Getting Inside Your Boss’s Mind— To See Yourself More Clearly

IMG_9598Now that you’ve taken the first big step and opened your Johari Window, you may want to consider what you’re up against when freeing the channels of communication between your boss and you. The mind-twisting exercise that Deborah Howard guided us through on November 20th during her Energy Action Plan presentation at Alston & Bird laid it all out for better than 50 attendees, getting our wheels turning, and challenging us to be honest about our bosses’ communicative shortcomings, and our own.

During the exercise, attendees broke into spontaneous groups, and were faced with questions regarding their outlook on their bosses that were worded simply, but proved awkward to answer. For instance, even without your boss present, how eager would you be in front of a group to candidly respond to questions like “what does your boss do that hinders your performance?” or “what recommendation could you give to your boss to improve your relationship?” I noticed immediately in my group that there was a reluctance to be the first to respond, so I decided to break the tension and throw one out there about my own boss (who did happen to be present in the room—shhhhh!).

The whole process was neutralized by contrary questions having us look at our own workplace weaknesses, and then taking it a step further (and here’s where the mind-twisting comes in), by putting ourselves into our bosses’ shoes, and then surveying our performance from their not-so-hypothetical perspective. Humbling? Yes, but more effectively, a no-nonsense technique for troubleshooting boss/employee communication breakdowns.

The proof that Deborah Howard’s exercise was valuable is in the responses. Despite attendees’ initial reservations about offering feedback, once the ice was broken the momentum began to build. But regardless of the pacing, the verdict is in, and precious information is about to become yours!

Bosses: It was made apparent that you need to give clearer instructions, offer more timely feedback, be more open to ideas other than your own, gain more expertise, delegate more, be on time, improve your follow-up, cease micromanaging, acknowledge your mistakes, and keep your bad energy to yourself. While these are many of the things that have been clogging the lines of communication between you and your staff, feel proud knowing that you are being applauded for exhibiting a clear vision, offering autonomy, paving the way for opportunity, providing challenge and inspiration, being supportive in conflict, showing appreciation, sharing knowledge, and supplying real-time feedback.

Employees: Before you pat yourself on the back, you should be informed that you are not meeting deadlines, are often late, delegate to others inefficiently, are inflexible about change, need to prioritize, are too detail-oriented, are stingy with status updates, aren’t open enough to feedback, need to speak up at meetings, and are being more reactive than proactive. But not all the news is bad news. You are admired for your proclivity for producing results, taking initiative, managing others’ effectiveness, being a team player, thinking outside the box, providing perspective, maintaining professional relationships, and resolving issues independently.IMG_9769

It’s uncomfortable to put ourselves in our bosses’ shoes, but when we give it a go, it can be a liberating and invigorating exercise, inspiring the solutions to countless workplace roadblocks. Keeping in mind that November 20th’s brainstorming results reflect only a particular sampling, which means they may not apply evenly across the spectrum of workplace situations, the intelligence behind them is nonetheless powerful, perhaps universal, in the business world, and the specifics provide a priceless platform for discussion by pinpointing many essential issues in one heaping roundup. The take-away is for you to choose, and the reward— smooth operation.


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