Being your boss: A view from the other side of the desk #1

Posted in: Advice, Career Development, Tips & Hints

a present


Debbie Pye is our Application Adviser and has written this excellent series of three blogs looking at the viewpoints of business leaders hiring graduates and placement students. The next part in the series will be published next Tuesday.

Being your boss: A view from the other side of the desk #1

As an executive coach working with middle and senior business leaders, I rarely know in advance of a coaching session what issue/challenge my client will arrive with. Coming from all sectors in the corporate world – banking & finance, consulting, tech, manufacturing, engineering, FMCG and the rest- you might think that their challenges as leaders would vary widely. That’s true to an extent, however looking back over thousands of coaching sessions, there are some very common themes which crop up again and again, regardless of whether the client is new to management or is a Director/CEO. You might assume that all experienced managers would have these things sussed…but how wrong you would be!

The top three issues I get asked for coaching on are:

  • How to give feedback to an employee/colleague –positive or critical
  • How to delegate without looking as if I am “dumping” work on someone
  • How to motivate and retain good staff without paying them more 

Whether you are starting your new role after graduating or are starting your placement it’s always helpful to look at things from your new boss’s point of view. Empathy (putting yourself in someone else’s shoes) is a key transferable skill and one that is worth consciously developing; it is a great way to build working relationships, be more influential and is even a great tool in negotiation.

So how can you make your manager’s life easier and in the process make an impressive impact in this important new stage of your career journey?

  1. Be open to feedback….and even proactively ask for it. Receiving feedback is definitely as much a core skill as actually giving it. It demonstrates that you are keen to develop and learn and that you respect the other person’s perspective and expertise. Of course it can be scary to “put yourself out there” but there are some simple techniques for managing the risk:
  • Be very specific about what you would like feedback on, rather than “how am I doing”. For example, “Please may I have some feedback on how I interacted with that new client yesterday?”
  • Give your manager time to think about it – maybe drop them an email and ask if it’s something you can have on the agenda for your next 1-1 meeting
  • Give them a framework to structure what they say to you. A good one is “Please can you give me one example of where I delivered that task well and one thing I could do even better”….known in the trade as “WWW (what went well)/EBI (even better if)!
  • Listen carefully, ask if you don’t understand and say thank you. By the way you don’t have to agree with what they have said, but their observations should nevertheless give you food for thought. They have made the effort to give you feedback so that demonstrates positive intent on their part.

There’s a phrase in the world of work which goes “Feedback is a gift”. Cheesy, but true. We don’t usually ask for presents, or at least not since we were toddlers, but in this case you are actually doing your manager a big favour by demonstrating that you are open to feedback. They may even ask you to give them some too!


In my next “ View from the other side of the desk” blog I will look at how to help your boss be a better delegator and why that will help your career.


Posted in: Advice, Career Development, Tips & Hints


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