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Everybody has an opinion about what makes a good leader, but you know one when you see one. You also know an incompetent boss when you see one. If you've just started a new job, or you're working with a newly promoted boss, what should you do if it's clear you know more than he does? Don't resign just yet. There are plenty of ways to make the relationship work for both of you.
Be an asset
Instead of approaching your boss as an obstacle to be dealt with, look at the relationship with an open, positive mindset. What might seem like shortcomings in your boss may actually be opportunities to complement his management style. Ken Rupert, strategic life coach, offers these three tips:
"First, always understand you might know more in a given area or discipline, but you do not know everything. Therefore, learning how to manage the relationship between you and your new boss will ultimately dictate the level of your success. Knowledge gets you in the door, [but] relationships get you to the next floor.
"Second, learning how to coach up can position you as a thought leader. If you develop the ability to coach your boss in areas where you are more knowledgeable, you will be seen as a team asset and not a team liability. Instead of telling the boss what he should or should not do, phrase your statement in the form of a suggestion. This way, you preserve the positional authority and plant the seeds of success in the boss's mind. There may not be a lot of glory in this, but you will have the ability to influence team success.
"Third, learn to give a little grace. No one has the same level of experience as you do concerning you. Your boss will not know what you know. Therefore, giving him or her a little grace to step on your toes will go a long way. It also allows you to make a few mistakes along the way without repercussions. Remember, this is a new relationship. First impressions are filtered through each person's own filters. Learn to look past first impressions, and give each other the room to grow. In the end, managing relationships, coaching up and giving grace will strengthen your new boss's commitment to you."
Embrace the dynamic
Beyond learning how to work alongside your less-knowledgeable boss, understand that the dynamic may have been created on purpose.
"There's a great saying that goes, 'If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room,' says Nikolas Allen, marketing expert for BAM! Small Biz Consulting. "Good leaders know this. Just because a person is the boss does not mean they have to be the smartest person in the room. They can hire people who will add value, expertise and experience to the team. In fact, a great boss -- one with plenty of confidence and people skills -- is able to surround herself with people who are smarter, or more experienced, without fearing mutiny from the troops.
"Besides, in business, there are many responsibilities that each position is accountable for. These things simply come with the territory in the hierarchy of the business world. Leaders need to manage people, projects and time, as well as delegate, communicate, facilitate and plenty of other stuff that most employees don't have to -- and may not want to -- concern themselves with."
By changing your perspective of and interactions with your boss, you can create a successful dynamic that plays to both of your strengths and benefits the company, making the relationship a win-win.
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