At the December 2018 presentation of a delegation, coaching and team management training workshop ( delegates were particularly interested in the following team management issues – managing up, boundaries and broken relationships.

Managing up

Managing up is “Understanding your boss’s position and requirements and making yourself known as a stellar employee by exceeding his or her expectations and needs”.

In order to manage up, you need to:

  • Know your own style (strengths and weaknesses and how you are perceived)
  • Know your boss (style, communication preferences and needs)
  • Build trust (under promise and over deliver)
  • See the bigger picture and align goals
  • Provide solutions not problems
  • Anticipate his or her needs and take action
  • Be very clear about what job you were hired to do – and do it
  • Honour his or her time
  • Avoid cover ups, manipulation and politics

In the book “Influence without authority” by Allan R Cohen and David L Bradford it suggests that you influence powerful people who need strong direct reports that take the initiative and come up with new ideas and implement them. The authors suggest that you speak the truth to those in authority (respectfully). Strategies to minimise the power gap include: building trust, using reciprocity to influence, thinking like a junior partner rather than a sub-ordinate, using evidence and challenge in private, having good disagreements about the means (not the ends) and explaining the type of feedback that you want.

Badowski said “Good managing up requires going above and beyond the tasks assigned to you so that you can enhance your manager’s work. Doing what you can to make your manager’s job easier will not only help them do their job, but you will be considered a valuable asset to your manager and to your organization. You want to be described as indispensable”

There are many blog posts on achieving buy-in. For example:


At work we have to manage all manner of boundaries: personal and professional, acquaintances and friends, bosses and team members, formal and informal to name a few.

Some of the most important boundaries are around what you are supposed to be doing and what you might be asked to do. Boundaries are easier to manage when there is an agreed plan, clear job descriptions and performance is managed with KPI (Key Performance Indicators). It is less easy when your role is general and you have potentially many “bosses” amongst the fee-earners that you are serving. Sometimes, you need to be more assertive

In these fast-paced, always-on digital times, there can be issues around people expecting you to be available all the time. People can become chained to their desks watching for emails or monitoring social media at all hours of the day and night and even when they are on holiday. You are responsible for managing expectations – if you always respond when someone contacts you at midnight then they will continue to do so (that’s positive reinforcement of a negative behaviour).

Problems can arise when relationship boundaries become blurred. For example, people in your team may feel confused when one minute you are laughing like best pals and the next you are giving instructions as their line manager. While it’s good to socialise informally with people and to be yourself, you need to remember that boundaries exist and that you must be consistent.

While some people adopt different masks for their different roles, this can lead to a lack of sincerity and authenticity which is vitally important for good business relationships. Many people suffer from imposter syndrome – even Michelle Obama admitted to it recently. Imposter syndrome is where you are unable to accept your strengths and successes and feel that you are a fraud. Building self-esteem and self-confidence can overcome imposter syndrome.

Broken relationships

There are many reasons why relationships break down, for example: misunderstandings, disappointment, loss of trust, being let down, arrogance, loss of respect, being judgemental, one way traffic, personality clashes, jealousy and rivalry. Disagreements, difficulties and disruptions in relationships can lead to conflict and relationship breakdown.

There are particular types of problematic relationships, for example in the drama triangle where people play the role of persecutor, victim and rescuer. Or in triangulation – where two people are set against a third person. Or where, as Transactional Analysis suggests, someone behaves in a way that moves another person out of their adult state into that of a parent or child (see

In counselling, there is a focus on relationship rupture and repair. Where there has been a problem in a relationship, there needs to be positive action to repair it. John Gottman identified the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (signals for the end of a relationship) in personal relationships:

  1. Complaining and criticizing
  2. Showing contempt
  3. Becoming defensive
  4. Stonewalling (delaying or obstructing by refusing to answer questions or by being evasive)

Coincidentally, there’s an interesting approach to life suggested by Don Miguel Ruiz in his book “The Mastery of Love”:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do you best

There are five elements to conflict (which may be intrapersonal, interpersonal, intragroup or intergroup):

  1. Interdependence (the behaviour of one party has an effect on the other)
  2. Difference
  3. Opposition
  4. Expression
  5. Emotion

And there are many strategies to deal with conflict including avoidance, capitulation, mediation and negotiation (preferably where a win:win solution is sought). See

If you have a relationship that appears to be going wrong, consider the causes of the problem – from both your own perspective and that of the other person. You will need to use your empathy skills although there is no substitute for actually asking someone ‘What went wrong and how can we fix it?’ If you need to make an apology, there are five parts:

  1. Specific definition of the offending behaviour
  2. Acknowledgement that the behaviour caused harm
  3. Statement of responsibility for the behaviour and harm
  4. Statement of regret
  5. Commitment to avoid repeating the behaviour

These ideas are explored further in the conflict management section of Better Business Relationships

For those interested in repairing personal relationships and perhaps even recovery from abuse, there is an excellent book called “I thought we’d never speak again – The Road from Estrangement to Reconciliation” by Laura Davis.

Whilst talking about human resources (HR) support, we also mentioned that many professional service firms provide their staff with EAP (Employee Assistance Programmes). This is where staff can speak to trained counsellors in confidence to help them deal with emotional upset, anxiety, stress and other mental health issues.

Other topics discussed at the workshop included:



Goal setting




Time management