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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

August 31, 2015

How to manage a stalled career with a boss who is a bad manager.

Julie Q. Brush

Being a great manager is not easy. Far from it. It requires time, energy and deep investment in the team for the benefit of the company, the department…and the team members themselves. At the same time, managers need to focus on their additional responsibilities and own careers. So for those who are committed to the role of Manager, it’s a lot to take on.

People aren’t born great managers. It’s a skill that is developed and honed through experience, practice and a desire to learn. Consequently, managers come in all shapes and sizes with varying levels of competency. Regardless of whether you have a Manager of the Year or one that is ho hum, it is important for each professional to take responsibility for his/her career development and not rely on a superior to make it all happen.

If you feel that your boss is not capable of managing your professional development, I recommend that you take the wheel…before your frustration grows and your career is compromised. Below is the strategy to make it happen:

Set Specific Goals.

With your general career goals in mind, determine what you’d like to achieve in your current role with your current employer. Perhaps you’d like to diversify your background to include corporate securities, gain exposure to the Board or take on more direct reports. Maybe you want to be groomed to be the heir apparent or want to aspire for a specific title. Whatever your goals are, they should be clearly articulated in your own mind so you can clearly articulate them to your boss.

Create Your Plan.

If you’re going to be proactive with your career development, flying by the seat of your pants is not a good strategy. You’ll need a plan. A plan that is detailed and includes the following elements: (1) A face to face meeting with your boss; (2) Messaging about why you want to meet with your boss and how you are going to present your overall plan; (3) Your career development goals; (4) Suggestions and solutions regarding ways to reach those goals, (5) A follow up plan to track and manage your progress; and (5) An ask: to enlist your boss for advice, suggestions…and support. Once plan details are finalized, you will be prepared for your meeting.

Schedule A Meeting.

The first step in your strategy is to discuss your plan with your manager. So schedule a meeting (block out at least an hour) to kick things off. Your opening monologue is crucial to set the stage for the commitment you will need to succeed. An example: “Susan, I really appreciate your taking the time to meet with me. I’ve been thinking about my career development and wanted to runs some things by you for your advice. I know you’ve been pulled in 100 different directions so I put together a plan that outlines my goals and a process to achieve them.” Now… proceed to articulate the rest of your plan.

Get Buy In.

In order to achieve success, your boss will need to understand your career goals and agree to support the path to achieve them. So before your meeting ends, make sure you have a meeting of the minds and an agreed upon collaborative action plan going forward.

Monitor Progress.

It’s easy to let things drift. So stay committed to the process and adhere to your follow up plan. If after six months you see progress, you know there will be an opportunity for you to grow as a professional in your current role. And that will give you a greater sense of satisfaction in your job. But if nothing changes and/or you see evidence of your manager’s lack of ability or commitment to your success, it’s time to move on.

Managing your career is your responsibility and yours alone. So if your manager will not…or cannot help you grow as a professional, take the bull by the horns and devise a plan to create forward motion. If it works, you’ll put yourself on a path towards success. If it fails, you’ll have the evidence you need to leave No Man’s land and set sail towards a better one.

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[…] How to manage your career with a boss who is a bad manager. at The Lawyer […]

Lass Evans, VP, Deputy General Counsel, Fortune 500 Company

This is a good plan to follow for those who are experiencing frustration with their current boss. In my experience, if a manager is not capable at being effective, change won't happen quickly. So it will take some time and patience for the results you want to come to fruition (if they do). Best of luck!

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