With many bosses over the years, I can say I have seen them all. But I have been more fortunate that my bosses were mostly great. And the great ones had the same basic qualifications: smart, sensitive, listening, caring and willing to change.
No matter who the boss, we always worked better when we were partners, team members and fellow employees. Bosses need help managing their team and, yes, they too need mentoring, managing and coaching to build a successful team and to be successful themselves.
Learning from others
Leaders don’t, or at least shouldn’t, surround themselves with yes men or yes women. Being told you are going in the right direction by a “wildebeest” just following the leader isn’t good for anyone. Good bosses will take a course correction suggestion in stride and not lash out, and if they do, it’s time to look for a new boss.
So how do you mentor your boss? It’s not simple or for the meek and mild-mannered.
I could say you lead by example, which is simple to understand, and is a pretty good idea if you yourself have people to manage. I have seen my own managers make both very stupid and very brilliant decisions, and I have learned from watching. An example of terminating an employee during a heated exchange, and not letting things settle down to rethink the situation and make a better decision has happened in my management teams a few times.
Stay the course
I have also had bosses I was not able to mentor or advise so much, mostly due to their unwillingness to take advice, at first. But, in one special case, with a boss so overwhelming, in mental ability (186 IQ) and shear size (6 feet 8 inches and 330 pounds), I was able to show progress. Early in our relationship, even though his team was literally dwarfed by his presence, mentally and physically, I held my ground on a few very solid principles and was able to gain his confidence and trust when others failed.
I don’t think this was because of any special skill of mine, but I just had certain principles I would not give up on, like: If you hired me to do a job, let me do it my way and achieve your desired results. After a few of those successes, we became very close and a very good team for several years.
In a much earlier stage in my career, a boss was so intolerable, and unwilling to share or play on a team, I actually left my area of college training and tried something else, with a boss who really allowed me to learn and develop in the new area, which worked well. That boss was a good mentor, and I was able to learn from that and pay it forward.
So, mentoring your boss, fact or fiction? I say fact and I say that you need to treat your boss as a member of the team, and an important one at that.
John W. Manzetti is the executive chairman of Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse. As President and CEO of the PLSG from 2006 to 2016, John and his team assisted 455 companies, investing $22 million into 80 companies, which leveraged $1.5 billion of additional capital into the region. These companies brought over 134 products to market. John is also the founder and managing director of Accelerator Fund LLC, an early-stage, for-profit venture capital fund focused on high-impact investments in life sciences and health care.