Five Ways to Reach Your Boss

Posted on February 3, 2010


Higher Intent, photo from

Now, you may be thinking as you read the title, how on Earth is our relationship with our bosses relevant to leadership lessons? After all, we’re all interested in managing our team and business but not our superiors. Well, the reason is simple. The way our boss manages us would affect how we function, and how we ultimately manage our team too. For instance, let’s say our boss does not have much trust in our leadership or management skills and resultantly restricts our freedom in making decisions. He would not hear of any structural reforms or recommendations you propose but impose his will onto you and your team. Clearly, this would significantly impede your leadership of your team, don’t you agree?

This example highlights the importance of establishing and maintaining a harmonious and professional relationship with your boss. While leading a team ourselves, it would always pay to remember that we are also accountable to our superiors, and it would certainly not make the job easier for ourselves or our bosses if we do not see eye to eye, regardless of whether he may seem to be ‘myopic’, ‘a control freak’, ‘stubborn’, or ‘ignorant’.

Here are five guidelines that would help you gain rapport and trust with your boss:

  1. Take 100% Responsibility for the relationship. Your boss may choose not to reach out to you. Your boss may be taking actions that constantly jeopardise your working relationship. He may or may not benefit from such a relationship, but what is certain is that you would surely be at the loosing end. It is critical to get on your bosses calendar frequently and share the issues you face as well as be clear of his expectations.
  2. Keep your boss informed. While a typical boss would dread bad news and the chance of the messenger being shot is high, delivering bad news early beats informing when it is too late, or worse still, if the news reaches his ear from elsewhere. Keeping in mind the higher intent of your boss, it is easy to see that he would more likely pardon a problem that can be salvaged.
  3. Solutions too, not just problems. It would be extremely beneficial for your boss if in addition to the problems you take to him, you propose a plan on how to solve it. This would show that you are able to add value rather than bring nothing but problems.
  4. Clarify expectations early. Make sure that you are always on the same page as your boss, just as you ensure that your subordinates are clear of your expectations of them. This way, unnecessary disappointment may be avoided.
  5. Know your boss’ style. Being aware of your boss’ habits and patterns such as not liking to be disturbed during lunch or tendency to drag meetings, will allow you to avoid stepping on his toes and even capitalise on his patterns to engage him.

Ultimately, it boils down to healthy and effective communication between a leader and his subordinate manager. Just as we would like to effectively communicate with our team, our bosses would also work towards healthy communication with his subordinates. However, it is worthy to note that each leader has his styles and idiosyncrasies, and the common saying ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ may not be appropriate here. Instead, we may want to follow the model of ‘do unto others as they would have others do unto them’ and communicate in a way that suits your boss.