Many people believe that approaching their manager in a way that would make them receptive to what they have to say is very difficult—even impossible. But with the right language and strategy in place, anybody can do it.
(Here you can find the first article in the Coach Up Series: Part 1)
Many managers continue to fall victim of a very prevalent coaching myth. That is, they think they are coaching their people but they are really not. Many times, (well, most of the time) managers aren’t even aware of this or the things they are doing that compromises the relationship and trust they have with their direct reports (a blind spot for them.) Here’s an example that supports this. It’s an email that I received from a manager looking for some advice on dealing with this very issue.
Dear Mr. Rosen,
I am currently reading your book “Coaching Salespeople Into Sales Champions” cover to cover for the 2nd time in the past few months. I am a Regional Field Sales Manager for a National Company. A few months ago, our boss read your book and became very enthralled by it. Now, we have begun “Coaching” our Sales Reps. The biggest problem I am facing now is that my boss has decided that he will coach us, the management team, beginning with me. I am having issues that I need to overcome or work on my resume, which is not in my plan. Incidentally, all of the Nine Barriers to Effective Coaching that you list in your book are there, starting with:
1. He is a total “A Type” of Personality. Everything is his way and his ways are always correct.
2. There is a lack of trust. He has shown before that what you say can and will be held against you.
3. I am not comfortable sharing my personal life and goals with him because he is judgmental.
4. His coaching training is no different from mine. That is, we haven’t been formally trained on how to coach and have only been exposed to your book at this point.
Your suggestions and/or comments will be greatly appreciated.
Here’s where you have an opportunity to be proactive and do some coaching. First, you need to enroll your manager in being open to hearing some ideas in the first place regarding how you would like to be managed, along with some concerns you may have around being coached to ensure that the rules of the game are established up front.
Of course, there may be some situations, like the one this manager shared in their email that create even more reluctance around wanting to approach your boss in the first place. You may feel that your manager may not care enough to be open to this type of discussion. Maybe there’s an existing trust issue, especially if your manager has already compromised your trust or confidentiality. Or, maybe you believe, and you may even have the evidence to support the fact that your manager’s degree of self awareness or their ability to look in the mirror and do some personal assessment and diagnostic reflection is simply nonexistent.
The Art of Creating Possibility
No matter what the current situation is with your boss, where does that leave you today? At a place of choice. Keep in mind my definition of coaching: . Sure, you can continue to be an evidence collector to support your position but I don’t think that’s going to change your current relationship with your boss. Conversely, you can take a stand for yourself and for your boss and do something different that in turn, would create a new possibility.
So, what exactly would it sound like when coaching up around this very situation? In the upcoming posts, I’ll be providing several examples of what you can say to your boss in order to foster an open dialogue that would create the possibility of reinventing your relationship with your boss, as well as establishing clear expectations and boundaries around your coaching.
Of course, I would suggest slightly modifying this so that the manner in which you communicate this message fits best for you, without changing the essence of the message. I realize that some people may believe this to be a difficult conversation to have. However, keep this in mind. It’s only difficult because we don’t have the words or an approach we have faith in that would create a better possibility. Or, we make the assumption that this would never, ever work on my manager. As a result, we shy away from what we perceive to be a difficult conversation or one that would create friction and confrontation and never attempt to create a better opportunity for ourselves.
The result? You continue to tolerate a toxic situation or find yourself looking for a new career opportunity elsewhere. All because you weren’t willing to take a stand for yourself, what you know is best and right for you and instead, you cross your fingers and hope it’s better elsewhere or you hope that, miraculously, the situation will resolve itself on its own over time.
Shifting from Confrontation to Conversation
Think about what confrontation truly is. Confrontation is what happens when you have both eyes focused solely on your own agenda rather than first embracing, respecting and understanding the other person’s point of view to create a new possibility that you didn’t see before.
This is why it is so critical to reinforce the importance of the language and message you use to approach and position a seemingly difficult situation that will result in creating a new and better outcome. It truly is the message that matters.
Photo Credit: David Blackwell