How Do I Teach My Boss? Ask Madeleine

Asian woman holding with clipboard and pen point up Dear Madeleine,

Due to a recent move to another country, I had to find a new job. Obviously I had to step down professionally, and now I found myself in an awkward situation: I have more knowledge, qualifications, and skills than my new boss. I see him struggling with his job. Things like time management, getting organized, delegation, and customer service are a few areas where he is lacking. 

How do I tell him what he is doing wrong and teach him what to do without making him feel I’m a threat? –Cautious Teacher


Dear Cautious,

Your situation definitely sounds frustrating. I am a little confused by your use of the word obviously when you describe how you had to “step down professionally.” What made it obvious? Are you navigating in a second language? Or are your academic qualifications not accepted somehow in your new country? Whatever the case, I would encourage you to continue to look for the right job that suits your level of experience and expertise.

That said, you still have to make a go of it where you are—so here are some general principles to keep in mind.

Smart employees know part of their job is to help their boss be successful and look good. This will reap the most rewards all around. Any ideas you have to help your boss get organized and consider other perspectives probably will be welcome, but only as suggestions. Nobody wants to be told what to do or to feel judged or inadequate.

It sounds as if the biggest gap for your boss is in the area of professional versus technical skills. You can be a role model for flawless professionalism by simply behaving in all the right ways consistently, day in and day out. This includes delivering amazing customer service, using your time effectively, and being civil and respectful to your boss even when you feel contempt.

You can also rely on power of attraction. As the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, one of the most influential personal development teachers often said: “You don’t attract what you want; you attract what you are.” I would suggest you use this situation as an opportunity to grow yourself in the area of acceptance, patience, and kindness.

In the meantime, use your time away from work to find the right spot for yourself, if you can. By the time another job shows up, you might have rubbed off on your boss enough that it’s more appealing to stay than to leave.

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard

Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

3 thoughts on “How Do I Teach My Boss? Ask Madeleine

  1. What would be the harm in taking some of the leadership for your department? Some companies work collaboratively and share knowledge and experience. Your company may not be structured that way but sometimes leadership can come from the ranks rather than the boss. I like the idea of being a good role model and think that is an excellent way to handle the situation. That being said, why not invest time in your boss and help him/her grow as a leader? Not only will you help the position of the company but you can also learn from your boss as well. I would assume your boss has qualities/abilities that made he/she attractive to the people making the decisions on who to put in management positions. Also,why is the idea of rewards the only motivation in this scenario? Doesn’t personal growth play into this as well? Is it wrong to look out for the collective good of the company rather than just your personal position? I understand the standard direction has been to make your boss look good but what if that was flipped and you made the business look good instead? I think sometime we limit leadership in an organization by expecting that the boss knows it all and will teach the employees he/she manages. That is just my two cents, I don’t think there is only one answer to navigating these issues. I would encourage a broader view and look at all the options before you take a course of action.

  2. As a follow-up to my last post, I would also like to ask what place servant centered leadership should have in business. Should we be concerned with making the boss look good or making sure we do right when dealing with other in a business environment? I think a better use of time and energy would be to look at the good of the business and try to do the right thing when making business decisions. In my opinion taking a biblical perspective is the right path. We should always be interested in doing the moral and just thing. Morals and ethics should’t stop at the doorway in the business world. An organization should conduct itself beyond reproach and expect its employees to do the same. There is entirely too much business corruption these days and I believe the first step to that is to worry about perception rather than content.

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