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How to Influence your boss by ‘Coaching Up’

Collaboration is the key

The more I work with different organisations the more I become convinced that honest collaborative conversations are the key to successfully achieving results.

This week I‘ve been working with a group of high potential managers who are identified as future successors to senior roles. One of the areas we’ve been working on is the ability to influence up. Not just in how you have an influence conversation with your boss but, how you could actually coach them in a transparent and collaborative way.

You can use this method to give feedback about your boss, clarity on your work priorities or even just to tackle a conversation around something that’s been bugging you.

Plan it

  1. Your conversation has to be outcome focused so, what outcome do you want?

  2. Understand your boss as a person, what are their thinking styles, receptivity, temperament?

  3. Have absolute clarity on what their goals and challenges are, they may be totally different from your own but you need to demonstrate and awareness.

  4. Be specific on what you want to discuss and be prepared to give feedback.

  5. Be transparent in your focus and outcomes.

Do it (no pain no gain!) 

  1. Firstly, don’t make a reference to ‘coaching’, it may not go down too well. But in the interests of transparency you could frame it as providing some feedback or running something past them in order to reach a desired outcome.

  2. Make sure you give them some form of reference on the ‘Whats in it for them’ (WIIFT). Using statements such as “I’m asking you this because it will give me more clarity on this project you need me to complete”.

  3. Use some permission-based questions, such as “Am I OK to speak openly about this subject?” or “Can you help me understand this particular subject?”

  4. Ask open questions and be specific with your feedback.

  5. This is all about collaboration so reach an outcome that suits you both. Coaching up is certainly not an opportunity to have a moan or let your boss know that you think their approach is wrong.

Action it

  1. Follow through on what was discussed and keep your boss in the loop with progress.

  2. Stay in touch, it may be another week, or even a month, until your next meeting but in the mean time update them with your thoughts and progress

  3. Ask for an update from them.

  4. Celebrate success of any outcomes reached with your boss, let them know it’s working

  5. Carry on with the coaching up method so it becomes part of your regular discussions – your influence will continue to grow.

If you want to speak to me about any of the techniques above and for more details on my new Talent Diagnostic offering on how I can help transform your Talent Strategy please email me

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