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Submitted by palantir on


Picture this: I have recently been handed a new "big ball" (listen to the juggling cone cast) by my boss' boss. I was appointed Program Manager for a large scale transformation program. This obviously is a fantastic opportunity for me. The tricky part is that within this program I am now managing three folks which are all higher ranked than me - and one of them is my boss!

So far so good. I have a very good working relationship, with my boss in particular. It's a crucial program for the company and I will not let it fail. I do foresee that at some stage he may be missing a deadline, so see it that I must then also address that with him, and corrective feedback would be the typical way to do that.

He's a High D, I'm high I. He'd probably have less of an issue with receiving the feedback than me giving it. To me it feels a bit awkward giving feedback (both negative AND positive) to my boss, given that we also have the reverse working relationship in our roles outside the program.

Any views on how to deal with this situation?

Many thanks!

cwatine's picture
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What do you mean by you are "managing folks higher ranks" and "one of them is my boss"?
If you manage him, he is not your boss.

Or can you be more specific (what kind of "managing actions")?



mdave's picture

First -- congratulations on your new opportunity. It must be very exciting.

I'm a bit confused on the part that you are now managing three people higher ranked than you including your boss. If you have been promoted above them then he is no longer your boss..... That being said the "Managing your Boss" podcast part 1 (I'm not clever enough to paste a link) has an very instructive opening story where a person was tasked to a special project and lost track of who their boss was -- the ending was bad. My suggestion is to be ABSOLUTELY CLEAR who your boss is and what his goals and expectations are. If this is a temporary assignment you will want to navigate very carefully...

jhack's picture

You're coordinating. No surprise that a high-I is leading the transformation project. You need to lead by persuasion.

That means you don't give feedback (maybe the peer model for some) or coach. You can delegate; it just won't follow the MT model strictly.

Your mission is to coordinate people and activities up and down the org chart. Your best strategy is to figure out what matters to them, determine how the transformation project helps them achieve their goals, and then persuade them to join the mission.

You will run into roadblocks, and each will be unique.

Good luck.

John Hack

palantir's picture
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Apologies for being somewhat unclear here. Indeed this is a temporary assignment. Many folks in the company, including my boss and two of his peers, are playing a role in the program, and I'm the Program Manager. John has it right. Coordination probably is a better description.

John's suggestion to "figure out what matters to them" in an interesting one. Clearly this is applicable in many situations, yet in this peculiar setting I overlooked that.

Many thanks for responding!

Mark's picture
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It didn't seem abnormal to me. Just another example of team- and time-based structures coming and going. No problem for a professional!

Give him feedback in the peer model, or the starter model. And before you do (future cast), talk to him about how you're going to face these things.

And, since I'm a High D, I will share what I would think of you if you didn't give me negative feedback for missing a deadline:

He's afraid. What a joke. Not ready for more responsibility.


palantir's picture
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Thanks Mark. Loud and clear!

FlyingDutchman's picture

Mark, all

How far to push with adjusting feedback versus boss and peers?

In many of the casts I heard Mark suggesting a cautious approach in giving peer / boss feedback. At times I even had the impression of this being too deferential to bosses, and worried that as a result bosses' mistakes might not be as decisively confronted as they should.

As Mark eventually states just before, not providing adjusting feedback to bosses / peers may make the direct look spineless and indecisive. Worse still, it leaves the organisation exposed to bosses' mistakes that may remain unchecked. Bosses are humans as everyone else thus healthy challenges from both sides should be the bread and butter of boss-direct interactions.

In that light I sometime challenge my directs, particularly high S's and high C's, by presenting them with (controlled) situations of incompatible goals. I do this to see how ready they are to make their own choices in contrast with my directions. I am pleased when I see them challenge my lead and provide me feedback about it. I get disappointed when this does not happen and see them struggle (I then quickly put them out of their misery by pointing them clearly in one direction).

Of course, feedback should always be delivered professionally and respectfully - for peers, bosses and directs alike.