freak blog, entitled What to Do if Your Boss is a Wuss. 

communicating to executives

The 9 Biggest Mistakes When Presenting to Executives

Executives are naturally a tough audience. They’ve got limited time, competing priorities, information overload, demanding bosses, and pressure to make great decisions quickly. Your job is to give them all the information they need in a way they can easily digest. Most of us have stories of times when the message we tried to send was not the message received, and the tidy PowerPoint presentation spiraled downward in a frenzied fiasco.

9 Mistakes To Avoid When Presenting to Executives

1. Undermining Your Credibility. The execs will only buy your message if they believe you know what you’re doing. It’s vital to show up confident and strong,

One of the smartest women I know stayed up late every night the week before her presentation doing deep research and getting the presentation just right. No one in the room knew a tenth as much as she did on the subject. But when one exec made a snarky remark, she lost it and burst into tears–tragic credibility buster. Exhaustion and too much caffeine prevented her from responding calmly and redirecting the conversation.

Other credibility-busters include weak words such as: “I guess;” “This is above my pay grade;” “You all are a lot smarter than me.” You are the expert. Show up strong.

2. Lack of Confidence in Your Own Argument. Do your homework so you can answer the tough questions well. Be confident enough to challenge faulty thinking in a professional and respectful manner. State your argument with clarity and confidence.

3. Lack of Humility. At the same time, these men and women are in their positions for a reason. They’ve got perspective you may not have. Listen carefully to really understand their concerns. Write down their suggestions. Be sure they feel heard. Know that as much as you know, you don’t know it all.

4. Unclear Objective. When I’m working with leaders on honing their executive presentations, I’m often surprised how few can articulate their primary objective. Be sure you can complete this statement in one sentence.  “As a result of my presentation she/he/they will ____________.”

5. Underestimating the Audience. Executives can often be hard to read, but there’s a lot going in their quick-thinking brains. Do everything you can to learn about the executive’s goals, competing priorities, decision-making styles, and political dynamics. This isn’t easy, but it’s a worthwhile investment. Talk to those who’ve presented in the past. Talking to key members of their team is another great option.

6. Failure to Connect with a Stakeholder. If the topic is complex and/or controversial, it’s going to be tough to get traction in a room of opinionated execs. Seek out a few key players to ask for their opinion in advance. Incorporate and acknowledge their thinking. It will show you’ve done your homework and also have a few friendlies in the room supporting your argument.

7. Boring Delivery. Its likely yours is the fifth or sixth PowerPoint deck they’ve seen that day. Spice up your data with a strategic story, metaphors, or illuminating statistics with powerful comparisons. Classic research by Hermann Ebbinghaus shows that most people forget 40% of what was said within the first 30 minutes. Be sure your message is memorable. A great, easy read to inspire better presentations is Get to the Point: How to Say What You Mean and Get What You Want.

8. Overstuffed Slides. You know a lot, or you wouldn’t be in the room. Resist the urge to throw it all up on your slides. Use clean visuals (not cute clip art) that represent your message with a few key points per slide. Always include a punch box at the bottom with a 5-7 words that articulate your main idea for that page. If you can’t come up with a punchy summarizing statement, consider if you really need that slide.

9. Failure to Ask for What You Need. This sounds so obvious, but it’s one of the biggest mistakes I see. Be very clear on your proposed next steps and what you need specifically from whom. Funding? Support from above? Communication with their organizations? Resources? Sure, some details may need to be worked out later, but be sure you can answer the question, “What do you need from us?”

P.S. I’ve been doing a lot of work recently helping managers hone their skills in this arena. Contact me if you’d like to learn more about how I could help your team communicate their ideas and results with powerful, confident humility. Santa did…just saying 😉

How Well Do You Manage Up? A Challenge and Other Tools

The conversation about Imperfect Bosses continues. Today, I’m exited to bring you several additional resources, including a free knowledge assessment. I hope you will share this with anyone having a challenging relationship with their boss.

Overcoming An Imperfect Boss Credspark Challenge:

How well do you manage up? How are you handling a difficult boss? Why does it all matter? Take this challenge to find out. The most useful part is clicking on the learn more links at the end to take you to additional free resources. Let me know what you think and please pass along. I want to help as many people as possible. Click here to take the challenge.

Overcoming An Imperfect Boss podcast on Work That Matters:

In this live interview we delve deeper into some of the concepts and stories discussed in the book. Click here to hear the podcast.

How to deal with an accidental diminisher boss:

And for those who just like to read, check out my 4 Needed Shifts in the Traditional Boss Subordinate Relationship:

From Mystery To Transparency: Your team will follow your lead. If you won’t share what’s on your heart and mind neither will they. You’re wasting valuable time with all that guessing. Take some risks and let your team in. Share more of the bigger picture than feels “safe.” There’s no better way to get people to trust you, than to trust them. Click here to read more.

And Wally Bock – learning about writing a book from Overcoming An Imperfect Boss:

Karin Hurt is a newly minted entrepreneur. She wrote Overcoming an Imperfect Boss because “I wanted to be able to have something tangible to weave into the PR of the launch of my new company.” If you’re thinking about writing a book, you can learn a lot from what Karin did right. You may read more here.

Happy Memorial Day. That should give you enough to keep you busy. Still got time? Download a free sample chapter or just order a copy from Amazon.

Namaste.

More Secrets To A Great Relationship With Your Boss

When it comes to developing a great relationship with a boss, most of us can use all the help we can get. You have more power than you think.

I’ve been having a blast talking with leaders and writers on tips for creating a great relationship with your boss.

Their questions are challenging and ideas robust.

Today I share excerpts and insights from a few of these conversations.

If you haven’t yet seen my book, download a free chapter here.

Overcoming An Imperfect Boss

Interview With JJ Jarell – The Business of People in Leadership

Let’s start the talk with a podcast from JJ Jarell:

    • Karin shares her most embarrassing moment
    • Karin’s most awesome (and worst) boss
    • Document your own accomplishments
    • Getting your boss to trust you
    • Working with a disengaged boss
    • Broadening your network – turning to people who can help you

 Building a Better Relationship with Your Boss

Interview with Moe Abdou, 33 Voicesmoe-abdou

As a leader build your subordinate relationships with these R.E.A.L. principles:

  • Results:  Focus and measure results
  • Energy:  Make it energizing and personal
  • Authentic:  Invite candor and authenticity
  • Learning:  Make it about constant learning

Listen to the podcast or download the inspirational moments slideshow here.

How to Transform a Relationship with a Bad Boss

Interview with Leadership Freak – Dan Rockwell

Be careful that you don’t become like the bad boss. Bad bosses often teach us who not to be. Bad bosses are:

  • Unproductive – They run update meetings rather than collaboration meetings.
  • Demeaning – They treat people above them differently from people below them.
  • Closed – They’re not open to feedback.
  • Short-sighted – They don’t invest in development.
  • Confused – They have unclear vision and cause rework.
  • Wasteful – They waste people’s time.
  • Disrespectful – Common courtesy goes a long way to solving tensions.
  • Disorganized – No explanation necessary.
  • Indulgent – They think they’re above others and take special treatment.
  • Self-Centered – Their career is Their ultimate concern.

Become a great boss or employee by becoming the opposite of an imperfect boss. Dan challenged me by asking: “You’re telling me all about the wonderful bosses who supported you in your career what was it about you that made them invest so deeply.”

Questions like that sure make you think. I’ll ask you the same question. Worth closing your eyes and making a list. Read more and listen to interview excerpts at Leadership Freak.

Q&A With Karin Hurt: Overcoming An Imperfect Boss

Interview with ASTD – Julie Winkle Giulioni

Question: Have you learned more from good or bad bosses? Which do you think are more powerful teachers for most people?

Answer: Bad, hands down. If we can get past the frustration and allow the learning to seep in, bad boss behavior teaches us what not to do at a deep emotional level. We are more empathetic to the impact we’re having on others. Also, paying attention to your reaction teaches you to manage your own emotions and stress.

Read the full interview at ASTD.org.

6 Proven Ways To Work With A Bad Boss

Interview with Inc. Magazine – Peter Economy

Dislike your boss? You’re not alone.

According to research on the topic, three out of four employees say that dealing with their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job. Two-thirds say they would happily take a new boss over a pay raise.

According to Karin Hurt, author of Overcoming An Imperfect Boss, “The secret to a healthy boss-subordinate relationship is to remember that it’s just that, a relationship. You’re two messy human beings doing the best you can.”

Read more at Inc.com

How to Manage an Imperfect Boss

Interview With Susan Adams – Forbes

Question: What if your boss is a jerk?

Answer: “The most important thing is not to become a jerk yourself,” says Hurt. She recalls a boss who periodically lost her composure and blamed her direct reports for her mistakes.

Hurt and three colleagues got together and initiated individual conferences with the boss. “First we said: something is not right and we want to help you.” Hurt recalls, “I told her how her behaviors were impacting me and I said: I must be doing something wrong.”

The boss wound up confessing that she was feeling undue pressure and acknowledging that she was taking it out on others. The lessons Hurt learned from this encounter: do not point fingers. Instead, describe how the boss’s behavior is impacting you and volunteer to share the responsibility.

Read more at Forbes.com.

There is No Such Thing as an Ideal Leader

People Equation – Jennifer Miller

The humanity of leadership is a key theme in Karin’s book. She says that one of the reasons she wrote the book is to help people understand that leadership isn’t about achieving an unobtainable level of perfection In the end, my very-human leader did me a huge favor.

It’s tough living up to a superhuman standard. Had I not seen that even the best–of–the–best sometimes do things that cause upset, I may have not been willing to step up to lead when the time came. Read more at People-Equation.com.

Important Note For Subscribers

I am working on enhancing my website and will be doing a migration this weekend. I will not be posting on Friday. We’ll be back new and improved next week.

Already read Overcoming An Imperfect Boss? Tell us what you think by leaving a review on Amazon.

How To PERSUADE Your Boss

He’s smart, quick on his feet, and he’s got power. All attempts to persuade him have failed. You could just give in. After all you’ve tried and he’s the boss. If he wants it that way, fine. But, deep in your heart you know you’re right. You care. It matters. Others are counting on you.  Click here for a FREE PERSUADE PDF to use with your team. PERSUADE-Model (1)

How to PERSUADE Your Boss

Of course, every boss is different. Understand and play to their style. I’ve had lots of bosses over the years, and am constantly being persuaded by those I lead. Here’s 8 time-tested approaches to consider.

P – Private
Whatever you do don’t confront him in front of your peers, his peers, your team. You get the picture. Take it offline.

E – Emotion
Let your passion inspire your argument, but don’t emote. Stay calm. Appeal to his heart and mind, but don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. It might help to tell a story, but think it through first. Overly emotional appeals will weaken your argument.

R – Research
Do your homework. Prepare for questions. Do the math. Do more math. Do the math his way. Poke holes. If he doesn’t like math, collect stories. Do more math, just in case.

S – Share
Share your concern frankly. Speak your truth. Share why you are concerned for the business. Have several supporting points.

U – Understand
Listen CAREFULLY. He’s got broader perspective and more context. Learn as much as you can. Hear him out completely and suspend judgement. Listen some more.

A – Acknowledge
Appreciate his point of view. He’s likely not a jerk. He’s got pressures too. Understand them. Learn all you can. Consider, deeply.

D- Data
If you’re still convinced, bring on the data. Build graphs. Show correlations. Draw pictures. Find stories. Benchmark with the best.

E- Engage
Engage your supporting team. For me, this usually means the finance gal. She’s fantastic. Yours can be too. In my last gig it was the finance guy. These folks are more reasonable than you think. Convince others to care about your point of view. Get a light murmur of whispers headed to support your cause in their own words.

The PERSUADE model is just one of the many tools and techniques I share in my online program: Results that Last– 7 Roles Every Manager Must Master. Please contact me at karin.hurt@letsgrowleaders.com for a demo.

How to Give Your Boss Bad News (the D.A.R.N. way)

Darn-it. You screwed up. Or, perhaps you trusted your team and now you have empowerment run amok. You don’t want to blame, but you’re mad too. Your boss will be ticked. And worse, she might have to tell her boss. It’s time to come clean. How do you tell your boss the bad news?

Bad News the D.A.R.N. Way

The good news: handle this well and you’ll increase your leadership credibility. The bad news: you’ve still got bad news.

My phone rang the other day, with bad news. I was so impressed with the leadership recovery, I couldn’t be mad. His approach reduced my $%&@&+@ response to “darn”. In fact, I quickly jotted down his steps for you.

D- Disclosure (explain the situation and root cause)
“I’ve had a bad day. We have a bit of a situation I need to fill you in.” _______ happened and now we have _______. When I dug in deeper I learned it was caused by __________ (behavior or situation not person).”

A- Accountability (don’t be a blamer).
“I accept full responsibility. I should have been closer to this. Here’s how I can prevent that next time_______”

R- Response (share your solution)
“Here’s what I’ve already done _______ (it’s important to have something to say here).

N- Next Steps (share your plan and what you need)
Here’s what I’m going to do next______ I could use your help with _______ (if needed)”

Managing Up When You're Down: The Power of POISE

When the going gets tough, managing up gets tougher.  Scared stifles truth.  Needs stay unsaid.  Unfounded worries mushroom in the dark.  Unquestioned assumptions breed false conclusions.

Your boss can’t know what you’re thinking.  Don’t assume–anything.  Unsaid needs can never be met.  “My boss won’t understand,” is likely wrong.

Never Easy

I learned the hard way.

I couldn’t sleep.  As an HR Director, I had coached plenty of others on how to  “manage up.”  Now my turn– I locked my courage in the desk drawer.

Until finally,

I ate my own managing up advice for breakfast.  I spoke my truth.  Not eloquently.  In fact, awkwardly.  I was mad.   But he understood.  I heard his story. Then, I understood. We built an excellent plan around shared values.  Now he is my friend  (and a career-long sponsor).

I’ve never regretted telling my boss the truth.

Managing Up with P.O.I.S.E.

A few lessons learned from both sides of such conversations

Don’t…

  • Wait until emotion bottles up
  • Dump everything at once
  • Talk in generalities
  • Bring other people into it
  • Exaggerate
  • Contradict yourself

Instead handle the conversation with P.O.I.S.E.

Prepare:  Make an appointment.  Plan your key points. Write down your intention.  Start small to test waters and build trust.

Open Gently:  Ask sincere questions.  Get in your boss’ head.  Listen with an open heart.

Initiate:  Ask for what you need.  Start small, but don’t water down.  Be specific.

Summarize:  Share what you’ve heard. Be sure you’ve got it right.

Establish Next steps.  Great conversation is iterative.  Don’t try to solve everything in one round.

Managing Up When You’re Down: The Power of POISE

When the going gets tough, managing up gets tougher.  Scared stifles truth.  Needs stay unsaid.  Unfounded worries mushroom in the dark.  Unquestioned assumptions breed false conclusions.

Your boss can’t know what you’re thinking.  Don’t assume–anything.  Unsaid needs can never be met.  “My boss won’t understand,” is likely wrong.

Never Easy

I learned the hard way.

I couldn’t sleep.  As an HR Director, I had coached plenty of others on how to  “manage up.”  Now my turn– I locked my courage in the desk drawer.

Until finally,

I ate my own managing up advice for breakfast.  I spoke my truth.  Not eloquently.  In fact, awkwardly.  I was mad.   But he understood.  I heard his story. Then, I understood. We built an excellent plan around shared values.  Now he is my friend  (and a career-long sponsor).

I’ve never regretted telling my boss the truth.

Managing Up with P.O.I.S.E.

A few lessons learned from both sides of such conversations

Don’t…

  • Wait until emotion bottles up
  • Dump everything at once
  • Talk in generalities
  • Bring other people into it
  • Exaggerate
  • Contradict yourself

Instead handle the conversation with P.O.I.S.E.

Prepare:  Make an appointment.  Plan your key points. Write down your intention.  Start small to test waters and build trust.

Open Gently:  Ask sincere questions.  Get in your boss’ head.  Listen with an open heart.

Initiate:  Ask for what you need.  Start small, but don’t water down.  Be specific.

Summarize:  Share what you’ve heard. Be sure you’ve got it right.

Establish Next steps.  Great conversation is iterative.  Don’t try to solve everything in one round.