Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How to Impress a Boss who has the Demeanor of Ari from ‘Entourage’

You know the type: Pushy, assertive, here’s-a-project-why-wasn’t-it-done-five-minutes-ago-before-I-gave-it-to-you? The I-forgot-my-blood-pressure-medication-today-so-I’ll-squeeze-the-last-remaining-squeak-out-of-this-innocent-smiley-face-stress-ball-until-it-looks-like gravity-has-flattened-it-into-a-piece-of-yellow-Play-Doh-with-only-one-dot-for-an-eye.

Yeah, you know them.

You might sit next to one. Or talk to one. Or e-mail one. Maybe they even hired you with your peaceful, vegan, angelic “I love baby lambs and bunnies and rainbows and sunshine” demeanor. 

They’re in every industry, private companies, public workplaces, and guess what? They’re not going to change. And if they’re your boss, you better figure out a way to prove you’re above a fledging employee and rock the workload you’ve been given. You make the choice to show up every day and it’s best you bring your best.

(Because if you don’t – guess who’s going to call you out on it?)

Now, real quick and to clarify, I'm not advising on situations where you need to consult HR. I'm talking about the boss whose style is assertive, swift and blunt. The type of boss that can revive an idea in 30 seconds, produce it in 40 seconds and then present it in 60 seconds to senior management. 

So how do you make your best good enough for someone who has expectations the size of Yao Ming and you’re only 5’4” maybe with heels?

You make up the height with a damn nice pair of shoes and some strategic management skills. Yes, management skills. Because guess what? You need to manage them just as must as they manage you. 

Here’s my advice:

  1. Find out what they value: If they value being on time, don’t be late. If they value organization, buy a planner and some Post-it notes. If they value intelligence, be smart. If they value innovation, spend extra time brainstorming. It’s easy, really: Know what they want and deliver it.
  2. Get to the point: They don’t want to know the details. They just want to make sure you know the details so if they ask you for the details you can tell them the details. But don’t tell them the details if they don’t ask you for the details. It takes too long to read run-on sentences about the strategy behind a project. You can do bullet points, or numbers, or short sentence about the details. But the point is get to the point.
  3. Get to the point.
  4. Do the best you can: Seriously, I know this sounds like Girl Scouts. “On my honor I will try to be the best..blah blah.” You’re only human. Do everything you can to be your best. (Sorry, I know what you’re thinking: don’t bring up the Girl Scouts, I can’t even eat the cookies anymore and the darn Carmel Delights were my favorite! I apologize…)
  5. Seniority does matter so be respectful: They got to the top for a reason. They must have talents or ideas that no one else has. Or maybe they have the ability to inspire or see things other people in the organization don’t. If you don’t think they deserve their position, then your organization has bigger problems. Treat them the way you would like to be treated.
  6. Know when (and how) to stick up for yourself: Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and bear it, and sometimes you need to stand up straight and stick up for yourself. Silence speaks louder than words until words just need to be spoken. So speak up in a respectful, well-thought-out way. If you do this right, your boss may appreciate it more than you think.

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