Approaching the UnapproachableMay 16, 2022
You’re stressed, you’ve had a lot of work piled on you and you find yourself working late at the office each night trying to finish up some paperwork and get a report done.
One night, a co-worker from another department comes by your desk and strikes up a conversation about why you’re there. After the first few pleasantries, you start to spew how you’re really feeling, “I’m just so discouraged,” you say. “None of us know how to function under my boss’s leadership - if you can call it that. It seems like (s)he only sticks his/her head out from behind the curtain to hand down a list of demands or to pull the rug out from under us!”
Your co-worker responds with a simple question that makes you stop and think, “What’s the most difficult or important issue you have to deal with right now?”
You respond, “Right now, I have to get this report done.”
“I don’t think so,” they interrupt. “That sounds like your most urgent problem. What I asked was, ‘What’s the most difficult or important issue you have to deal with right now?’”
You think for a moment. “Well, if you put it that way, right now I want to have an honest conversation with Mr(s). Boss about the way things are around here, but I’ve been warned that I shouldn’t even try.”
“Well, why would Mr(s). Boss want to talk to you?” they reply. You go on to say you and your team have some valid points that would boost the overall performance of the team. Your coworker then says something that really clicks, “Well, that sounds like something (s)he’d want to hear. How do you speak his/her language then? What is his/her language – words that (s)he will understand and relate to?”
Immediately you think, “If I want to change the world, I have to change my thinking.” You then start to make a list of things you know about your boss, how (s)he operates, what (s)he appreciates, what (s)he doesn’t, etc.
As a result, you are able to then look at what makes an otherwise unapproachable person approachable. You find a way to share your ideas in a way that meets your boss where (s)he is at. You speak their language using words, phrases and an approach that is important to him/her.
S/he listen. You have a good discussion. Your ideas are accepted. You are seen as a strong contributor and held in high regard.
If you find yourself in a position where you’ve felt the inability to approach your boss about any number of topics, try this same technique and see what kind of success you can have when you try to relate and speak their “language.” Ask yourself:
- What is important to my boss?
- What words or phrases describe his/her priorities?
- What style or behaviors irritate my boss?
- Considering my answers, how can I speak my supervisor’s language to ensure my ideas are heard?
Give it a try and let us know how your boss responds.
After all, what have you got to lose?
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