How Can I Coach “Up”?

March 19th, 2010

If you need to give feedback to a manager above you, you must proceed cautiously. Ask yourself, “Is it true, is it necessary and is it time.”

Timing is critical because your comments may not be heard if the timing is wrong.

First, notice the occasions when you and your boss have a rapport that is easy, open and almost fun. See if there is a pattern. If this kind of exchange happens several times a month, choose one of those times to raise your issue.

Second,   only raise one issue per conversation.

If the time is right, affirm to your boss how glad you are that you have these positive exchanges. Then ask if you can give him/her some feedback.

If there is an open door and the time is right, raise your issue and then “zip it.” Wait for it to sink in.

When your boss acknowledges your comment, acknowledge that you are glad you had an opportunity to discuss this issue. Then close the conversation with, “Thanks for giving me the opportunity.” And then leave.

Discuss only one difficult issue at a time.

Then observe if he/she has taken your feedback to heart and changed the behavior you had a problem with. If you see results, wait for the next easy rapport to begin again. If you see no results, wait for the next easy rapport and ask if you can give him/her some feedback. Ask, “Last time we talked seriously, I mentioned that I am uneasy when you…….” I have been wondering what you have been thinking about that. ” Then “zip it” again, and wait.

If you don’t get through after a few attempts, drop it.

Sometimes you can coach a boss and sometimes you can’t. Wisdom is knowing whether or not you can.

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