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Chapter 23. We're All Difficult Sometime... > Sometimes You Just Have to Ask - Pg. 249

We're All Difficult Sometimes--Are You Difficult oo Much? 249 "Mary, I'd really like to improve as a manager, and I'm always interested in ways I might do that. It would really help me if you could give me some ideas about how I might be more useful to you and the company, and be a better leader for my staff. Do you have any suggestions?" Notice how we are staying away from asking Mary about your personal qualities, whether you're a pain or even whether you're difficult. By focusing on positive suggestions the perceptions will come out, but you won't feel like you're bending over with a big bull's eye on your behind. And not only will you get some idea about how your boss perceives you, but hopefully your boss can give you some specific suggestions about what you can do better. Insider Secrets Asking the boss for suggestions for improvement isn't just a good way to find out how you're perceived. It's a great way to show your willingness to learn and contribute. Bosses just eat this stuff up. While your boss can be a great source of feedback you can use to see how you are perceived and what you can do to be less difficult, he or she isn't the only source of information. Your employees are also important. Most bosses up the chain of command don't see you very often and don't get a chance to observe how you behave everyday with your employees. And let's face it. It's important to know how your employees perceive you, because they're the ones who are going to make you look good or look really bad. And the more difficult you are, the more likely they'll be to do the latter and not the former. This Won't Work! If you ask for input from employees, you need to listen, not argue, and use the information you get. Otherwise you can turn a good workplace situation into a bad one--and a bad one into a disaster. How do you get information from staff about how you're perceived? We'll talk about more formal methods, but the simplest way is to just ask them. Like asking the boss, whether you get good information or poor information depends on the way you do it. First, keep in mind that employees, whether they like you or not, understand that you have some power and control over them. That in itself will cause them to give you less-than-honest answers. So we have to look carefully at how to approach them. Second, you probably want to get information from staff about you in one-on-one sessions. You're likely to get more honest responses if you talk in private. And, on the off-chance that your employees really find you difficult, private discussions are less likely to turn into public hangings.