I never thought about putting myself in the boss’s shoes in regards to how their dynamic with work changes now that they are a boss. I have had a few bosses, and I have been a boss, but the words never came on what they (and I) actually feared now that they have direct reports. I did have the fear of being responsible for everyone, though. They were my baby chickens and I was their momma hen (I did not come up with this). I was to look out for them and make sure that they had the right amount of work, no clients or reps were mean to them, and that their stress levels were not too high. However, I have not been a boss for more than five people and we were a really tightknit group (most of us, at least). Thinking now about how my boss oversees almost twenty people with a few layers of hierarchy, I can now understand the other two fears that a boss might have: the fear of lack of control and the fear of not knowing how to do everything (and so delegation is mandatory).
Since they have a fear of lack of control, I like the skills taught in Mark Murphy’s Leadership IQ class on how to give them a sense of control by asking them questions that provide options for how and when they want to hear bad news and when offering solutions. It gives them a chance to prepare to receive the information and it gives them the option to consider what they heard before you throw ideas for solutions at them.
It is good to remember that because your boss has been a boss for some time they may not have the best recollection of certain software or applications that used to be second nature to them. Alternatively, they now manage people with skillsets that they never even had! This influences the fear of lack of control but also the fear of an uncompleted project and that there is nothing they can truly do to help.
Knowing this now will greatly help me in my skill of “managing up.” I also need to use the skills taught in that class to figure out if my new boss is an Intuitive, Functional, Analytical, or Personal person, and can use that to help guide her through project updates and any problems that may arise. When I look back at my old bosses, I have a hard time discerning which ones they were (one was Intuitive and another was Functional, but I’m not sure about a couple of the others). It would have been a good idea to ask them upfront, “How would you like to receive this information?”
I know that I am definitely an Analytical person as a boss. I don’t want just the high-level information of what happened (like Intuitive bosses do). I don’t feel like I need to know all of the steps that will get us from A to B (like Functional bosses do). In addition, I don’t personally care about how everyone feels about what happened (like Personal bosses do). (Side note: I can see how this actually benefits a person to know about how everyone feels for political reasons and sensitivities… knowing that goes a long way to mitigating problems; so while I don’t personally care, it is still a good idea to ask questions about that). However, I do want to know why or how something happened, in terms of the data that drove us to get to the stated conclusion.
So if you have a boss, take note of how long they’ve been there and how many people and projects they manage. Help them by easing their fears when you go to them with problems (and always have solutions in your back pocket), and know how best they want to receive information. This is called “managing up,” and will help you in any organization you’re a part of.