I am often asked, can I coach my boss?
The simple answer is yes you can and the coaching principles are exactly the same. You do however need to be subtle, making sure you don’t usurp their authority and doing everything you can to work in a relationship of trust. The relationship you have with your boss is very important on both a professional and a personal level. It can have a significant influence on your day-to-day job satisfaction as well as your long-term career success. The relationship is also important to your boss who is counting on you, and your colleagues, to satisfy customers, meet deadlines and achieve objectives. But keeping this relationship healthy and productive is not about ‘managing’ your boss: it’s about understanding them, and yourself, and then choosing to behave in a way that gets the best results for you, your boss and your organisation.
Only by understanding your mutual needs, styles, expectations, strengths and weaknesses can you develop a relationship that works for both of you. In any relationship what you say and do influences the other person. You can’t change your boss but you can control your own behaviour. It’s important, therefore, to understand what you do that either helps or hinders the relationship. Here are some actions you can take to make the relationship work.
Take responsibility for your own career and personal development. Ask for feedback and coaching throughout the year – don’t just wait for performance reviews. Have a view on your own performance – what are you doing well; what do you need to improve on and be willing to discuss these things.
Take responsibility for coaching sessions. Not all bosses are good at holding coaching conversations so help by being as positive as you can be, even if you don’t like some of the criticism you may receive. Find out what your boss’s expectations are and share your own. Tell your boss what development and support you need. Don’t assume they’ll automatically know.
Use your boss’s time well. Your boss’s time is limited so make good use of it, don’t waste it. Find out if your boss is a lark (good first thing in the morning) or an owl (better later in the day) and choose your moment to raise issues and suggest coaching exchanges.
Use coaching to identify your boss’s preferred working style
How do they like to receive information – face-to- face, in writing, by email?
How much do they like to be involved in decisions?
How organised are they – can they cope with a little chaos?
How comfortable are they with risk taking?
How ‘hands-on’ or ‘hands-off’ are they – can you use your own initiative?
Recognise and appreciate your boss’s strengths. Compliment your boss when they do something you like; that way they’ll learn the actions and attitudes that work for you. Remember, bosses are human and make mistakes too. If your boss is reasonable when you make a mistake then you should be prepared to be the same for them.