I had the pleasure of hearing Betsy Myers speak today on leadership at the local Women In Development breakfast. She had so many incredible things to say about being a leader. If you have the chance to hear her speak, then I encourage you to do so. She was honest and inspiring.
One of the tips she mentioned is that leadership is about bringing out the best in the people you work with, regardless of whether or not you are their manager. In other words, how can you encourage and support your team to get the most out of your relationship? Often we need others in order to be successful ourselves. Betsy went on to say that you do not need to like your boss, or colleagues, in order to be successful and happy at your job. Organizations and businesses are made up of humans, which means you will constantly be interacting with less than perfect individuals, who are different from you. Coworkers and bosses can be annoying and you always have the choice to leave, but sometimes what we really need is an attitude adjustment. Having a clear vision of success can help put difficult people into perspective.
In my previous job, I worked for a man who I did not respect. I struggled to get what I needed to be successful and ultimately chose to leave the organization. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit my previous team. The new employees are thriving and have figured out how to get what they need from my former boss. They do not necessarily like him, BUT they understand him and have figured out how to use that knowledge to get what they need, which is making the entire team successful. They have found a win-win situation, which I was not able to figure out. Flash forward to my current position. I have had some struggles with my current boss, which has made me feel unhappy at work. Thinking about Betsy’s definition of leadership, I am learning to view my current boss differently. He is an anxious individual, who has a need to complain, which drives me bananas. He often likes to call me into his office, or park himself at my desk, to talk and complain, which often takes up large amounts of time and eats into my ability to be productive, which makes me unhappy. I have tried exerting better boundaries, which only makes him more anxious and does not seem to win me any goodwill (I need him to like me and be an advocate if I ever want to advance at my current organization). So how can I influence this situation and bring out the best in him? How can I regain some of my happiness at work?
One of the things I am learning is that helping him to manage me is a way for me to reduce some of his anxiety. At our monthly check-in meetings, I am bringing a progress report to show him where I am at toward my performance goals. I also ask him to share any tips or insight that might help me be more successful, which seems to help him feel valued and needed and the advice is helpful to me as I continue to grow my skills. I am also finding a better balance between giving him time to bitch verses communicating my boundaries around time management. I am learning that listening to him is just something he needs to reduce some of his anxiety (one of those unspoken duties that is part of this job). I do not need to attach any value to that quirk of his, nor do I need to agree with him. I will not be able to change him, but if I want to be successful in my current role, I need his advocacy and support. Being successful makes me feel happy at my job.
Additionally, I think some of my unhappiness at work is because I do not have a clear vision of success. Some questions to ask when establishing a vision for success are:
- What does success look like in your current job function? Do you have the appropriate understanding of what it takes to succeed at your job?
- What does success look like at your organization? Who are the top performers and what traits do they possess?
- What does your manager think are important qualities to be successful in your current role, and does he/she think you possess those qualities?
When I try to answer the above questions, what becomes very transparent is that a critical factor in my success as a fundraiser is my relationship with my manager. We have two different views on success. If I want to be successful, I need to align more with his views of success. I need him to like me and value me, even if I do not always agree with all of his views. With a clear vision of success, I can look at my relationship as more of a means to achieve my goals, which helps me to detach and remove any emotional value to my relationship. In other words, my boss does not need to be my mentor, friend, or even a person I aspire to be in order to help me reach my goals or be someone I value professionally.
There may come a point when I realize that this organization or my relationship with my colleagues just is not making me happy no matter what perspective I take, at which point, I will need to seek other employment. Until that point is reached, I can control my perspective. I can create a professional vision that inspires me and becomes a guide. With that vision, I can see how my coworkers and manager help me to achieve those goals. Ultimately, bringing out the best in others will make my work environment a more positive place to perform. Finding the good in others is another way to turn annoying coworkers into co-conspirators for success.