Who is Driving the Bus in Your Relationship with Your Boss?

I came across a wonderful post last week by Linda Hill and Kent Lineback on Harvard Business Review Blogs.   If you’d like to read the original blog click here.  The topic is not only of interest to many of us, but it also seemed to echo the NLP philosophy of being at cause.  In other words taking the bull by the horns and control of your own life (a.k.a. who’s driving the bus?) or being at effect and blaming your lack of success on the world, your boss and, when convenient, the neighbours cat!

So what was the topic?  Well it was all about your relationship with your boss.  Are you looking for a better boss? Do you dream of a boss who’s a real ally and supporter of your work? One that stands up for you; that gives you, or helps you, obtain valuable information or resources; and that believes in your ongoing development.  If your boss doesn’t fit that picture and isn’t Mr or Mrs Perfect do you just give up and say there’s nothing you can do?  But think again — your relationship with your boss is much more within your own control, and in your own hands, than you think. 

Linda and Kent lay out 8 questions to ask yourself, with a few thoughts from me – honest answers only please:

1. Do you assume that it’s your boss who sets the tone in your relationship? Really?  Are you absolutely sure?  Is there really nothing you can do?   I’d be willing to bet you have much more influence than you think to shape your working relationship.

2. Are you meeting expectations?  If you’re not performing, can you expect a great relationship? Are you making your boss or yourself look good?  Plan and achieve your targets or re-negotiate them.  Make sure you’re both on the same page in terms of expectations – it never hurts to check.  And don’t forget expectations don’t just mean targets – share key information, include your boss in relevant key decisions, and give personal support and loyalty.

3. Do you see your boss as your coach or your judge?  In fact, every boss is both, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking he’s only a judge. Reach out to him and avoid always being on your guard.  Test him out in small, low-risk ways, to see when he plays the coach most and how much support he’ll provide.

4. Does your boss trust you?  Do you inspire your boss to have confidence in you?  Do you extend trust to him? Trust is the key foundation of every great relationship and of every great place to work.  If you’re not sure how to build or inspire trust then read this earlier post Put Yourself Out There and Trust.

5. Do the two of you see the current situation in the same way?
Even if you don’t see it the exact same way, do you understand each others point of view?  Do you agree about where you’re going and how to get there? Does your boss understand the challenges you face and do you understand the problems your boss faces?  Communicate, communicate, communicate.

6. Are you able to see your boss as a person, not just an authority figure?  You boss is not his or her title.  Your boss is a person with his or her own dreams, frustrations and challenges.  Can you imagine the world from his perspective?   Could you use that to understand him better?  Try Thinking Through Another Persons Eyes.

7. Can you identify your boss’s weaknesses AND strengths?
We’re so great at spotting weakness in others and harping on about them, but can you see your bossed strengths too?  Have you thought about how to make the most of his strengths and work around his weaknesses? We’re all human after all.  Does judging him give you a better chance of success?  I think not.

8. Are you unknowingly bringing your own emotional baggage into this relationship?  Are you painting your boss with the same brush as other managers from your past?  Is that fair?  Make sure your attitudes and beliefs about your boss are shaped by your own experience of him personally.

So let’s be blunt.  There are some awful bosses with whom you will have more challenges when it comes to shaping the way you work together.  However, most bosses are just people like you, with likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Taking equal responsibility for your relationship with your boss will give you a fighting chance of developing and maintaining a mutually supportive, and even mutually rewarding, successful relationship.

(Picture credit – the wonderful

© Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


One response to “Who is Driving the Bus in Your Relationship with Your Boss?

  1. Pingback: Me and My Boss | NLP THIRTEEN

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