When you meet with a boss to solicit performance feedback, always inquire how you can help them achieve their own goals. This is essentially the same strategy that HR experts recommend when doing a job interview – not focusing on yourself but keeping the conversation about the needs of the person you hope will hire you.
To do this well, you have to be an expert listener. You may hear emotions, for instance, like fear, insecurity, or frustration. Maybe your boss is afraid of missing a deadline or promotion or is insecure about the organizational structure after a merger. She may be frustrated by her inability to lead your team, or by her own lack of executive presence. Figure out ways to help her get stronger in those areas. Perhaps you can compensate for her lack of skills because you have those skills to share, or you can recommend an executive coach to mentor her to the next level. Oftentimes you can volunteer to shoulder greater responsibility in order to free-up an overworked boss, which enables them to be more productive and ensures that that as they rise up the ladder so will you.
Try to psych-out the reasons why that difficult boss, for example, behaves the way he does. What problem is he hoping to avoid by being a control freak, or what inadequacy makes him so ill-equipped to clearly communicate to the team he attempts to lead? Learning to read between the lines – and to interpret non-verbal signals and body talk – is the key to mastering this valuable career acceleration skill. Once you sort out the hidden triggers behind that difficult boss you can begin to focus on his unspoken need for help.
As the old-school sales trainer Zig Ziglar used to say as one of his trademark slogans, “You can have everything you want if you help enough people get what they want.”
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Sarah Hathorn is a leadership development mentor, executive presence coach, image and branding consultant, public speaker & author. She is the founding CEO of her own successful company, Illustra Consulting, and the creator of the proprietary Predictable Promotion System™.
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Copyright © 2012, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS