Getting on with the boss

Want a super relationship with your boss? Then learn how to manage them properly, says award-winning writer Adeline Iziren

Helen Sears has a great relationship with her boss Graham Lancaster. Key to its success is Helen’s ability to manage Graham. No, she doesn’t order him about, but rather than passively responding to his demands, she works in partnership with him, and that way mutually beneficial goals are achieved. Helen learnt how to manage after she found herself working ridiculously long hours as a PA for her previous boss. ‘He wasn’t organised and neither was I, so it was no surprise that he would give me work to do at 6pm,’ she recalls. ‘I should have been managing him, that way working life would have been easier for both of us.’

After Helen started managing her old boss they enjoyed a much better relationship. ‘Getting inside the bosses skin and being proactive made the job more interesting,’ says Helen.

Now Helen applies the same strategy with Graham, chairman of public relations company Biss Lancaster. So what’s the secret of managing the boss successfully? ‘Don’t be frightened to say no and explain why you are saying no,’ says Helen. ‘Be honest and open and come up with new ideas. The boss may have worked a certain way for years and it may no longer be working, have the confidence to encourage him to try working a different way.’

You can also manage your boss effectively by getting to know the company inside out. Not only will your knowledge be useful in dealing with clients, which will in turn make your boss very proud, it could also open doors for you. Helen’s knowledge of the company helped her to spot a niche for herself. After starting with the company as a PA, she realised she could use her French degree marketing the business to France. Now she is the company’s first International Marketing and New Business Coordinator.

Managing the boss isn’t just for PAs. Employees everywhere will find it makes working life infinitely more rewarding. Treat your boss as your most important customer and you’ll soon find out.

Perhaps the best way to start managing your boss is to build a relationship with them. Meet their needs by getting to know and understand them at a deep level. Find out what is important to them and what motivates them. This will enable you to help them achieve their goals. As you build the relationship make sure your boss is aware of your needs.

Do you want opportunities to grow and develop in the company? Do you want more flexible working? Then let them know that. The relationship will benefit enormously from informal get-togethers over lunch from time to time. This may seem daunting, but as recruitment consultant Diane Domeyer says: ‘Many employees may feel uncomfortable asking a boss to lunch, but executives would actually encourage an invitation from a member of staff.’

Let’s face it, not all bosses are ideal, and not all will respond to your wholehearted devotion. If yours is prone to take all the credit for your hard work, as Melanie Griffith’s character found in the 1980s hit film Working Girl, then adopt a different approach. ‘Keep records of any memos or conversations you have with your boss, so that you can prove, that those great ideas have been initiated by you,’ writes Sandi Mann in Manage Your Boss (Hodder & Stoughton).

Sandi also recommends you obtain some external piece of evidence, such as a dated proposal or letter from a customer, to back up your brilliance, otherwise it is easy for your boss to belittle your achievement.

Another option is simply to bypass your boss. ‘A memo to head office or to the executive of the board might be best if you’ve got something outstanding to report, but remember to mention your boss in a positive way to deflect the inevitable unfavourable response from him to your actions.’

Hopefully your boss is a reasonable one like Helen’s. ‘He’s always been very interested in people development and we get on really well,’ she confides. Helen is so encouraged by his support that recently she entered him in Pathfinders Media Boss of the Year Competition, which he won. Managing your boss is not just about making life easier for you – there’s something in it for both of you.

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