275: How to Manage Your Manager with Mary Abbajay

By March 19, 2018Podcasts

 

Mary Abbajay shares how to manage up, understand who your boss is, and adapt to different personality types.

You’ll Learn:

  1. One tiny, yet powerful, thing you can do to differentiate yourself from 99% of employees
  2. Obstacles to managing up
  3. Strategies for dealing with difficult bosses

About Mary

Mary Abbajay is the president and co-founder of Careerstone Group, LLC, a woman-owned, full service organizational and leadership development consultancy that delivers leading-edge talent and organizational development solutions to the public and private sectors. She currently serves on the regional Market President’s Board of BB&T Bank. She was Chairman of the Board for Leadership Greater Washington where she led the adult Signature program, the Youth Leadership Program and the Rising Leaders Program.

 

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Mary Abbajay Interview Transcript

Pete Mocakitis
Mary, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Mary Abbajay
Thank you so much. I’m very excited to be on this podcast and to meet you and, hopefully, have a little bit of fun today.

Pete Mocakitis
Oh, yes. Well, I certainly think we will. And speaking of fun, I understand you co-founded and co-owned a fun spot in DC. What’s the Toledo Lounge all about?

Mary Abbajay
Oh, digging up my past, are you, Pete?

Pete Mocakitis
Yeah.

Mary Abbajay
Yeah, it’s my claim to fame. Yeah, you know, it’s funny. My sister and I opened a bar, I want to say, it was in the ‘90s, that shows you how old I am. And it was called the Toledo Lounge because it was our home town was Toledo, Ohio and we’re in Washington, DC and we thought DC was a little too self-important so we’re going to open up a little dive bar. And our little dive bar turned into this huge raging success, packed every night, and we ran it for like 13 years.

But I only worked there for a couple of years. But the best part about it was that a lot of the people that came back then in the ‘90s, the mid to late ‘90s, are now very famous people that you see in TV all the time. And I knew them when they were just young drunk people.

Pete Mocakitis
That’s great. And so what’s the status of the Toledo Lounge today?

Mary Abbajay
We sold it a couple of years ago. So I worked at it for a couple of years, and it’s really, really boring, let me tell you, to own a bar. But we kept it running, my husband’s brother ran it for like 10 or 12 years, and then we sold it. And the people that bought it tried to keep it as the Toledo Lounge but everybody knew, without the sisters there, it wasn’t very good. So they didn’t do well and they had to close it.

But I will tell you, one of the reasons I opened the bar was because I was really tired of having really bad bosses, and I thought, “You know what, I can be my own bad boss.” So actually looking back it was kind of a pivotal moment in my life in terms of what I went on to do afterwards.

Pete Mocakitis
Well, that’s cool, yes. And so, tell us, orienting quickly a bit, what is it you’re doing now afterwards in the world of professional development?

Mary Abbajay
Yes, so what we do, I own a little company. I have about five people in my team, and we do organizational development and professional development trainings. So I like to say we do one or two things. We’re either helping organizations to create environments where people can be really successful, can be engaged, can do great work, or we are helping the people be able to be great workers and bring their full self and be really successful in the work life. So we help people play well together and we help people play well.

Pete Mocakitis
Okay. Excellent. And so along those lines you’ve got this book Managing Up, an important topic. What is it all about and why is it important now?

Mary Abbajay
Oh, gosh. So I think it’s very important now for a couple of reasons. Well, first of all, it’s important because managing up is an essential skill for your career, right? You have one career and it’s up to you to manage it. And part of what’s going to help your career is your boss, like your boss actually matters. Your boss has a lot of influence over your career trajectory, a lot of influence over the kind of opportunities that come your way.

So it’s really incumbent on you to really develop that relationship, right? And it’s about what you can do. And the other reason I think it’s important now is I think we’ve gone really far to the employee engagement side which is a great thing. I’m all about that. And I think that we have lost or some of us have lost sort of the understanding that we have to bring our best selves to work as well and that we can’t really wait or expect our leaders and our managers in our organizations to do everything for us. We’re partners in that.

And so Managing Up I think is important, especially the demographics of the workplace change, to remind people that, “Hey, it’s not all on the organization to do everything for you. You have to bring some stuff as well.”

Pete Mocakitis
Okay. And so, then, I think for some who have never managed up, that maybe require a little bit of paradigm shift.

Mary Abbajay
Yeah.

Pete Mocakitis
Like, “Is that even appropriate?” So maybe you can start there in terms of what is the appropriate way in terms of broad mindset and perspective to think about the extent to which we should be managing our bosses and how that works?

Mary Abbajay
Yeah, that’s a great question and it does require a paradigm shift for many people. So the first thing you want to think about is, “Who is your boss? And what are you willing to do to adapt to your boss?” And when we talk of managing up, I want to say a lot of people have a misconception about it. They think it’s about brownnosing or manipulating or sucking up or being a bootlicker or anything like that. And it’s really not that at all.

In fact, if you are doing that, you actually aren’t managing up. You’re just being a manipulative, you know, brownnoser.

What managing up is it’s about building consciously and deliberatively a robust relationship with people who are higher in the food chain with you, and these are people that have different perspectives, probably different priorities, they may have different work styles. So it’s about looking at how your boss likes to work, how you like to work, and assessing that gap and then taking adaptive strategies to really work well with your boss.

And the thing is, Pete, it’s actually about being a really good follower. And in America, we hate the word, the effort, right? We hate the follower word because we love leaders in America, right? Leaders, we teach it, we preach it. It’s a $14 billion with a B industry. But with all those leaders, who’s doing the work, right? Who’s following?

So it’s about really understanding how you can close that gap in power and structure and to build that relationship. It’s about becoming an empowered follower, right? Being adaptive.

Pete Mocakitis
Okay. Understood. And so, then, it sounds like you’re suggesting that, in many ways, it’s just about getting the clear understanding of how you work, how boss works, and how that can work well together. So can you maybe give us a bit of an example in terms of, “Hey, here’s something that could be causing a bit of friction and the optimal way to address it”?

Mary Abbajay
Yeah, I mean, it goes from things as simple as understanding what’s important to your boss. Okay, so, for me, and we have a consulting company. So, for me, clients are important. We live and die by our clients. We love our clients. Like I’ll do anything for a client within reason and that’s legal, right? That’ll be helpful.

And one of the things that’s important to me is that they know that we’re there for them. So I really expect my team to, if a client emails us, to get back to them pretty quickly. You don’t have to have their answer but you have to acknowledge their email or their communication.

So if you know that’s important to me, then you need to do that. And so, for example, it’s also important for me, as a boss, that I know that you got my email, and you better say you got it instead of just waiting for weeks and then later saying, “Oh, yeah, I got it.” So it’s those little things like that, like knowing those preferences and what matters and adapting to them.

It could be that to like really big things. Like what are the priorities that your boss wants to accomplish? What are their goals? And how are you aligning your work to achieve their goals? It’s really important that we don’t sit around and wait for the boss that we wish we had. Instead, we have to deal with the boss that we do have.

And while bosses should adapt to you, like a great boss should adapt to you if you are a morning person, they should be a morning person as well. The truth is, only 33% of bosses adapt to their employees. So you might be waiting a long time. We have to say, “Stop waiting for the unicorn and deal with the boss you have.”

And the other thing that’s really important is we have to understand that most organizations, as I’m sure your listeners know, most organizations promote people based on their technical skills and not their managerial skills. So your chances of getting a boss who’s not perfect are pretty high in the workplace. So instead of sitting around and waiting for that boss to be perfect, you want to use adaptive skills and use adaptive strategies because, by the way, you’re going to need those when you’re the boss if you want to be a great boss.

Pete Mocakitis
Okay. Well, in a way it seems like these conversations, associated with managing up, are nothing to be feared. In fact, your boss will probably feel delighted, you know, “What a breath of fresh air that you’re proactively asking me things like, ‘Hey, what are your priorities? What are your goals? What are your preferences?’” And so are there any sort of best practice ways to elicit that information or you just ask the question? There it is.

Mary Abbajay
You just go in. And, you know, you’re right about being a breath of fresh air. So we’ve been doing Managing Up workshops for about 10 years and talking with leaders of all sorts and regular people, everybody. And I can literally, Pete, count on one hand the number of leaders or managers that have told me that one of their employees had that conversation with them, on one hand.

And I’ve probably talked about this subject to literally 5,000, 6,000 people. So, yeah, it’s something people don’t do. And it’s so easy to do. So that’s my first tip takeaway, listeners, is if you don’t know what your boss’ priorities are, or you think you do even, sit down and have a conversation. Go for a cup of coffee. Find out what’s important to her. Find out what he likes. Find out what her pet peeves are.

It’s really important to find out and take that in, and then see what you can do to either honor those priorities or avoid those pet peeves.

Pete Mocakitis
Okay. So that’s interesting. So, I guess, mathematically speaking, you know, you actually ask the question, “Hey, raise your hand if this has ever happened to you in your career.” And you just don’t get many hands raised.

Mary Abbajay
Yeah, that’s exactly right. And when we were doing the book, I interviewed hundreds of people just for the book, and all the people I interviewed that really is are managers, I asked them, “Has an employee ever sat down with you and asked you about your workplace preferences or your style?” And, again, like nobody said yes. Like two people said yes.

Pete Mocakitis
Wow.

Mary Abbajay
It’s crazy.

Pete Mocakitis
Well, that is striking, you know, because I figured, you know, you’d be the minority, right? But to be in the ballpark of under 1% is striking.

Mary Abbajay
It’s crazy, yeah.

Pete Mocakitis
And so, oh, wow, what a takeaway right there in terms of it don’t take much to really stand out and be supremely impressive.

Mary Abbajay
I know. Because the truth is to be awesome at your job, you have to be awesome at your job. And, as you know, like the world isn’t a meritocracy, right? So you also have to be awesome at that relationship, and that’s one way to be awesome at that relationship.

And what gets in the way, I think, for people managing up, so whenever we do a workshop where I give a talk on it, there’s always a couple of people that are like, you know, “I object. This is stupid” And what happens is that we get in our own way. So one thing that gets in our own way is our ego gets in our way.
We get caught in this trap of like, “Well, you know, my boss should give me more information,” or, “My boss should know what I’m working on,” or, “My boss should be more proactive in reaching out to me,” right?

Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, right? If your boss isn’t, then you have to be the one that adapts and goes to ask for what you need. And those that gets in the way, “You know, we feel like it takes extra effort.” Like when we talk about a micromanager like, yes, managing up is going to create extra work on your plate. But it’s extra work that’s going to be good for you, your boss, and the organization. So that gets in the way.

And then the last thing that gets in the way, besides your own ego and our own sort of like desire not to have to do it, is perspective. And so what we talked about in the beginning, having the right paradigm and the mind frame, is we have to start being able to look at things from other people’s perspective. And your boss has a different perspective. They have a different skillset probably, definitely a different experience. They sit in a different place in the organization. They probably have different pressures.

And so once we can get out of just our own narrow perspective, which may or may not be right, and we can actually do a little empathy, a little like, “Huh, I wonder what the world looks like from Pete’s angle?” Whatever expands our choices and what kind of strategies we can use for our boss.

Pete Mocakitis
Okay. That is good stuff in terms of what an opportunity for differentiation. And with regard to taking the time, my hunch is that you may find yourself having saved time because by getting a real clear sense of the goals and priorities, you can go, “Oh, so this other stuff doesn’t really matter that much, so I could maybe just put that on the bottom of my list and not worry about it and nothing explosively bad will happen to me as we go.”

Mary Abbajay
That’s exactly right. And oftentimes, you know, what you think is important and what your boss thinks are important maybe really different. So you’re absolutely right. It can save you time by understanding what they care about and what you can kind of let go off and not spinning your wheels on things that they don’t really care about.

Pete Mocakitis
Okay. That’s powerful. Well, so I guess when I think about managing up, I guess, my first thing that my brain goes to is, “All right, boss is doing something annoying, troublesome, unprofessional, rude,” just that is driving you nuts in one way or another, you know. And so you got to have that tricky conversation with a conflict, but then there’s a power dynamic in which you are on a lower – so that’s the first thing I think of when I hear managing up. I go right to the most dramatic, unpleasant.

Mary Abbajay
Worst-case scenario.

Pete Mocakitis
I’m glad we started easy, like, “Do that thing. Be a 1% professional and have that conversation.” But then when things get into the tricky territory, like, you know, I’m thinking, let’s say, there’s a complete lack of clarity. Here’s an example, there’s a total lack of clarity associated with decision-making roles, associated with a group collaborative project, and you say, “Hey, boss, this is kind of driving us all nuts. We don’t know who’s in charge, and then you just say, ‘Hey, just collaborate.’ And it’s like we decide we need to know. We need to know who’s got the decision-making authority and what kinds of areas?” but the boss isn’t giving it.

This is super detailed example but I’m just saying I think that this does happen in which you want something from the boss, you’ve asked for something from the boss, the boss gives you sort of an answer that’s not really satisfactory or sufficient. How do you get what you need?

Mary Abbajay
Yeah, that’s a great question. So there’s a couple of things in that example. First of all, you have to frame requests correctly. Okay, so, and you did a nice job in that. So you want to go to the boss and what you don’t want to say is, “You need to do this,” because that doesn’t fly very well.

So you want to go and say, “Hey, boss, so we need your help, or I need your help,” if it’s you or the team. Make sure you’re speaking, “We’re unclear about who is responsible for buying the apples for the company picnic, and we’re also not sure on the budget, or if we have the authority to actually go buy the apples. Can you clarify that for us? That would be really helpful.”

Pete Mocakitis
“Well, Mary, just figure this out. I can’t be in the weeds on all of this stuff with you, Mary.”

Mary Abbajay
“Oh, got it. All right. So that’s perfect. So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to buy the apples, I’m going to spend $50, I’m putting them on your credit card. Is that acceptable?” So when they say that, then you come right back, and you say, “Here’s my plan. Does this work for you?”

I mean, in some ways, if your boss isn’t giving you information because they’re kind of like, “I’m too big of a picture. Go figure it out,” which, by the way, is the kind of boss I am. Then you need to come back with that boss and say, “Here’s what we’re doing. I’m going to be in charge of this, or George is going to be in charge of this.”

So it depends on what kind of boss you have. If it’s that kind of boss who wants you to figure it out, then you need to go figure it out but tell that person what you did. If your boss is just hard to pin down, then you need to go and say, “Here’s what I need, and here’s why I need it.”

Pete Mocakitis
Okay.

Mary Abbajay
Does that make sense?

Pete Mocakitis
Understood.

Mary Abbajay
So you’ve got be a boss detective. You’ve got to know who you’re dealing with when you go have those conversations. Like it drives me crazy. So I’m definitely a hands-off boss. I am, until I’m not. And so I want them to go figure it out, and I want them to come back to me with options. Like I don’t want to have to hold their hands. But they know that about me because I tell them every day. But you have to know who your boss is.

Pete Mocakitis
Okay. I’m with there. So, now, you’ve done a little bit of categorizations associated with bosses and types, any boss, naughty boss, some work style personalities. Could you give us the quick orientation to these concepts to see sort of who we’re dealing with here?

Mary Abbajay
Yeah, absolutely. And, I mean, if you can’t label your boss, who can you label anymore in this world, right? So we cover some different – we take Managing Up from the perspective of personality and work styles because that’s really what you see. And so what we did, what I did, is really broke people down to a couple different personality types, and then we went and took after that, then we went and talked about 10 difficult boss types.

So the main personality types are introversion or extroversion, so that’s very helpful to know that. Then we went and talked about four work styles. And one work style was what we call the advancer, and the advancer is the person that’s – I’m an advancer, for example – fast-paced, task-oriented, wants to get a lot of stuff done quickly, doesn’t really want a lot of, you know, soft huggy muggy relationship building.

I love my people but I don’t want to talk to them all the time about it. And just really focuses on tasks and getting things done, and wants to make decisions quickly, very pragmatic, move the ball forward all the time.

Then another boss type is also very fast-paced. We call this boss the influencer or the enthusiasts. And this boss is about high energy, moving things forward, but moving with people. So the kind of a cheerleader, like the inspirational person, loves to take risks, loves to innovate, loves to do different things, and wants it done with people along their side. So fast-paced and people-oriented.

Then the third type that we talk about, these are the people that we call them the evaluators. So they slow it down, you know, they’re the efficient perfectionist, they’re task-oriented, so not warm and fuzzy but not cold. They love the details, they want things done right, they’re like the measure twice, then measure twice again, and then cut once. We call these the evaluators. Different energy, and what they care about is getting things right every single time.

And then the last boss that we talk about is people-oriented. They are people-oriented and they are also moderate pace. So they want to kind of slow things down, they care about the people. These are the people that want to build team, they want to make sure everybody is happy, they don’t want to make anybody unhappy, and they want to get things right, and they want everyone to be secure. And this boss we call the harmonizer.

Pete Mocakitis
Okay. Understood. And so, then, once I know that, I imagine you’re saying, “Go ahead and give them what they want.”

Mary Abbajay
Yeah, so, for example, if your boss is an advancer like me, and they are fast-paced and they want to get stuff done, and they don’t want to be huggy muggy, and they don’t want a lot of chitchat, they want decisions made. Then you want to really pay attention to that personality and do things that work best with them.

For example, if your boss is always impatient and in a hurry and just wants stuff done, when you go into their office, don’t sit down, fall of on a chair, and then just chitchat for 15 minutes. We’ll want to punch you in the face. You want to be able to like go in, be brief, be business-like and be gone. So you want to pay attention to different personalities and work styles so you know what works for these bosses.

For example, if you have an energizer boss, one of the qualities of this boss is they’re optimistic, they’re enthusiastic. And they’re going to come in, Pete, they’re going to be like, “Wow, let’s do this new idea. Let’s put an office on the moon.” And you’re going to be tempted to be like, “That’s dumb,” and be a wet blanket.

And so you can’t do that with that boss. You’d have to say, “Oh, that’s an interesting idea, and we may have some challenges.” So you want to know that you’re working with them and not against them in a way. So you want to find out what your boss is and adopt strategies that are going to work for that boss that doesn’t push them away from you.

Pete Mocakitis
Okay. Very good. Well, then, now I want to hear about there’s some things that are just bad behavior, you know, no matter what your work style is, things that can be disrespectful, just mean. And so how do you handle those tricky ones?

Mary Abbajay
When you’re the mean person or when your boss has the bad behavior?

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, the boss is mean, you know, the boss seems to just have little regard for you and others as human beings and steals credits, publicly shames, they’re just like all the naughty things the boss does.

Mary Abbajay
So when you have a boss that does that, you want to think about the spectrum of behavior. So on the one end, you have the good boss, they’re easy. They might do that once in a while or occasionally like be snippy. Then you have those bosses in the middle that might do this behavior frequently. Like we call those the difficult bosses, like the narcissists, the impulsive, the pushovers, we have some difficult bosses.

But then you have, on the other end of the spectrum, I put it like the red, like, “Danger, danger, Will Robinson.” We have what we call the truly terrible, and these are the psychos, the crazies, the bullies, the people that are screaming at you, the egomaniacs. Now they’re a whole another category of bosses. And with those bosses, it’s not so much about managing up as is about surviving.

And I talk about, I always caution people like it’s okay to quit. I think you want to talk about that later but, you know, if you have truly psycho behavior on your hands, or behavior that is just not acceptable, then you don’t have a lot of choices. You can’t do much managing up. You have to choose to protect yourself.

But if the boss is kind of snippy, well, maybe you need to look at, “Are they really snippy or are you just taking it the wrong way?” So you have to kind of assess the behavior.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. And so then can you help us make that distinction between, well, what’s kind of tricky, okay, there’s this sort of snippy every once in a while, they’re in a mood versus truly terrible? I think it might be eye-opening for some in terms of if you can just sort of lay it out in terms of these are behaviors or examples that tend to be almost unworkable and, thus, it’s time to explore the exit.

Mary Abbajay
Yeah. So, you know, I don’t know if you’ve ever read any Eckhart Tolle. I love his stuff. He said that human beings have – he wrote The Power of Now – human beings have three choices when they’re faced with a difficult situation. Choice number one is you can change the situation or you can, choice number two is you can adapt to accept the situation, or, choice number three, is you can leave the situation.

And so when you’re talking about someone who’s truly terrible, you know, screaming, raging bully, then there’s not much you can do to change other people. There’s nothing you can do to change other people. And in terms of your choices about going to HR, for example, those are pretty risky as we’re seeing now with the MeToo, and it gets even riskier the smaller kind of business you work in.

So maybe if you work for a really large company with a robust HR department it might have some traction. Going to you boss’ boss is also a little risky. Your boss’ boss probably hired that person and they may not be as supportive as you want.

So the next choice is to accept and adapt it, right? And when the behavior is so bad, like if they are screaming at you on a daily basis, when you are feeling demeaned, when you are feeling sick, when you are physically and emotionally strung out, when you are planning your day more about how to survive than how to thrive, it may be time for you to take that third option which is to leave.

And this is a very difficult choice for many people but quitting is always an option. And quitting as an option, more people I do think need to consider. I mean, look, you spend most of your waking hours, most of us spend at work, and those should be good waking hours. And those should be hours where you’re alive, and you’re doing great stuff, and you’re feeling great, and you’re contributing to something.

If you have a boss that’s truly terrible, that’s irredeemable, then we really do – you need to leave because you will become sick. I mean, there are studies after studies that have shown how toxic bosses make people physically and mentally sick. You need to get out if you have one of those.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. Now, you used the word irredeemable, and I would love to get your take on, if you do need to have a tough conversation, like, “Hey, you know, every other week or so you say,” the boss says something that’s just kind of super hurtful.

Mary Abbajay
Terrible? Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, just terrible. So I guess there are some things that could be in the blind spot of the boss or, you know, they just – it’s hard to know. It’s like, “Yeah, I know I do it. I don’t care,” versus, “Oh, I had no idea I was being interpreted that way.”

Mary Abbajay
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
So how do you dance in that world of providing feedback in the hopes that a boss will change a behavior?

Mary Abbajay
So it depends on the relationship you have with your boss and it depends on your boss. Like can you imagine someone like – take Donald Trump, for example. There are certain people that can give him feedback and there are certain people that can’t give him feedback, right, from what we read in the news. And he’s a pretty powerful boss, he’s the President of the United States, so it’s about your relationship.

If you have the kind of relationship that you can give feedback then you want to do it, you want to do it privately, you want to have that conversation, you want to make it so that you are showing your intention as to make them successful, and your intention is to also let them know that you’re on their side and you’re going to, have a request of a different behavior.

But let me also caution that if the boss is truly terrible, they may not take that feedback well. If you really believe that it’s a blind spot and they don’t know, that’s good. But if they are truly a bully or a true really heavy narcissist, that conversation may backfire on you, so you want to be really careful. Also, you want to look at, “Are you the only one being targeted or is it everybody?”

So that conversation is very difficult and that’s a case-by-case situation. And if you do have that conversation, be prepared for it not to go well and role-play it first. Because the truth is a lot of people might just say what you did. They might just say, “I’m a screamer. I don’t care.” So now the choice is clear for you.

You can either stay there and deal with the screaming, right, and kind of put on your golden work shield every day so it doesn’t impact you, or you can choose to leave. And the other thing you have to do is assess, “Is it worth it?”

So I know a lot of people would say, “I would never work for someone who screams, or belittles me, or embarrasses me in front of people, or is a narcissist.” Well, then a lot of people would never have worked for Steve Jobs, right, because that’s pretty much how they described him. So only you can decide what you’re willing to put up with and what is worth it to you.

But what I don’t want people to do is think that they don’t have choice. Really, at the end of the day, I want people to be in choice. You get to choose what adaptive strategies you use for your boss, and you get to choose how you want to be treated.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Very cool. Thank you. Now toward the end of the book you’ve got 50 tips for managing your manager. Can you share a couple of those that have been just supremely resonant with folks and helpful?

Mary Abbajay
Well, the first tip is really learn what your boss wants and adapt to it, right? It’s not about, if you’re waiting for yourself to adapt, if you’re waiting for your boss to adapt to you, you might be waiting for a very long time. So you want to really find out what’s important to him or her and see what you can adapt.

You want to bring solutions not problems. And depending on what kind of boss you have, it will depend what kind of solutions you’ll have. So, for example, if you have an advancer or you have an extrovert, then you’ll want to go and bring a couple of solutions.

So one thing that people tend to do in the workplace is they tend to complain. But inside every kind of complaint is request. So don’t bring a problem without a solution, and don’t bring a complaint without a request. I mean, these are just classics. And they’re classic because they work.

The other thing is respecting your boss’ time. When you walk into her or his office, you want to be clear and prepared about what you need. Because in addition to managing you and others, your boss most likely has her own tasks to accomplish so know what you need from your boss and then get out.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Mary Abbajay
Make sure you align your priorities. You know, oftentimes we get stuck in our own priorities and we’re not shifting for our boss’. Being proactive is huge, and that means really – you know, when my staff is proactive, I love it when they look at my calendar and like, “Oh, you know, Mary is doing a podcast. Let’s get on top of things that she might need for that before she asks us for that.” So being proactive is always a way it’s going to make you stand out.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. Well, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Mary Abbajay
I would like to talk a little bit about and give one specific strategy about what I see is the boss that most people hate the most.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, let’s do it.

Mary Abbajay
All right. So the micromanager is the one that comes up all the time about the one that drives people crazy. The micromanager is the boss that’s always over your shoulder, that is always telling you what to do, doesn’t give you an authority, and is just on you all the time.

And most people find this really frustrating, because we like to have some autonomy at work, right? We like to stretch our own creative muscles and we like to be able to make our own decisions. And so the micromanager, well, is probably the most annoying to most people. It’s also the easiest one to manage up to.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Mary Abbajay
And do you want me to tell you how to do it?

Pete Mockaitis
Please do, yeah.

Mary Abbajay
All right. So it’s so obvious, Pete. What would you think you would do if you ever had a micromanager?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. Yes.

Mary Abbajay
And how did you handle it? What did you do? Aside from being frustrated.

Pete Mockaitis
I think I just continually tried to anticipate what they were going to ask and need, and then just like over-did everything.

Mary Abbajay
Dude, you go it. You could’ve co-wrote the book. And that’s so easy but most people are like, “I’m resisting this. Like I don’t want to do this. It’s unfair.” But you need to flood them with information before they ask. You need to anticipate this behavior. You’re not going to change them right away. Either it’s based on their lack of trust of you, or they just need to know, so stop resisting it and just give them the information before they ask. Give them as much as you can, whenever you can, and find out what’s important to them.

And a lot of times you will gain their trust once they see that – and do things their way. If they like the Oxford comma, use the Oxford comma, but it’s really about being forthright, proactive, and giving them information before they ask.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Got it. Thank you.

Mary Abbajay
You’re welcome.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Mary Abbajay
Oh, yeah, oh, that’s a hard one. So I think, and I’m not going to get it exactly right. I tried to find it before this. But it’s from Cher, it was something that I read years ago when I was younger trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and she said, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, so I just kept not doing the things I didn’t want to do, and pretty soon I was doing the things that I wanted to do.”

And I really like that because I think your career is a journey, and it’s a marathon, and I think that there’s a lot of pressure to know exactly what you want to do as soon as you get out of school. So for those of us who took us a little while to figure out what you do, just keep trying different things.

Pete Mockaitis
Great. How about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Mary Abbajay
Well, you know, I’m really into lately, I’m really into like the neuroscience of emotions and interactions. So there’s some great work being done by people like David Rock that really they’re pinpointing like what parts of your brain lights up with different emotions and what human beings need. So it’s actually giving the hard science to what people call the soft skills and the soft science. So I’m really into that lately.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. And how about a favorite book?

Mary Abbajay
Well, you know, I’m an English major so this is like choosing a favorite child so I’m going to say I’m going to go fiction, being an old English major, and my favorite book, I would to say, is a book called Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. And I love this book because it’s a story of a woman and her life just – most of us would be like, “Oh, my God, how horrible. Terrible things have happened to her.”

By the end of the book, she is blessed and thankful for everything that her life brought to her, and I just really like that sort of embracing what life is and never letting yourself be a victim.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. And how about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Mary Abbajay
So I couldn’t do my job without Google. Like let’s just give old-fashioned Google a big shout out. And I think I’m really lately into something called the Pomodoro Method, I’m kind of old school here, which is this 25-minute productivity tool where it forces you to work for 25 minutes straight without answering email and I’m loving that.

And then, of course, I don’t know what I would do without my Starbucks pre order app because I hate waiting in lines. So those are three favorites.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And how about a favorite habit, something that helps you flourish?

Mary Abbajay
My favorite habit. I take a walk. Well, I’m a 10,000-step girl, right? So I try to get my 10,000 steps in every single day. In fact, when I’m going to this podcast, even though it’s raining, I got 1300 more steps to get in today. But I really find walking for about 45 minutes to an hour every day is something that really keeps me sane.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. And is there a particular nugget or piece that you share that seems to get quoted back to you frequently?

Mary Abbajay
Oh, God. Yeah, there’s a lot. But I’m thinking lately, people always say that I say, “Just do it. Just do it. Like don’t complain. Just do it. Make it work. Figure it out and take control of your life.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And, Mary, if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Mary Abbajay
Okay, if they want to learn more about me, they can either go to Twitter @maryabbajay, they can go to my website, either careerstonegroup.com or managingupthebook. But if you want to get in touch with me, I’m kind of old school and I do like to email. It kind of runs my life. So if you need to talk to me, you can email me mary@careerstonegroup.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Mary Abbajay
I do. It’s kind of a two-fold. One is adapt. It’s really important to be awesome at your job, to always be willing to adapt, to be able to accept change, to be able to look around, be strategic and adapt to what is. As we know from biology, that in evolution, that people who adapt, people who could be flexible are the people that were going to be around for the long haul.

And the second one, which I feel very strongly about, is take responsibility. And I mean this in two ways. I think people need to take responsibility for gaining the skills that they need to be awesome at their job, they take responsibility that they’re always developing their career and their skills, and responsibility for driving their career.

And we all need to take responsibility for our impact in the world and our impact in other people. It’s about understanding, separating your intention from your impact. And to be someone that impacts in a positive way, which I like to say leaves a positive wake after every encounter with people so that people feel great about you, about the encounter, but mostly so people feel great about themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, beautiful. Thank you. Well, Mary, thank you so much for taking this time and writing this book. I think it’s going to be transformative for a lot of folks in terms of relationships improved, fast tracks joined and some bosses left. So everybody wins no matter which way it goes. So much appreciated and please keep up the great work.

Mary Abbajay
Thank you. And, Pete, you are a doll face. It was so much fun to be in your show. Thank you again for having me and I wish you the best.

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The Gold Nugget

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