Mel Savage Executive Coaching
Managing Relationships

Effectively Leverage Your Boss For Your Success

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Your boss is a tool… let me rephrase that… your boss is a tool for your success. They are not the keepers of it. Here are four strategies to effectively leverage your boss for your own success.

My first boss told me I’d never make it in advertising. He essentially said I wasn’t smart enough or dedicated enough.

At the moment he said that I had a choice. I could believe him. Or I could believe in myself. I chose the latter.

Many years later I saw him at an event when I was a Group Director at the biggest ad agency in the country (more senior than he was when he gave me that ‘feedback’).

I said hello and we chatted for a bit about what we were doing.  I reminded him of his comment to me way back when.

Of course, he didn’t remember saying that at all.

Then he said, “Well clearly my comment inspired you to make a success of yourself.”

My first thought was “That smug pr*ck is trying to take credit!”.

And my second thought was he’s not totally wrong. I mean, I don’t believe for a second he was trying to motivate me by telling me I’d never make it.

But I was motivated. Not by what he said, but because I decided to think “You’re wrong buddy… I can do this.”

I could have easily believed him and been devastated and quit advertising completely.

My motivation didn’t come from what he said. It came from what I made his comments mean to me.

That’s where the real power is. It’s not in what your boss says or does or knows how to do. It’s in what you make all of that mean to you.

What are you making your boss’ words, actions, experience, leadership style (etc), mean to you?

Sometimes you make it mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

In your mind, your boss has more power than anyone else over your success … more power than even yourself.

But what if that’s just a thought error?

What if your boss is just another person you’re accountable to? What if they’re simply another person you need to lead?

As a senior leader, it’s time to realize that your boss is not meant to be THE influence over your success. Your boss is simply another tool you can leverage to get what you want from your career.

And your job is to leverage whatever that tool can offer you and discard the rest.

With that in mind, here are four strategies to effectively leverage your boss for your own success.

1: THEY’RE JUST SOMEONE ELSE YOU LEAD.

Your boss doesn’t have to be the authority over your success. They’re just another member of your team who needs your leadership.

Think of yourself at the center of this team. And all around you are the groups of people you lead.

You lead your reports. They need your leadership to help them grow into critical thinkers that deliver results.

You lead your peers. They need your leadership to collaboratively create bigger and better results.

You lead your clients. Suppliers. Indirect senior leaders. They all need different kinds of leadership from you.

And then there’s your boss. Rather than thinking of your boss as someone you answer to, and who has control over you, think of them as another member of your team who needs your leadership. In this case, you’re managing to give them what they need.

What is it your boss needs from you? Find out what it is and either give it to them or get some shared expectations of what you’ll deliver.

2: LEVERAGE WHAT’S THERE

Ok, we’ve discussed giving your boss what they need. Now, what about what you need?

There are things that you want your boss to be and teach you. The odds are, your boss won’t be all those things. Spend minimal energy being disappointed by that.

Wishing your boss is something they’re not is only painful to you. And not a great use of your time.

Instead, I recommend assessing what skills your boss does have that you can leverage. Ask yourself what you can learn from this boss that will get you closer to your overall goal.

It may not be what you prioritized learning, but growth is growth. Leaders learn to leverage what is there vs. lament over what isn’t.

3: TAKE YOUR SUCCESS OUT OF THEIR HANDS

Your success is in your hands. Not your boss’.

Think of yourself as a conductor in an orchestra. You’re playing the song of your success (mine is “Me Too” by Meghan Trainor). And you’re using all the instruments available to you to create the sound you want.

Your boss is an instrument of your success, not the conductor of the orchestra.

 

Your job is to create the orchestra inside (and outside) your organization. What other influential stakeholders in your company are invested in your success? How are you nurturing and leveraging those relationships for growth?

There were many times in my career I learned more from Clients or indirect stakeholders than I learned from a boss. As a leader, it was my accountability to go out and get the growth I needed from wherever I could find it (not just wait for my boss to give it to me.)

4: CREATE A NARRATIVE THAT ALIGNS WITH WHAT YOU WANT

Describe 3 things about your boss. It can be anything; approach, acumen, style, personality. Whatever you like. I encourage you to either scribble them down right now or say them quietly to yourself.

Whatever you’ve written down are thoughts you’re choosing to think about your boss. They aren’t facts. It’s just your narrative. The story you tell yourself about your boss.

The reason I know this is if I asked 10 people about your boss, they’d all have a slightly different narrative.

So now, let me ask you this… does your narrative support or distract from your success?

I’m not saying you need to love everything about your boss, but when you focus your narrative on the things you don’t like, you create a lot of negativity that impacts your ability to be your best more often.

So instead, why not create your narrative around the things you can leverage, and avoid giving a lot of airtime to the rest? You’re not doing it for them. You’re doing it for you!

(My only caveat to this is if you have an abusive boss or are being gaslit by your boss, then your strategy needs to be protecting your brand and minimizing damage while you look to exit the situation.)

The Bottom Line... You’re in charge of how you leverage your boss for success. Your boss has nothing to do with it.

Your boss is an instrument to leverage, not the keeper of your success. All the power of your success lies with you and how you decide to think about the tools available to you.

HI, I'M MEL

I have 20+ years working as a leader in the corporate world. I know what you need to do. And I combine that with four years of training as a cognitive behavioral coach. I know how to help you naturally think like the leader you want to be.

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