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2 min readSometimes You Have To Lead Up

by Guy Gage | February 23, 2020 | Business, Leadership, Personal Management

Immature Boss

Last week’s message was about adapting adult ways of interaction with your peers and colleagues instead of reverting to juvenile behavior. You can read it here. But what if your interaction isn’t with a colleague but with an immature supervisor? Sometimes, you have to lead up.

Remember: whenever people are under pressure, they don’t have the mental and emotional capacity to be their best self. They get caught in survival mode, just trying to keep up, which means that they take whatever shortcuts are available. So rather than expend the energy to effectively interact with others, they revert back to what they know—juvenile ways they learned from their middle school days. So when your supervisor shortcuts how they respond to you, it’s not about you.

It’s Not Easy

Here are a few approaches you can take in situations like this. But be warned: they exact a lot more courage from you because you are assuming the adult role with someone who supervises you. Because it’s unknown how things will work out or how the other will respond, it feels riskier than it actually is. That’s where your courage comes in to play.

There are two principles that you must remember when leading up. First, your reactions are your responsibility, regardless of what goes on around you. No one but you controls your responses, so you own them. Second, the goal is to solve the problem WHILE preserving the relationship. This is the balance that emotional intelligence seeks to accomplish.

Three Approaches

  1. Realize they are under a lot of stress and, when they present behavior that is unbecoming of them, see if you can be a solution. Shift the conversation to their tone or demeanor. “The way you said that, it sounds like you are under a lot of pressure. Is there something I can do to help?”
  2. When the person expresses intensity that is affecting your ability to hear their message, acknowledge it. “This seems to be an intense time for you. Could we continue this at a better time?”
  3. Assume and focus on their best intent instead of their adolescent behavior. You could say, “I know you are trying to motivate/help me/make me better, and I appreciate it. Believe it or not, I want to do better, too. Explain again what I need to do differently/how I could have performed better.”

I have actually used each of these approaches in situations with bosses and with clients. It always changed the conversation to more positive interactions because they didn’t mean to or want to act like a 13-year old. These responses allowed them to redirect their behavior to more positive responses. I can also say that when these techniques were used on me, I appreciated the ability to collect myself and reengage in a more adult way.

These approaches are a demonstration of your maturity and are effective when you have to lead up.

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