The Stressed Manager
My boss is a good guy but at times he can be so frenetic I don’t even want to be around him. When he gets that way, he changes his mind three or four times a day. He half-apologizes for all the changes, but not really. He expects me to remember every tiny detail he has ever mentioned to me.
On the whole he is a good manager when he isn’t feeling pressure and freaking out. When he’s relatively calm which is about 80% of the time, he is a good mentor and collaborator. I want to manage my relationship with my manager instead of just weathering it.
Right now I live in fear of the next incident of my manager going into fight-or-flight mode and making my life hell. I want to get some control over those episodes if I can.
The relationship is the key; you can manage your relationship, but you're not actually going to manage your manager.
You and your manager jointly manage the relationship you share. We all manage relationships with other people. We have to do that, because we interact with a lot of different people and those relationships need attention — and intention — to thrive.
We manage our relationships by paying attention to the needs, concerns, sensitivities and preferences of the people we interact with frequently.
If you want to learn from difficult experiences you've had, you have to see your part in whatever caused you pain. If you don't see your part, you will not be able to change anything when the same circumstances show up again.
Your boss becomes erratic under stress. In that state he’s nearly impossible to please. He’s short-tempered and changes his mind constantly. Most people in this situation try to work around their boss, whose personality changes dramatically when he is under stress. They do their best to give the boss what they want, and just hope the freak-out period doesn’t last too long. The problem is that when employees keep their mouths shut about their boss’s irrational behaviour, their manager’s behaviour gets reinforced.
Part of the reason your boss feels comfortable running back to your desk three or four times during a crisis to spit out orders is that you allow him to. You don’t say “Perhaps we need to check our progress to make sure we are on track.” It’s your right and obligation to gently let your manager know when they’re off the rails. You’ve got a manager who habitually spins out of control and it doesn’t sound like anybody tackles him on it.
What do confident people do? They help other people out. If you come from trust, respect and support for your boss, he will accept your feedback. He might not be happy to hear it. That’s okay. We all have lessons to learn.
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