Working for a high performer boss can be the most exhilarating experience of your life or it can be the most exasperating. It all depends on how ready you are to meet the challenge. And you will need to be ready because if you haven’t already, some day you will be working for a high performer boss. That’s where so many of the high performers end up—on the management fast track. You’ve may have heard them described them this way: “This is the best boss I’ve ever had, but also the most demanding, the most difficult.”
If you’ve experienced this scenario, chances are your boss is a high maintenance high performer. Such people are goal focused, visionary, charismatic, direct, and driving. On the downside, high maintenance high performers can be confrontational, demanding, impatient, and blunt. They may lack empathy and are not detail-oriented.
In task mode, high maintenance high performers tend to be very focused. They are intense by nature and the more stress or pressure they’re under, the less likely they are to chitchat.
Here are tips that will help you solve the riddle of your high maintenance high performer boss.
Tip #1: Get down to business when communicating with your high maintenance high performer boss.
When a high maintenance high performer boss wants to chitchat, he’ll let you know. Watch for clues before assuming he’s in the mood to talk about anything other than the project at hand.
This boss’s sense of urgency and drive can be difficult to work with, especially if you’re someone who tends to get caught up in the analytical side of things or you don’t like change. If you think the analytical work you’re doing is important, communicate to your boss what the benefit and result will be. Always deliver your project on time because a high maintenance high performer boss does not want to be slowed down by missed deadlines.
Tip #2: Don’t take it personally!
High maintenance high performer bosses tend to think out loud. They turn ideas over in rapid fire, juggle multiple scenarios, think about the present while exploring the future. Remember not to take what they say and how they say it personally, because often the intensity you hear isn’t directed at you. It’s their internal motivation for getting things right and their need to be moving forward at all times that creates this intensity.
Always listen, evaluate, and question when the comment or direction is not clear or appears inaccurate. Being direct communicators, high maintenance high performer bosses appreciate direct feedback and questions.
Tip #3: Give your high maintenance high performer boss only essential details.
Many high maintenance high performer bosses are driven to learn. But because they want be able to use what they’ve learned, providing too much information does not work. These bosses want to know exactly what they need to know, when they need it, and then they want to move on.
Don’t bog them down with details when presenting ideas or reports. Always start with the benefits: how will it benefit the company, how will it benefit the goal, how will it benefit the customers? Then talk about the relevant specifics and attach all of supporting details for later reading.
Tip #4: Always approach your high maintenance high performer boss with solutions.
One misperception about working for high maintenance high performer bosses is that they are intolerant of mistakes. The truth is that they will often take the blame themselves if something goes awry.
If you make a mistake, be prepared to talk about it and offer fixes. Don’t hesitate to approach your boss even if you don’t think your solutions are great. But never come to the table without at least some possible solutions, because your boss will view that as a waste of time. Options work better for a high maintenance high performer boss than no options at all.
Tip #5: Establish a timeline and priority for projects and requests.
Unfortunately, when high maintenance high performer bosses ask for something, they mean now. So it’s important to always get a deadline. To make sure you set a realistic deadline, you define it. You can say, “Okay, this is what you need; this is when I’m going to get it to you.” Do not leave a project open ended.
Do what you say you’re going to do. If you can’t, make sure you communicate what the obstacles are. High maintenance high performer bosses are problem solvers by nature. They will help you when presented with options. Ask for help.
Make sure you communicate your success and your employees’ success to your boss. Let your boss know when to recognize someone on your team. Remember, your accomplishments are your boss’s accomplishments. Your success is your boss’s success. Making your high maintenance high performer boss look good is always welcome!
Learn more about managing high performer employees and high performer bosses in Katherine Graham-Leviss’ new book, High Maintenance Employees: Why your best employees will also be your most difficult… and what to do about it (Source Books), November 2005. For over twenty years, Katherine Graham-Leviss, president of XB Consulting, has been helping companies manage and develop their talent to improve results and grow their businesses.