4 Phrases Your Boss Wants to Hear

Fact: At some point, every one of us has (or had) a boss.

We wish they had all the answers. It would be ideal if on every rung in the ladder, we could look to our bosses to actually lead us, guide us, and be our mentors.

But managers don’t know everything, and more often than not, they need our help, too. Unfortunately, only the best leaders actually ask for it.

But why wait to be asked? Here are four tiny sentences that every boss is secretly dying to hear you say, and that’ll help you manage up and make both you and your manager shine.

1. “I’ve Got This”

Maybe your manager has a few bosses of her own who have just joined on. These new players are demanding, and she may not know how to manage them and their requests. Projects she used to oversee—like the ones you work on—may not be her top priority right now, nor might she be the best person to guide you. So, what do you do? Easy. You tell her “I’ve got this.”

Why it Matters

A great boss knows that to succeed, she has to set priorities—which means she has to hand them off to someone else. Letting her know you will own this might give her the confidence she needs to let you run with it. And then you have an opportunity to flash your best work.

2. “It’s My Responsibility”

Too often people are either not held accountable or refuse to be, pointing the finger elsewhere. Usually, there’s a fear of retaliation if we make a mistake or if we shine a light on what went wrong. (Note: If that’s the culture you’re in, you might want to ask yourself if it’s where you really want to be.) But all things considered, taking responsibility for something you did or raising your hand when you see something that could be potentially damaging to your company is what leaders do.

Why it Matters

At the end of the day, stepping up to own our mistakes shows great character and courage. It’s what every great boss should praise (and not punish) in a direct report.

3. “I Disagree Because…”

Your boss may not always like or agree with what you have to say, but he’s far better off with a team that’s unafraid to speak up, instead of a bunch of “yes” men and women. You were hired for your judgment and counsel. Be respectful but be sure to speak your mind when it serves the company and its goals. True leaders will heed what you say and respect you back.

Why it Matters

Confident leaders won’t make you feel as if you’re walking on eggshells when the truth may hurt; rather, they’ll seek out direct reports they know will always give it to them straight.

4. “Can I Help?”

Why not periodically throw them a life preserver? Asking if you can help is an open-ended invitation to your boss, letting her know you’ve got her back and recognize that her workload is split between delivering to her higher-ups and managing you.

Why it Matters

“Can I help?” is another way of asking “Are you OK?” Letting her know she’s not alone will mean more to her than she may let on and will help you earn her trust as someone she can count on in times of need.

Sometimes, people think it’s “safest” to keep their heads down and say nothing. But, if you want to make a difference where you work, and you believe that what you have to offer can do that, then don’t hesitate to give these phrases a try.
Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help you come up with more phrases your boss wants to hear. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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Questions to Ask if You Want to Win Over Your New Boss

Starting a new job is all about making a good first impression. You have this amazing opportunity to start over—to build strong relationships and set your new career in the right direction—so don’t just enter your new office without a game plan or the same old routine you did before.

This means asking a lot of questions as soon as you get started. You may worry about being annoying, but asking questions is actually a great way to quickly understand the inner workings of your new company and also get on your boss’s’ good side.

While there are no bad questions, there are some that will boost your reputation better than others. For example, here are four that are worth asking in the first few days and weeks if you want to get ahead.

1. “How Are You Doing?”

First off, this shouldn’t be a one-time question. In fact, you should be asking this regularly of your new boss, if not daily. (And hopefully they’re asking the same of you.)

Why? Your boss is probably very busy, very stressed, or in some instances feels ignored or underappreciated, so making them feel noticed is an instant plus for you. And, it gives them a chance to open up. This could lead to more transparency, even more opportunity for you to get involved, and it’s the number one strategy for managing up.

We are aware that not every boss is going to take this kind of question and immediately become your new best friend. But at the very least it’s a nice thing to ask and that will help you build rapport.

2. “What Can I Take Off Your Plate?”

Their answer might be nothing (you’re new to the job, so it’s possible they’ll let you know when they’re ready to hand stuff off to you.) Or maybe they’re currently working on something that could use an extra set of hands. By asking rather than waiting for them, you make it easier for them to delegate—and shine a spotlight on your work ethic. Even when you aren’t asking this question directly, you need to be asking yourself this question. If this is top of mind when it comes to your boss, not only is this a leadership perspective, but you can be sure you’re headed in the right direction.

3. “Who Should I Meet with in My First Week/Month?”

Networking in a new job is crucial. You should be meeting with not just your new teammates, but other teams and executives (if possible) to get a better sense of your company’s goals and initiatives and how they tie back to your role.

Getting your boss’s insight on who you should interact with shows you respect their opinion but also are proactive about collaborating.

4. “What Are Your Goals for Me in the Next Month/Year?”

Thinking long-term shows, you’re driven and ready to hit the ground running from day one.

It’s possible your boss doesn’t know yet, or maybe their sole aim is to get you onboarded. In that case, turn it on them: “What are your goals for the next several months?” If nothing else, you can set your own goals and actions by figuring out how you can contribute to theirs.

Looking for more ways to impress your boss? Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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5 Brilliant Tips for Dealing with a Difficult Boss

In an ideal world, we would all have fantastic managers—bosses who helped us succeed, who made us feel valued, and who were just all-around great people.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. But whether the person you work for is a micromanager, has anger management problems, is a flat-out workplace bully, or just isn’t very competent, you still have to make the best of the situation and finish your work.

To help out, the Ignite Your Potential coaches have gathered the best advice for dealing with a bad boss. 

1. Make Sure You’re Dealing With a “Bad Boss”

Before trying to fix your bad boss, make sure you really are dealing with one. Is there a reason for the behavior you’re seeing? Are you being too hard on him or her?

“Observe your boss for a few days and try to notice how many things she does well versus poorly. When she is doing something “bad,” try to imagine the most forgiving reason why it could have occurred. Is it truly her fault or could it be something out of their control?” Fast Company

2. Identify Your Boss’s Motivation

Understanding why your boss does or cares about certain things can give insight into his or her management style. It’s also a way to “manage up” (understanding what the demands are on your boss and how you can best support them. There are plenty of additional articles online specifically about this topic. Think of this as an opportunity to learn this useful skill.)

“…if the rules are totally out of control, try to figure out your boss’s motivation. Maybe it’s not that he really cares about how long your lunch break takes; he actually cares about how it affects other employees’ morale and the perception of their superiors.” Brazen Careerist

3. Don’t Let it Affect Your Work

No matter how bad your boss’s behavior avoid letting it affect your work. You want to stay on good terms with other leaders in the company (and keep your job!) If you are unable to do this… it’s time to begin a job search and leave before you sabotage yourself.

“Don’t try to even the score by working slower or taking excessive ‘mental health’ days or longer lunches. It will only put you further behind in your workload and build a case for your boss to give you the old heave-ho before you’re ready to go.” Work Awesome

4. Act as the Leader

When dealing with an incompetent boss, sometimes it’s best to make some leadership decisions on your own.

“If you know your area well, there is no reason to not pursuing a direction you know will achieve good results for your company. People who do this are naturally followed by their peers as an informal leader. Management, although maybe not your direct boss, will notice your initiative. Of course, you don’t want to do something that undermines your boss, so keep him or her in the loop.” Careerealism

5. Avoid Future Bad Bosses

When interviewing with a new company, do your research ahead of time to make sure you’re not getting into another situation with a less-than-ideal manager.

“Have coffee or lunch with one or more staffers at the new company. Ostensibly, your purpose is to learn general information about the company, how it’s functioning, and its culture. However, use this opportunity to discover as much about your potential boss as possible, without appearing creepy of course.” Inc.

Need more tips on how to deal with a difficult boss? Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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Taking Constructive Criticism Like a Champ

Some people can graciously accept constructive criticism while others may struggle and feel overly sensitive.

Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, we might over-react with defensiveness or anger and attack the person giving feedback. But the truth is, we need to get over it. We live and work in collaboration with others and intellectually we know there’s value in constructive criticism—how else would we identify areas of improvement? It helps us maintain relationships and be more successful in everything we do.

So how do you learn to take constructive criticism? The next time you receive useful feedback from your manager or a peer, use this three-step process to handle the encounter with tact and grace.

1. Don’t Express Your First Reaction

When someone is giving you feedback before you do anything—stop. Try not to react at all! You’ll have at least three seconds to stop your reaction. While three seconds seems insignificant, it’s ample time for your brain to process the situation. At that moment, you can halt a dismissive facial expression and remind yourself to stay calm.

2. Remember the Benefit of Receiving Feedback

Now, you have a few seconds to quickly remind yourself of the benefits of receiving constructive criticism. To improve your skills, leadership capabilities, and to help you meet the expectations that your stakeholders, manager, colleagues, and direct reports have of you. If you find this step challenging in the moment, get in the habit of reminding yourself of this before you step into a meeting or 1:1. Practice poker face with the person who is delivering the feedback. It can be challenging to receive a different opinion from a co-worker, peer, or someone that you don’t fully respect, but remember: Useful information can come from flawed sources.

3. Say Thank You

Next, look the person in the eye and thank them for sharing feedback with you. Don’t gloss over this—be intentional and say, “I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about this with me.”

Expressing appreciation does not have to mean you’re agreeing with the assessment, but it does show that you’re acknowledging the effort your colleague took to evaluate you and share his or her thoughts.

Constructive criticism is often the only way we learn about our weaknesses—without it we can’t improve. When we’re defensive, instead of accepting and gracious, we run the risk of missing out on this important insight. Remember, feedback is not easy to give and it’s certainly not always easy to receive, but being able to be receptive will help you now and in the long run.

Need more tips on how to take criticism like a champ? Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.

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What to Do When You Hate Your Boss but Love Your Job

What do you do when you hate your boss but love your job? It’s not an easy situation to navigate—but what’s the alternative? Quitting and taking a gamble that everything else will line up?

Yes, having a boss you hate is a big reason that people start job searching, but it’s not the only way to handle the problem. If getting a new gig isn’t something you want to consider, then follow our Ignite Your Potential coaches’ tips on how to deal with the imperfect scenario: great job, nightmare boss.

1. Take a Good Look

Figure out exactly what it is about your boss that’s problematic and determine if there’s anything you can change or address. If there’s nothing (and that’s possible), maybe you could adjust the way you react to her behavior so you don’t escalate situations. For example, if she’s constantly emailing you at odd hours, expecting immediate responses, it’s up to you to gently set guidelines for your response rate—rather than responding snappily.

2. Remind Yourself

Why You Love Your JobMake a list of all of the things about your position that you dig. Write down everything from unlimited coffee to being able to work closely with the talented website developer. Nothing’s too small for this list! And if you are really, sincerely passionate about your position, this should be the easy part.Once you have your list, you can go on doing your work and rejoice in the fact that there is so much that you appreciate and value. Does it make sense to leave all that behind because of a bad boss?

3. Get Some Support

If you think your boss may be a narcissist or even if it’s not quite that bad but you could use some advice fordealing with someone very difficult, Nina Brown has the book for you, “Working With the Self-Absorbed: How to Handle Narcissistic Personalities on the Job.”

4. Wait it Out

If you’ve examined the situation thoroughly and concluded that there’s nothing wrong with anything you’re doing and your boss is, indeed, a really awful person, trust that you’re not the only one who sees it. No matter how much praise is bestowed on them now, it’s probable that, at some point in the future, someone else will take stock of what’s happening, and eventually they will be talked to.

But honestly, if the love-my-job-hate-my-boss situation doesn’t improve over time, you might have to move on. You deserve to work with people who bring out the best in you—so don’t let a great job keep you from working with an awesome boss. Somewhere out there is a position that will provide you with awesome responsibilities and a manager you’ll love.

Do you need more advice on how to deal with a nightmare boss? Our award-winning coaches at the Ignite Your Potential Centers offer a complimentary 25-minute phone session to help you figure it out. We are the #1 career coaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, let us show you how we earned that praise.