Match Your Boss’s
Q: I have difficulty
communicating with my manager. When I have a new idea, he throws
cold water on it by asking all kinds of specific questions that have
little bearing on the overall plan. Getting a decision from him
takes forever. We often lose critical opportunities because of his
failure to act quickly.
Scheduling time with
him is another sore point. He spends most of the day alone with his
door shut. But the funny thing is, just when I’m about to give up on
trying to get through to him, we have a moment of agreement.
I like my boss as a
person. I enjoy my job and its position within the company. A career
move isn’t necessary, just some fine-tuning. Do you have any advice
on how I can communicate more effectively with my manager?
While you like your
boss, it sounds as if you are blaming him for your
communication problem. This attitude isn’t going to improve your
rapport. Instead, acknowledge that you and he have different
decision-making styles which create problems when you’re discussing
a new project or course of action. Neither of your styles is right
or wrong, but their divergence is obviously a frustration for both
of you. He probably leaves your meetings without the data he needs
to make an informed decision. You chafe because he can’t make up his
mind. Everyone loses.
there’s a relatively simple way to change your presentation style to
meet his needs. Many career planners use a decision-making profile
based on Carl Jung’s personality types (The Myers-Briggs Type
Indicator) to help their clients communicate more effectively with
management, peers, and subordinates. Essentially, your
decision-making style can be described using four sets of opposites,
each of which has an important bearing on how you tackle a new task:
SENSOR vs. INTUITOR
THINKER vs. FEELER
to ask lots of questions. They enjoy brainstorming, team work, and
group consensus. You generally know what they’re thinking because
they tell you.
the other hand, are self-sufficient problem solvers. They’re more
comfortable sitting in their offices by themselves, working through
problems alone rather than discussing them with others. Often it’s
difficult to judge their position on anything. They keep it to
Sensors need the
facts. They want concrete explanations backed by specifics. Their
comfort level increases as they become acquainted with the
step-by-step process. Their co-workers would describe them as
practical, matter of fact, bottom line.
big-picture people. They enjoy looking at possibilities, long-range
agendas, and new ways of doing things. Facts tend to bore them.
Ideas are a lot more fun.
decisions objectively. They can distance themselves from a
complicated situation and consider how to handle it through a
rational thought process. They enjoy planning projects and seeing
solutions fall logically into place.
Feelers have a
great concern for people. They are sensitive to the way a given
course of action will affect staff, customers, the community, etc.
Their insights into human needs and desires are always an important
key to any decisions they make.
are high in judgment prefer making decisions to gathering
information. They like to move quickly, cut through red tape, and
get on with the project. They have a low tolerance for indecision.
rather gather information than make decisions. They enjoy finding
new knowledge. They’re usually flexible in adapting to changes, but
they may have difficulty making up their minds.
If you take an
overall picture of your manager’s probably type (ISTP), you’ll
recognize why he:
tends to spend a
lot of time alone (I).
wants the nuts
and bolts (S).
developing flow charts (T).
information than you think is warranted to make a decision (P).
In contrast, your
contact with him (E).
prefers to look
at the big picture rather than get bogged down in detail (N).
objective planning process (T).
moves quickly on
more effectively, try to structure your conversation to parallel his
decision-making style. Acknowledge that your manager needs to
assimilate your information privately. Present your case in a
detailed, step-by-step manner, rather than your usual big-picture
approach. And don’t expect quick answers. Give your boss at least
50% more decision-making time than you think he should take.
While you may
feel this forces you to do all the adjusting, you’ll gain measurable
benefits from learning to adapt your communication style. With a
little practice and observation, you’ll be able to discuss problems
and opportunities more effectively with friends and colleagues.
You’ll also develop an increased appreciation for the way others’
differences can compensate for your deficiencies. ENTJs have many
good qualities, but they need ISTPs to force them to consider the
details and avoid snap decisions.