A reader, Sara, recently wrote, “I have a boss who is a ‘fear manager’. He has been told to read your book. If this manager stays true to form, he’ll manipulate the material of the book to show how he is the organization’s savior among incompetents. I have my doubts he is capable of recognizing himself as an ‘elephant in the office’. Quite a conundrum, huh?”
First, congratulations to Sara: By seeking ways to effectively influence her boss, she elevates her leadership. Instead of complaining, Sara is seeking solutions.
The task in front of Sara isn’t easy. There are no “magic-leadership-wands”. But there are steps Sara can take to “lead upwards”:
Elephants are Behaviors, not People
It is vital that Sara doesn’t see her boss as the elephant; it is his behavior that is destructive. This paradigm shift in viewpoint creates new possibilities because it is easier to change behaviors than people.
If Sara’s boss, upon reading Stomp the Elephant in the Office perceives he’s being fixed, he’ll become defensive. The “fix-that-person” approach always backfires. Conversely, when the boss knows Sara is fighting for him, trust begins to build.
Focus is a key! Many people have harmful conversations behind their boss’s back. But bosses are human; their intuition informs them of these conversations. Sara can dramatically affect her culture by focusing on – and providing feedback – in those areas where the supervisor is delivering constructive behaviors. This isn’t about “being positive”. Because the boss, like everyone else, goes toward his focus, this is about moving behaviors forward.
Developing a Relationship of Trust
As a relationship of trust develops with her boss, Sara can enter into conversations where she can address behaviors collectively. “It’s important that we function with greater integrity…” and, “Where can we all improve in this area?”
Dad was right when he said, “You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.” We applaud Sara and others who demonstrate the courage to proactively “lead upwards”.
Where will you lead – where will you stomp elephants – today?