Learning to manage your relationship with your boss is an important skill.

ryan holiday

Three key strategies to get on with your boss

Even in very senior positions, nearly everyone has a boss, so learning to manage this relationship well is an important skill that every working carer would benefit from learning.

More than most people, working carers can find themselves in vulnerable positions, as they often need to clearly demonstrate their value to their boss in order to feel empowered enough to ask for flexibility to meet their caring duties.

It is easier to ask for flexibility – such as unexpected time off, staggered working hours, or working from home a couple of days a week – from a strong position, where your boss knows you bring great value to them and doesn’t want to lose you.

A great blog on countless work-related topics such as getting on well with your boss is Ryan Holiday’s Meditations on Strategy and Life.

The best way to get on with your boss is to make them successful says Ryan. He describes his strategy like this: ‘find and make canvases for others people to paint on’, which he hints is code for ‘pretend that you’re humble while you amass an arsenal.’

If you can do that successfully, you will secure a quick and strategic position of power.

It’s a different mindset than making other people merely ‘look’ good, an approach that tends to imply a lot of bottom - kissing and ceding credit. Instead, it’s finding the direction someone already intended to head and helping them pack, freeing them up to focus on their strengths.

The canvas strategy involves actively finding outlets for other people – in fact, actually making them better rather than simply making them look better.

Here are Ryan’s three key strategies

  1. Find new trains of thought to hand over for them to explore. Track down angles and contradictions and analogies that they can use.

Example: I was reading the biography of ______, I think you should look at it because there may be something you can do with the example he shares about _____.

  1. Find outlets, people, associations, and connections. Cross wires to create new sparks.

Example: I know _________, and I think you two should talk. Have you thought about meeting ____?

  1. Find inefficiencies and waste and redundancies. Identify leaks and patches to free up resources for new areas.

Example: You don’t need to do ___________ anymore, I have an idea for improving that process, let me try it so you can worry about something else.

In other words, discover opportunities to promote their creativity, find outlets and people for collaboration, and eliminate distractions that hinder their progress and focus. It is a rewarding and infinitely scalable power strategy and one of the few strategies that age does not limit.

It’s one you can do now within your organisation – even before you have a job in that department you are interested in joining.

Managing up does not mean sucking up. Helping your boss succeed, allows you to learn along the way and creates space for you to progress into.

If you take Ryan’s advice on board, you’ll realise what most people’s egos prevent them from appreciating: the person who clears the path ultimately controls its direction, just as the canvas dictates the painting.