8 Awesome Phrases To Say To Your Boss

Have you ever felt a bit nervy about speaking to your boss about certain topics? As much as the word 'boss' totally creeps me out (it's soooo '90's already), the reality is, many of us have some level of anxiety when it comes to having certain conversations with the person responsible for our pay packet.

Bringing up topics like their leadership style, your priorities and workload, or even differences of opinion on the current strategy, can lead to brow-mopping anxiety.

Throughout my time as an executive coach, I've noticed some phrases which can help you to build a better relationship with your boss (oops there it is...dropping the B bomb again) AND your peers.

1. “I’ve just read this interesting article on…” Keeping your finger on the pulse with the latest industry news, then sharing what you know, will show you have a genuine interest in your profession and the organisation.

2. “Thank you for…I really appreciated it when you…” We tend to be reticent about giving positive feedback to our manager in case we look like Mr or Mrs 'Suck-Up-Teacher's-Pet'. But, as a leader yourself, you know how much of an impact that genuine, specific, positive feedback from those you lead can have, and how it helps you to do more of what makes you an effective leader.

3. “What keeps you awake at night?” This is meant in a metaphorical sense, although sometimes it is literal! Knowing what is taking up your manager's or chairman’s head space (being aware of topics that are causing them concern) is the perfect way of determining his or her priorities. It also provides an opportunity to focus your efforts on solving said problem.  See point 5 for a next step after this.

4. “I’d like to discuss priorities.” This is an especially helpful phrase if your manager keeps changing priorities or loading up extra work on you without giving consideration to what you already have on your plate.  We tend to bite off more than we can chew, which leads to scattered/conflicting priorities and stressed out, worn out people.

Spend some time preparing for this meeting, then present current/key projects and ask, what is most important? What needs to be revised as a consequence? If we need to do all of this by these deadlines, what extra resource is available? See here for further tips on prioritising.

5. “I’ve been thinking about our problem and I’ve looked into it...”

I’ll never forget the time when a high-performing team member of mine took the time to conduct extra research and look into a business problem we’d been grappling with for months. A few extra hours of effort not only resulted in a number of powerful solutions, it also impressed the hell out of me by showing such initiative.

6. “What would you like me to keep doing, stop doing, start doing or do more of?”

Don’t wait for the annual 'dump-truck' performance appraisal to find out what your manager thinks of you and your performance. In my practice I have found that many of us are still uncomfortable with giving developmental feedback. Asking the question above is a great segue to  this conversation.

7. “How would you like me to give you feedback? And - “If I disagree with you or you are doing something that is brassing me off, how do you want me to tell you?”

It doesn’t really matter how you phrase this. Basically, you're asking them if it's OK for you to give them constructive feedback. No boss is going to say "no"...unless they’re THAT guy. This is a good conversation to catalyse setting up processes for giving feedback. If you have a regular mechanism in place, then it becomes like the ebb and flow of the tides, making it easier to have a crucial conversation or broach delicate feedback.

8. "I want to give you a heads up on some bad news.”

No one likes nasty surprises. Not going to make that deadline? Don’t wait until the eleventh hour to tell them. Not going to make the monthly sales or profit target? Like the markets, give a “revised earnings announcement” as soon as you can. If you feel like running a million miles in the other direction and completely avoiding the conversation, that’s your cue to do the opposite.  BUT, always finish with "...and here’s what I’m proposing to do about it...”

How do you foster better relationships with your managers? Have anything to add to the list above? I'd love to hear from you - please leave your comments in the space provided below.

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