Most managers realize that coaching is a significant part of their role in the organization.
Once they are promoted into a position of leadership, most conscientious managers spend a great deal of time and effort learning to effectively coach their direct reports; they understand that their success is now dependent upon the work of others, rather than on performing the work themselves.
While the need to coach employees effectively is well understood, fewer managers recognize the importance of knowing how to successfully coach their bosses—but it really is a crucial skill.
There’s no one who can enable your success more.
Leaders of leaders can provide their direct reports with critical information, access to a powerful network in the organization, and resources to support the results you desire.
Having a healthy relationship with your boss is vital to your success.
By the same token, the best leaders understand the importance of maintaining healthy relationships with the managers who report to them.
They also recognize that they are human beings who will need some coaching from their subordinates from time to time, and that keeping the lines of communication open will help them understand the best way to help less-experienced leaders, their teams, and the organization.
To ensure that these conversations are as productive as possible, it’s best for managers to avoid assuming that their bosses will know how to communicate with them or what information or resources they need.
Instead, the better approach is to be proactive and take responsibility for opening a regular dialogue with your boss.
Having frequent, candid conversations will help better define the relationship, the ways you work together, and the methods you will use to reach your goals for the business by working in a collaborative way.
To begin, talk about your preferred methods of communication, ways of working, decision-making style, and any hot-buttons issues that may exist.
Understanding up front what the two of you want from your working relationship and how best to accomplish that will enable greater productivity and collaboration down the line.
If you haven’t already established and discussed your respective expectations, there is no better time to do so than in your initial one-on-one.
For example, we’ve seen many successful managers be blindsided by an angry boss who wanted to approve a decision or expected a phone call.
Even well-planned actions can backfire if you don’t understand your boss’ expectations, or if your boss doesn’t understand yours.
There are some senior leaders who do an exceptional job of communicating their expectations, disclosing their preferred working style, and explaining limits of authority to their direct reports.
However, we have found that people often make assumptions or wait until there is a misunderstanding or problem to gain clarity about the underpinnings of the boss-subordinate relationship.
Managing your career and the accomplishment of your departmental goals requires you to spend some time proactively managing the relationship you have with your boss.
The key to effectively coaching upwards is to deliver the message in a way that allows both parties to remain open and able to respond in a constructive, positive way.
Before approaching your leader directly, you may want to practice the conversation you want to have in your mind or with someone you trust.
Plan out how you will begin the conversation and identify the key points you want to make and the desired outcome of the conversation.
Focus your discussion on areas where you have opportunities to improve the organization. You should be prepared to propose a plan, new idea, or solution to a business issue.
Remain open to alternatives and ask your leader for his or her ideas and input. Remember that you may not be able to see the whole picture, and be open to the broader perspective and additional insights that your boss can provide.
Engaging in this kind of dialogue allows both of you to have some ownership over your plans for moving ahead. You can jointly identify potential obstacles and the support you will need to overcome them.
Throughout the conversation, show your willingness to collaborate with your leader and express your commitment to the organization and to working together to achieve greater success in the future.
For more information and tips on coaching, visit our coaching services webpage at /products-services/coaching/.