Building a relationship with a good boss can help you make major progress in your career.
But a bad boss?
Well…not so much.
The reality is, you may be focusing all your time and energy on a boss that is never going to help you get ahead.
Maybe they’re utterly lost in the weeds and dragging YOU in there with them.
Or maybe they’re sucking up all your time with endless meetings and check-ins.
Regardless of the scenario, the result is usually the same:
You work your butt off, but never get the recognition you deserve.
I’ve dedicated this episode of Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer to showing YOU how to identify if you’re focusing all your time and attention on the wrong person AND what to do instead.
What You'll Learn:
- What focusing on the wrong person looks like in action
- What to do when you realize you’re focusing on the wrong person
- Two ways to handle a bad boss by thinking like a strategic senior executive leader
- Why being in reaction mode stops you from thinking proactively
- Why you need to set boundaries with your boss today (and exactly how to do it)
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Career. I'm your host, Stacy Mayer. And before I get into today's episode, I really just want to say thank you. Thank you for being a loyal listener to my podcast and if you're not already, make sure that you subscribe or leave us a review. I so appreciate all of the reviews that I receive. And I appreciate your loyalty and your gratitude and all of the notes of thanks that I receive about this podcast on a weekly basis. Thank you for that. I also want to thank you for striving for more at your organization. And this doesn't just go without saying, I think that we need leaders like you. We need stronger leaders at the top. And by stronger, I mean more empathetic, more diverse, more aware of the situations that are happening at the organization. We need leaders that are willing to step up to the plate to take ownership of their career and to continue to ask for more. And when you start to show up in that way, you will see that the organization will benefit from your leadership. The more powerful you become as an executive leader the better the impact that you're able to make at your organization. So I thank you for that as well. We need you at the top. Your organization needs you at the top. And I'm so grateful that you come to my podcast to learn exactly how you can get there.
In today's episode, I am going to talk about how it's possible that you are focusing on the wrong person at work. You're putting your attention in the wrong areas. And by areas, I mean the wrong person. So in today's episode, I'm going to tell you a little bit more about what that means so that you can identify if you're somebody that's focusing on the wrong problem and what you can do instead. I'll be breaking that down for you.
The first thing I want you to realize is that if you're not getting the recognition that you deserve, if you're not happy every single day at work, if you don't feel like you really have a voice at the table, if you don't feel like your work matters, or if you don't feel like you're getting paid for your ideas versus the hours that you put in your subject matter expertise, then it's important to note that it's within your control to do something different. And that's what this podcast is all about, is to show you what to do differently. With today's episode, the big thing that I'm going to be focusing on is "who". Who you should be communicating with and advocating for yourself, that's different than the person that you're doing that with now, the person that you're focusing on.
In my programs and with my clients, I often talk about 'solve for the right problem.' So here's the example, and this is what has inspired today's episode, is the fact that you probably feel like you're beating a square peg into a round hole. It's probably because you are. If you just feel like you're coming up against a wall, you're always feeling frustrated, you can't get through to this person then you're focusing on the wrong problem.
Whenever something comes up three times in a week, I'm like, I need to do a podcast episode on this because there are more than just three people who are experiencing this problem.
I just started another round of Executive Ahead Of Time. This is my six-week group coaching intensive, where I take established corporate leaders to that next level of leadership. I set them up for their next promotion. I give them the tools to begin thinking and communicating like a senior executive leader so that they can have control over their career path. So that they can take deliberate action to manage their career and their life, which leads to more recognition, which leads to a voice at the table.
I meet these amazing corporate women for the first time and they come into my program and they're like, okay, Stacey, I want to talk to you about this. I have this boss that is really frustrating.
I'll give you a very specific example. One woman said that her boss is always in the weeds. Her boss is a subject matter expert. He is really, really far down into the weeds, has to know the details. Is always asking her questions about what's going on and he has to know every single detail. He also has a boss that he's reporting up to. So he feels like he has to give all of the details to his boss as well. And the cool thing about my student is that she is a much more naturally gifted strategic thinker. When she sees her boss always in reaction mode all the time and not able to think strategically, it frustrates her. She feels extremely frustrated. There are two things that are frustrating her. One is the fact that her boss is above her. Her boss has a higher title and technically more influence at the organization, yet he doesn't seem to "get it." And the second thing is, she is forced to constantly be in the weeds with her boss. She feels like she's constantly having to respond to his questions and respond with all of the details. The first thing that I gave her permission to do is to stop.
She wants to build trust with her boss. And I believe she's probably focusing on the wrong person, but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. She's asking me a question in our group coaching session asking about how she can show her boss that she is a strategic thinker. How can she get him out of the weeds so that she can be seen more? She's focusing on one person. One person who is already so far deep into the weeds that he can't even see for himself what's possible. So you see where the problem is. She's focusing all our energy on him.
She's trying to show him that she's a good employee, essentially by answering all of his questions, by following his patterns and reacting to him, and making sure that she gets him all those details. And when I gave her permission to stop, I said, what if you stopped responding with all of the details? Now, you can do this with complete kindness. You don't have to be, "I'm not going to give that to you." Let's say he's really caught up in the "I need to know this and I know this." And you're letting him talk for about five minutes, letting him go on and on. Then you're going to respond with just a quick question, "why are we doing this project, to begin with? Can I just ask you that before I give you all the details?" You can still say I'm going to give you all the details. But what you're doing is you're taking the conversation in a little bit of a different direction. You're saying before I give you all of the details, let's talk about why we're doing this project. Let's go into a little bit more thought. Whatever questions that you ask yourself strategically, start to ask them of your boss, and just see how that feels. Her first reaction, she said it won't matter. She believes it won't matter. He's just so far into it.
I said to just try it. To just do me a favor, you joined this program, trust me, just try it. What I'm encouraging her to do is to literally start being the strategic thinker. To start focusing on her own strategic thought leadership so that she can guide him a little bit.
Here's the second piece of the puzzle and also part of the problem. Let's say she's at director level right now and her boss is actually a senior director, and she wants to become a senior director in the near future. She wants her boss's position as the senior, but he doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Quite frankly, he should be listening to my podcast because part of the reason that he's not going anywhere is that he's so far into the weeds and in reaction mode that he can't scale to his next level, which would be vice president. That's part of the challenge. But I'm not going to knock him. I don't know him. Her next role is to become a senior director. Well, technically, that's a competing role with her boss. So unless he moves, she's not going to become a senior director. That really limits her possibility.
What you want to do when you realize that you're focusing on the wrong person in terms of building trust, is to always get along with your boss. You want to be liked. Our bosses can be major blockers on our careers and if you have a bad boss, it creates a problem. We always want to get along with our boss. Now I have a second option for her. So the first option was how can she bring some of her strategic thought leadership just into the conversation? And by doing this it's going to help her feel better. It's going to help her figure out why they're even doing these projects, it's going to help her learn to communicate like a senior executive leader in these one-on-ones with her boss. She might notice some resistance from her boss because her boss just wants to know the details. And at some point, if you think about it, is her boss is not the person who's going to get her promoted. Her boss just needs to like her to not block her promotion. Then you realize that the best thing you could do with your actual boss is to get along with this person. To be liked.
There is a difference between her showing up to every single one-on-one conversation with her boss and giving him all the details. Here's the other kicker to these conversations. They are scheduled for 30 minutes and they always go two hours long. This is ridiculous. You believe that you have to attend for two hours because your boss is a bit of a mess. If your boss is scheduling the two-hour conversations, that person is the person who has the problems, not you. Now, let's go back to what your actual problem is. It's that you can't set boundaries. And boundaries can be extremely loving. They can be extremely kind. They don't have to piss the person off.
The first thing that I want her to do is not to not even think about step number one, not even do the strategic conversations because she just really feels like all he wants to know is the details. She is going to provide the details in a very purposeful, non-reactive, controlled way. You can begin thinking and communicating like a senior executive leader in two different ways. You can do it by speaking more strategically, by understanding your own strategic leadership and how you're conveying that both managing up and managing down. And you can also do that by choosing at certain times to be the subject matter expert. By doing that very purposefully in a controlled way.
Neither one of those options are reaction mode, and the reaction mode is making you feel very exhausted, very stuck, and very underappreciated. Honestly, because you're always in reaction mode, you're not able to think proactively.
So here's her second option. She needs to set boundaries on her time in her one-on-ones with her boss. And this is what it looks like. Her boss schedules them for thirty minutes. They always go two hours long. What she told me she was doing was blocking two hours in her calendar because it was so darn stressful to miss the next meeting. And actually, by the end of the two hours, she was the one calling the shots. She was stressed by stating she has to go because she was missing a meeting. But this is extremely reactionary. It's not a fun place to be. Senior executive leaders have to be on top of things. They have to anticipate obstacles. So this is a way of anticipating the obstacle.
What you're going to do? You can't go to the extreme and demand it be thirty minutes. But you want to go from two hours to thirty minutes and hold him accountable for thirty minutes. It's kind of tough to do that. So just do an hour. Scheduled the meeting for thirty minutes and block an hour off in your calendar. You can schedule a meeting right after it or not, that's up to you. I don't really care. But you are going to end the conversation at the end of the hour and this is how we're going to do it.
At the very beginning of the meeting, you are going to say to your boss that you have a hard stop at one o'clock. You are giving a warning. Again, looking at the clock right at one o'clock and saying I got a hard stop, I got to go, is not being in control of your time. It's not setting appropriate boundaries. Yo you have to speak upfront. You're going to tell him upfront that you have a hard stop. Ten minutes before the stop you're going to give just a quick reminder, by saying "It looks like we have ten minutes left. I have a hard stop at one o'clock. Should we reschedule?" You can offer options, but you are starting to manage your time. This is huge because what will happen is he will start to realize that his behavior is not actually helpful, or he'll start to focus on what's actually important in that one hour. And the other thing I want you to know is we're training him to only take up an hour of your time. You are literally going to have to do this every time you meet with him. That may feel annoying but do it anyway. You have a hard stop every single conversation that you have with him. You can pull back after a while if you feel like it's working and he really is shifting his behavior and he starts to notice. But don't plan on that, because if you plan on that and then he doesn't do it, you're going to feel very frustrated.
So you have a hard stop. He's not mad at you. You're not breaking the trust. He still likes you. You're a great leader. He loves having you on his team. And if our goal is just to maintain camaraderie so that he doesn't block you for future promotion, you are on the right track. And at the very least it's neutral as a result. He still feels the same way about you. Now, here's the next thing, it's also possible he might start respecting you more.
And think about it, you've had that leader kind of step up in a non-aggressive, non-abrasive way and show leadership. And you've probably started to respect them. You might think they are totally off track or don't have a clue what's going on but you might also think they're amazing and awesome. Either way, you're respecting their leadership. You're respecting their initiative, you're respecting their boundaries. So at the end of the day, at most, it will be a neutral reaction from your boss. And the other thing is, just give him what he wants in the simplest way possible. As I said, step one is she could go full-on strategic and start talking to him as a strategic thought leader. But,if she doesn't want to do that, step two is to set boundaries on your time. And just like answer his questions. When he asks a question, answer it. Don't elaborate on it. Don't go on and on. Don't go into more details. Don't go into it further and further and further into the weeds yourself. Literally, just answer his questions. If you start to do that, you're going to start to feel better. You're going to feel better because you're not going to go off on these reactionary tangents. He's a different person than you. You don't have to be on his emotional train. You can be in your own lane and still maintain respect with your boss.
Now, this entire episode was about how you are focusing on the wrong person. And then I sat here and focused for the entire episode on the wrong person, and why is that? It is because we need to take the wrong person off the plate.
So if 70% of your day is worrying about your boss and your boss is not the person who is actually going to help you get promoted, that is not a good use of your time, effort, and energy if you want to get promoted into a senior executive leadership position. Or maybe it's not even to get promoted. Maybe it's to have a bigger voice at the table. To start having higher-level strategic conversations with the executive team and stop focusing so much attention on one person. And so what I have done in today's episode, and I hope that it makes sense to you, is we've basically neutralized her boss. If she creates this plan now energetically in her mind, she's not spending so much energy and thought on understanding him or focused and how annoying he is and her really wanting him to like her. No matter what it is, she's spending less energy on him.
So we do the work upfront to neutralize the people who are taking up all of our time and our energy in order to focus on the right person. But who is the right person? And for this student, I'm not even sure yet. But we'll figure it out. It could be her boss's boss. It could be her CEO. It could be another female leader in a different department that could be a real sponsor and advocate for her. We don't know exactly who that person is yet. But the first thing that she needed to identify is that she was putting her energy in the wrong place so that we can pull her out of it and she could start focusing more strategically. So that she can get herself into that higher-level executive position. So that she can find herself a voice at the table. So that she can build those relationships with the executive team, those people who actually have influence at her organization. Those people who can actually sponsor her and get her promoted into that higher-level leadership position. That is what we're going to start focusing on, but first things first, she has to neutralize the person who is taking up all of her attention.
And again, I'll just recap we're going to do it in two ways. We're going to start becoming that Executive Ahead Of Time. One way we're doing it is by literally bringing more strategy into the conversation. And if that doesn't feel useful or something that you really want to tackle, then what we're doing is two parts. We're managing our time, and we're going to answer the person's questions, give them what they want, and then go back to work. We're not going to spend so much time and energy on that person. We're going to do our job and do it well. But then we're going to go back and get to work. We're not going to be spending it in this conversation and letting this person take up two hours of our time so that then we can spin out about it and be frustrated all week long because now we're behind. This is what I mean by deliberately managing your career and your life. You are starting to take control and take ownership of your career.
And at the senior executive level, once you do get there because if you keep listening to my podcast, you will. You will find yourself in an executive-level position, especially if you join my programs. You will start to see that you begin attracting opportunities. This is why I get messages all week long that say, oh, my God, Stacy, you won't believe - and yes, I do believe.
It almost starts to feel like magic. Everything starts working out for you. This is the shift that starts to happen. But why does it happen? It happens because we're focusing our attention on the right people.
And then, as I said, once you get into that senior executive-leadership position, you have control because you know how to by deliberately managing your career in your life, you know how to deliberately manage at a higher level up at a higher executive leadership position.
That is what CFOs, COOs, CHROs do. They lead. They manage at a higher executive level. They take ownership, they make deliberate decisions. And this is what you can start doing today. Thank you so much for listening and have a wonderful week. Bye.
About Your Host
Hi! I'm Stacy Mayer, a Certified Executive Coach and Promotion Strategist on a mission to bring more diversity to the leadership table by getting 1000 underrepresented corporate managers promoted into senior executive positions each year worldwide.
I help undervalued executives scale to the C-Suite using repositioning strategies that build your confidence and visibility, so you can earn the recognition and support you need from key stakeholders while embodying your unique leadership style.
My podcast “Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer” tackles topics like executive communication, getting more respect in the workplace from challenging bosses and team members, and avoiding the common mistakes that sabotage career advancement.