We’ve all heard the saying “People quit their boss, not their jobs” and we have all had, at one point or another in our careers, bosses who made us feel like quitting our jobs or situations where the boss’ specific behavior impacted us in a negative way! But there is still hope even for bad bosses! Just as individual employees or teams can be coached, bosses can benefit from coaching as well. No one gets better at their job without productive feedback, but coaching your boss requires good timing and approach, great diplomacy with specific behavior and results as an outcome.
- Let’s start with good timing and approach. Some bosses are more flexible in how they are approached; others prefer a more formal process of interacting with their employees. So consider whether you set-up a calendar meeting with them or you simply invite them to a morning coffee together. Also, consider when the boss’ schedule allows enough time to have an open discussion without being rushed or preoccupied with business deadlines, urgent customer demands, etc. Whether formally or informally, ask for permission to have a discussion with them.
- Diplomacy. No matter how open your relationship is with your boss, don’t open the conversation by telling them you plan to coach them on how to be a better boss! Being tactful and respectful is key to allowing your boss to be open-minded and receptive to your feedback. Also, try to point out the personal benefits they would have in terms of leadership skills, a more motivated team, or even career development and image. You could point out what they stand to gain if they improve their leadership skills, instead of complaining about the difficulty of leadership – how much easier it would make their life.
- Clarify specific behavior and or outcomes expected. Be very specific about what you think the boss should do differently. For example, if they interrupt their team members during meetings cite a specific, recent example and point out the impact on team morale and productivity. Being specific paves the way for behaviour change.
The process of coaching your boss helps him or her do a better job. It has the benefit of improving not only the leader’s behaviour, but overall the productivity and morale of their employees. It is important however to be aware that you can have no expectation of change. Good leaders, however, are receptive to feedback and are open to suggestions from employees who are acting out of integrity to serve the company as well as their boss.
Call to action:
Are you reporting to someone (directly or indirectly) who could benefit from being coached on their behaviour? Set up a specific time and date, ask for permission to speak frankly, prepare specific examples and emphasise the specific benefits for the boss and their team members if they do improve their behavior.
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