While you would hope that your boss is trying to connect with you, you should always be doing your best to connect with your boss. Today, Chris and Perry discuss how you can influence your boss through moving from managing to leading and developing a leadership mindset. 

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Perry Holley:    Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holly, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of the John Maxwell Company. Welcome, and thank you for joining. Just as a quick reminder, if you want to learn more about The 5 Levels of Leadership model and how that can actually impact the organization around culture and leadership development, even a common language, or if you just want the learner’s guide for today, you can go to johnmaxwellcompany.com/podcast, and you can find out more about that information or leave us your information and we’ll contact you about The 5 Levels of Leadership. Well, today’s topic is titled Leading Up: I Think My Boss is Avoiding Me. Uh oh. This cannot be good, if your boss is avoiding you. We’ve been talking about the 360 Degree Leader and the principles at John. We talked about leading up, leading down, and leading across. Today, we’re actually going to talk about leading up and influencing your boss. And hopefully after you listened to today’s lesson and episode, you won’t feel like, or your boss won’t actually be, avoiding you moving forward.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. This [inaudible 00:01:25] was a comment someone made to me on a coaching call. I think my boss is avoiding me. I said, what made you think that? And I thought about it later that we all… We teach a lot that as a boss, you should be definitely connecting and leading down with your team, and you should have this relationship with your team. But whether your boss is connecting with you or not, you still need to be connecting and developing your influence with your boss. So that’s where I was going with it.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, I love it. And there’s ways to do that. People are like, “Well, you can’t…” No, there are ways to do that, and we’re going to talk about that. So previously, we’ve talked about some ways to develop your influence with your leader. Again, lead yourself exceptionally well. That has to be a given for you. And then think about investing in relational chemistry when the opportunity is appropriate. But let’s talk about some other ways. What are some other ways you were thinking about that we can offer that influence your boss.

Perry Holley:    I would love your input on this one, it’s that John talks about when you connect with people on the team, you do more than manage, you need to lead. And the teaching there is that great leaders also need to be great managers, but not all great managers are great leaders. And that managers work with processes, leaders work with people, and you need to do both. Of course, we make sure that you needed to both to be successful. But if you want to gain influence with your boss, you probably need to move beyond managing the task that he or she is expecting you to manage and develop more of your leadership mindset. So my question to you is, what do you see in people who have moved past managing and to leading? When you’re looking down at your team, how do you notice that?

Chris Goede:     Yeah, first of all, they do their job really, really well, as you just mentioned, right? And I trust that, and I think that that is huge. But what I love about it, and this kind of goes into a principle or even a thought, which is that they are thinking maybe sometimes longer and bigger than I am. They do their job really, really well, but then they say, “Hey, have you ever thought about this?” Or, “What about that? I know this is what we’re working on today, but if we did this, we could get there.” And sometimes I leave meetings and go, okay, I mean, that’s… As leaders, we’re supposed to be thinking further out than our team. And I’m like, man, that’s some great thinking. I absolutely love that. So that’d be the first thing.

Second thing is, I love it when… I call this, kind of have to pull people back versus giddy up, right? We’re looking at some candidates for a position we’re hiring, and it came down to two different candidates. And one of the things I loved about one of the individuals is that they pushed the boundaries a little bit. We’d have to go, whoa, back up a little bit, slow down, versus saying, let’s go, let’s figure out what we got to do. And they’re challenging the system, they’re challenging the process, they’re always looking for ways to improve. That energizes me as a leader, and so those are the two things that I would kind of just mentioned that-

Perry Holley:    Let me ask you a question. When they… I get it, you want them to push the boundaries, but is there a fine line? I mean, when does it become a burden? Because I’ve heard leaders say, “I got this one guy on my team. He just… It’s never enough. He’s always pushing me, pushing me, pushing me.” So I get it. That’s good, help me expand my thinking. I think I would like that, but I’m also… I’m being pushed by my boss. I don’t need to be pushed by my team. Do I?

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Chris Goede:     Yeah. Yes you do. Yeah. I think in some areas you should welcome that from your team. And I think if it happens too often from certain individuals on your team, you just got to have a conversation and say, “I love that you do this. And I don’t want to put a lid on that, but I only needed in certain areas. And here are the certain areas that I want you to bring to me, that I need you to kind of think outside the box and push the boundaries in regards to what we’re talking about.”

Perry Holley:    That’s good. As the boss also, I wonder do you look for what they call intangibles that people may possess? And some of the ones that I had written down, that I really notice in people right away about their attitude and their motivation, what’s really driving them, any passion they have around the work, the morale that they exhibit and that they uphold with the team, timing, like you said, if bring it to me this, don’t bring me that. I also notice if people have good leadership intuition. That’s a hard one to really nail down, but do they have good instincts? Do they trust their instincts? Do they know timing types of things?

Chris Goede:     Yeah. And I think that becomes very apparent to leaders. And so again, I think this is conversations that you have. If people are bringing you things that their instincts are right on, acknowledge that and let them know. If it’s not, and they’re just saying, “Hey, this is kind of my gut, my instinct,” and they’re missing it, you got to have that conversation as well in order to control how many of those instincts they’re bringing to you. I think also, one of the things is that as a team member, to make sure… again, we’re back to is my boss avoided me, make sure that you embrace change, right, as part of the team. Leaders are change agents. They kind of actively look for things to change, to make better, to accept change. Whereas, I think managers kind of respond maybe in a little bit of a slower process, maybe a little bit of a negative reception of that change. And so just that’s another thing to be thinking about is how do you receive change if you’re on the other end of that? Or if you’re a leader looking at some of your team, how do they receive that change?

Perry Holley:    Yeah. You think about it a manager’s mindset with change, I’ve got to change the process, I’ve got all this that’s going to happen, the domino that you just pushed over is going to make all the… And a leader is looking for, how do we.. Status quo is dangerous. How do we move to the next thing and having that mindset?

Chris Goede:     Yeah. So real quick, in our organization, we work with a lot of ideas and a lot of opportunities. And it’s often said, make sure you’re not limiting that idea before we have led through the opportunities that that idea could be or could impact. And so what you like is you like for people to say “Yes, and we could do this and we could do that. And what about this?” And then, okay, now let’s kind of reign it in. This is what we’re going to do. Versus as soon as you throw something out as an idea that the managers will be like, “I know, but X, Y, and Z, we got to do this and we can’t do that,” and we’re like, we haven’t even dreamed about yet what this idea could be.

Perry Holley:    I think about something that can get in the way of your influence with your boss and leading up is, and it can also help you out a bit, is are you prepared every time you take your leader’s time? Now, this sounds simple, but I personally have been astonished by how few people intentionally prepare for a meeting with the boss. And if I was the boss, just kind of showing up and winging it and making me do the majority of the work in the meeting, even if you and your boss are friends and we tend to… we teach a lot about connecting and having a personal relationship with the people on your team. And even if you are friendly or have a great relationship, you should still show respect that you can be trusted with that relationship by how you act when you meet with them. And I was wondering how you see that, is it… Are you looking… I’m not looking for people to be all formal and Mr. Holley this and that, but to be respectful that even though we have a great relationship, when you’re in my office, when you schedule time, come prepared.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, I think that’s a huge way to show respect. Not only to come prepared, one of the things I would encourage you to do is to maybe briefly, on the front end, give an update on advice or something that your leader spoke in to, to help you with, from your last meeting. What did you do with what they talked to you about or the advice they gave you previously, just to show respect of the time that they spent with you previously, and just give them a quick update on that, and make sure that they’re aware of that. Make sure, prepare don’t come in, don’t wing it, but don’t have a lot of fluff or what you and I like to call our sweet spot, love of time, on the front end. Hey, go with bullet points. Here it is.

Let’s connect on the back end if the leader wants to, you can go with that, but make sure that you’re addressing and going right after it from the get go on what you want to accomplish that meeting, versus just talking casually through the process. You need to get to the point because every minute of their time is valuable, just like yours. So have you ever seen anybody that’s worked with you push too much on trying to make their points? So they bring some ideas to the meeting, they bring some bullet points, and then they just keep pushing? Or they push too much?

Perry Holley:    Yeah, similar to what you were saying a minute ago, is you want… I want somebody to challenge my thinking. You don’t want a bunch of yes people around you. So while I think I’m a fairly brilliant guy and I’ve tried to share that with you many times, there’s a lot more we could learn. So I do want people pushing, but there is, I think, that fine line again of, and it might be some coaching outside of the meeting is, once we’ve gotten the decision on the table, let’s stop the pushing. I need you to be in alignment, but I do want to hear that. So it’s kind of a case by case. I want to hear what people think, but I also know we have a job to do to get there. But when they… Especially, if they know something I don’t. I’m just thinking about when they know something I don’t know, time is of the essence and they’re trying to help me in the team win, I don’t really mind them being pushy. But if they’re promoting their personal agenda, I think that’s probably where that crosses over. They’re arguing a point I’ve already decided on, then being pushy is really-

Chris Goede:     Yeah. Or they’re, with the personal agenda they’re taking advantage of the relationship or the accessibility they have to you as their leader that maybe is something for themselves and not maybe for the betterment of the organization. There’s definitely a time to push and a time to back off, and I think knowing the difference is a huge technique in increasing your influence with him.

Perry Holley:    Well, I think it comes down to, and I’m going to get you to wrap it up here for us, but are you considered a go-to player for your boss? What would it take for you to be a go-to player? Are you willing to do things that others won’t do? Make yourself available to do the hard stuff? And I’ve seen this time and time again, people… I don’t know. I don’t know. I know in one organization it was the annual charitable contribution drive and somebody had to be the owner for the department. And I would have to always pick someone. And one year somebody came to me and said, “I’d like to lead that for you.” I almost fell off my chair. Nobody ever wants to. You have to go and help get information out and takes the time away from your job. But this person’s really wanted to serve and help me. I thought what a great… You think their influence with me went up or down in that moment? It was taking something off my plate, helping me. Be the go-to player. Do the hard things for that. So why don’t you wrap it up for us?

Chris Goede:     Yeah. So you’re talking about leading up, and I think if you want to make sure that they’re not avoiding you, make sure that you are adding value and taking things off of their plate, doing it in a way that’s not over the top, right, and being all crazy about it and too much about it. But as we wrap up and we think about this, the first thing I would tell you is make sure you do your job really well, right? Like at the end of the day, as a leader, you’re going to gravitate to those that are getting exceptionally well at getting their job done. And then the other thing is, is that when you do have time with your leaders, make sure you come prepared and make sure that you come in and know how they like to communicate.

We talk a lot on here about communicating. There are different communication pathways that every leader kind of naturally gravitates. Someone want to know exactly how to make a watch, and some of them just want to know the time. And understand what your leader likes. Even when you’re communicating to them via email, maybe it’s virtual right now, maybe it’s not even in-person, but just be… However they like to be communicated, be succinct about doing that or making sure that it fits that way. And then my biggest takeaway for you is if you have time, let the leader know what you did with the information that was shared. Just quickly, right? Like, “Hey man, thanks so much. This is what came of that meeting.” As soon as they can tie that together, that their time with you impacted you and the organization a certain way, in a positive way, maybe a negative way, then I think that that is something that leaders will then begin to look and seek out versus avoiding.

Perry Holley:    Absolutely. Thank you, Chris. And thank you all for being here. If you would like to know more information about The 5 Levels or 360 Leader, you can find that at johnmaxwellcompany.com/podcast. You can also leave us a comment or a question there. We love hearing from you. Grateful that you would spend this time with us each week, and that’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership podcast.

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