Yesterday, I was reading a linked-in article by Liz Ryan, the CEO and Founder of Human Workplace, entitled “When Your Boss is Afraid of You.” Liz was recounting a conversation she had with a young woman after speaking about personal branding at a marketing conference. The young professional lamented that she was troubled by the difficult working relationship that had developed between her and her manager, “Frank.” “Frank,” who had once served as this young woman’s mentor was becoming more and more critical of the woman’s work. The young woman however, was gaining a reputation company-wide (upward of the senior management and CEO) as being incredibly reliable and dependable and also, for promoting creativity while driving positive business return. As the conversation progressed, Liz was able to quickly diagnose the issue: “There’s your problem right there. You’ve got a go-go new CEO who loves social media. Your VP hires a young, seemingly harmless social media coordinator – that’s you — and you grow outside your little box too quickly. He’s freaking out. Your boss is afraid of you!”
One of the most difficult challenges we face as young professionals in the workplace is how we can have frank (no pun intended) conversations with our managers without undermining ourselves. Fear in the workplace is nothing new, but one must take action if a business relationship begins to threaten productivity or admonishes advancements as setbacks.
I find that the best leaders are the ones who celebrate the WINs of others over their own. Now, I’m not instructing anyone to undermine their own successes in order drive others toward success, but this goes back to one of the reasons why I became a consultant in the first place: “enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm.” By celebrating the little wins, it makes others feel more comfortable with any and all feedback and fuels a feeling of positivity even when doling out constructive criticism.
We have all heard of the qualities that make a good leader (manger, mentor)… but what about the directives that one can take in order to be a better learner (mentee, protege)? It’s important that one can drive tough conversations and create boundaries with their managers. Here are a few tips I have for those who may need help in refocusing their relationship with a supervisor:
1. Don’t forget to say thank you. Just as it’s important for a manger to celebrate the little wins, it’s also imperative that the protege express gratitude for valuable time spent on learning.
2. Designate a specific (and periodic) time to talk. Send out a meeting invitation and have your manager confirm that this time works for them.
3. Designate an agenda. Allow time to discuss the following: a) Ask for feedback on things you are doing well. b) Ask for feedback on areas of improvement. c) Discuss career goals and advancement opportunities. etc.
4. Take time. Writing everything down. Don’t respond immediately, but follow up. If there is a specific action item that could be improved, research action plans that might aid you in this directive and re-visit how you have addressed this concern in the next meeting.
5. Keep all conversations focused on YOU. Unless another team member’s performance is affecting your own work, don’t dwell on bench-marking yourself against others.
6. Query feedback from others. If you are working on a project or deliverable outside of your regular team ask each manager to provide feedback (both positive and negative) regarding your performance. This allows you to gain a better understanding of whether your manager’s impression of you aligns with others.
RSWUL4 (Respectfully submitted with undying love for),
Some of the best mentors a girl could ever ask for: AJ, MS, & PA