DEVELOPMENT

Tips for Working Under a Type-A Boss

11.24.14 Type-A

Story provided by Harvard Business Review – 

Many of us have worked under a Type A boss. These leaders, while driven, successful, creative, and full of passion, can also be tough to work with. As I previously wrote, Type As have a tendency to dominate, to be demanding, and to be distracted – and this can frustrate and demotivate subordinates. While bosses should work to curb these tendencies to be better managers, there are approaches you can employ to improve your relationship with your boss and ultimately make your job more enjoyable. Having worked with many Type A CEOs, I’ve narrowed down a few tips that can help employees improve their relationships with their bosses – and make their jobs more enjoyable.

Do your homework. Type As value efficiency. They’re always thinking one step ahead. It can be hard to keep up with him or her, but you should try to anticipate your boss’s questions, so you can organize your thoughts in advance. Ask about his or her expectations. If you know what the priorities are, you’ll be able to prepare appropriately and put less important tasks on the back-burner. It’s also important to ask for feedback from your boss to get a sense of what you can improve next time – and your boss will appreciate the effort.

Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you disagree about something or have other concerns, be direct. For example, one of my CEO clients has a right-hand lieutenant, a VP of Sales, who probably isn’t as rigorous, data-driven, and organized as he is. Yet, because he is not afraid to voice different opinions and knows how to make a solid argument based on research, the CEO has tremendous respect for him.

Build an outside-of-work relationship. Type As would love to relax and slow down, but it doesn’t come naturally. Carol Kaufman, Executive Director and Founder of the Institute of Coaching and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, offers this advice: “One job we all have with our bosses it to make them less anxious. The more you help calm them down, the less intense they may be.” One way to do this is to get to know your boss. Share some of your passions and goals, even those outside of work. Do you practice yoga? Have kids? Love a certain sports team? Sharing these things and looking for similarities can help you and your boss build trust. Plus, these personal conversations can provide necessary respite from work, and help your boss be more present and slow down. Bringing a little bit of humor can help too.

Realize that it’s not you. Type A bosses often won’t take time to ask how you are or whether you have the capacity to take on new assignments. Try to remember that they probably don’t mean to be dismissive—it’s just their wiring. Type As often feel alone, overwhelmed, and as if they have an enormous sense of responsibility. Having run CEO peer groups with more than 200 various CEOs over 15 years, I’ve noticed that their feedback to me is strikingly similar. CEOs – the classic type A bosses – join peer groups and networks like the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) because they recognize the “it’s lonely at the top” cliché. There is also a good chance that they are lacking sleep, family time, or have a heavy decision weighing on them. So if you’re feeling frustrated or unacknowledged, try pushing that aside and asking how your boss is doing.

Stay the course. Working with a Type-A boss can be discouraging. Nothing is perfect and there is always something missing. The key is to recognize that any negative feedback doesn’t mean “stop” or “bad;” it usually means “go and continue to refine.” Press for more specific information, and ask for advice. Am I on the right track? If I make these changes am I good to go? What do you like and what do you want me to change?

While often discouraging and frustrating, often times we learn the most by working with high performers. So, the next time you find yourself working with one try your best to prepare ahead of time, be bold, establish trust, and turn any frustrating comments into opportunities to improve.

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