By Steve Trautman March 3, 2015

Make Your Boss More Useful To You

Posted by Steve Trautman on Mar 3, 2015 2:49:39 AM

Nearly all of us hLeadershipave worked for a well-meaning, relatively capable leader who does his or her best each day but still falls short. It is not their fault, really. They are the manager, but that doesn’t mean they can be experts in the details of every job function in their chain of command. The orchestra conductor may also know how to play the violin, but may not have as much clarity on the mechanics of playing the wind instruments. It is an age-old problem.

One solution is to think of your bosses as your apprentices. What could you teach them to do that would make them more useful to you? In my knowledge transfer consulting firm, we routinely write Skill Development Plans to help people train their peers on very technical knowledge. The less obvious application is using the same process to train their bosses. You could call this “managing up” in a very positive, practical way. You no longer need to be the victim of bosses who aren’t technical enough to understand your role. You can think of them as people who haven’t yet learned enough to be fully useful to you.

To write a Skill Development Plan for your bosses, think about what you need from them and write it in the form of a task wish list. “I wish my boss knew how to…”

  • Analyze the data from…
  • Build a relationship with…
  • Make a business case for…
  • Troubleshoot problems with…
  • Choose (or make a decision about)…

Once you figure out what you wish your boss knew how to do, you can use our test questions and 5-Minute Meeting Plan tool to prepare a short knowledge transfer session where you or some other expert teaches your boss enough to make them more useful to you. You can openly tell your boss you’re teaching them so they can help you more, or just sneak it in. Either way, your relatively capable, well-meaning leader will be better poised for success—and that is good for all.

SUMMARY: Don’t fall victim to your job circumstances. Take control of your situation and “manage up” by creating a plan to solve critical knowledge gaps that your boss has in relation to your job role. By building a better working relationship with your boss and filling in these knowledge gaps using knowledge transfer tools, you create a win/win scenario for everyone.


Topics: Knowledge Transfer Definition, Terms & Roles, Best Practices, Skill Development Plan (SDP), 20 Test Questions

Steve Trautman

Steve Trautman

Steve Trautman is corporate America’s leading talent risk management and knowledge transfer expert. With two decades of application inside blue chips and Fortune 1000s, his pioneering work in the field of talent risk management and related knowledge transfer tools are now the nationally-recognized gold standard. His clients have included Boeing, Costco, Goodyear, Aetna, Farmers Life Insurance, Bank of America, Microsoft, and Qualcomm, among others.

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