Have you ever reference checked your future boss? You might want to.

Goodness, did we have an engaging conversation on the Live show last week. I shared the idea that your manager can play Coach, Patron, or Investor in your development with the audience. And knowing which you want, which you need, and which kind of manager you have is critical. I wrote about this last week and talked about my example where I wanted and needed a Patron; what I had was an Investor. It explains a lot of why we were both a bit unhappy with each other as my tenure ended. Had I checked myself and realized what I had and what I needed, I’m not sure I’d be here writing this article today. It’s the painful lessons that teach us the most, right?

Just in case you didn’t click on the link, I’m going to make it easy for you and give you a quick primer on the definitions. I’m also sharing again because of what happened during the Live show. The audience helped me flesh out the idea. I’m going to come back to that in a second.

Investor – wants you for your expertise and trusts you to run with it. Their job is to advocate for your ideas and help move obstacles out your way.

-Interaction is on your timeline, and they expect you to drive the agenda.
-They expect you to know how to navigate the future but will always be happy to spitball with you.
-Why you might want to work for an Investor – when you have a vision around what your company/organization/team needs to do in the future. You’re needed for this vision, and you have expertise in making it happen. If you like to be left alone to do your thing / lead your team etc. When you’re often very self-motivated.
-Why you might not want to work for an Investor- if you prefer clear direction on what you should be doing and a consensus on what success looks like. When you like regular and consistent praise and/or feedback about what you’re working on. When you’re not confident in either your skills or what you should be doing.
-Why an Investor might not be a fan of you – if you ask permission to do things rather than building consensus regarding your strategy. If you play outside your lane. If you come to a meeting/presentation unprepared. If you worry about what others think of you.

Patron – sees the potential in who you could be and wants you to play a bigger game. Their job is to push you out of your comfort zone and help you leverage your skills and experiences to have a more significant impact on the organization.
-Interactions are idea sessions, agendas, and deliverables are for other people.
-Why you might want to work for a Patron – when you’re open to doing new things and exploring new opportunities. If you’re interested in pivoting your career or see if you can apply what you know in a new area. You’re comfortable with the idea of ambiguity in your role and responsibilities.
-Why you might not want to work for a Patron – if you prefer focus and clarity. If you’re looking for the exact path to manifest your ambitions or have a clear idea of what you’re ambitious for. When your inner critic tends to have long conversations with you after meetings with your boss.
-Why a Patron might not be a fan of you – if you don’t respond to and run with the opportunities they (sometimes not clearly) present to you. -If you like to create the “how” before you create the “why”.

Coach – is an expert in your field and is generous with their knowledge with you. Their job is to impart their knowledge on how you can be successful in their area of expertise. They want you to be the very best at what you both do.
-Interactions are driven by the coach. They have a plan, agenda, and goals.
-Why you might want to work for a Coach – when you’re inspired by them and what they’ve accomplished and want to learn from them. If you’re new in a role/industry and need an expert to help you navigate. You like clear direction and lean into feedback like it’s a gift – even the smallest adjustment.
-Why you might not want to work for a Coach – you like finding things out by yourself and defining the direction you’re heading. You tend to find too much feedback feels like micromanaging. You know your ego can get in your way.
-Why a Coach might not be a fan of you – if you learn through teaching others. If you tend to have lots of options and experiences going at one time.

I’m going to ask you again. Who are you working for? And who do you need them to be? Is a great leader empathetic enough to weave between these characters based on the person they’re talking to? Yes, totally. Do we? No. I’ll openly admit that my default state is Patron, and I have to check myself if my teammates’ default state isn’t looking for one. When someone needs a Coach, I need to back off because I can scare and intimidate. When someone needs an Investor, I need to sit on my “brilliant ideas” because no, actually, they might not need to hear them.

Back to the show….

The audience’s curiosity (30 mins of the show is open Q&A with me) lead to the following questions AND the answers that followed. Yup – the Live Show isn’t just me talking; there’s quite the conversation going on.

1. How do you bring this up with your boss? Well, I’m a big fan of the “blame Joanna” method. You could say something like this, “I was learning about the concept of Investors, Coaches, and Patrons from this woman who calls herself a Potentialist earlier this week. It got me thinking, which one do you think you are for me?” Yes, have the descriptions handy. My guess, it will open up an exciting conversation.

2. If you’re interviewing for a job, how do you find out which kind your future boss might be? First, I want to remind you that you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. You can use the #1 methodology to bring up the idea when asking you if you have any questions. Not talking to the hiring manager, even better, as the person which type they think the hiring manager is. Speaking of, this (according to Kelly) was the “Ah-Ha” moment of the call. You should absolutely do a reference check on your new boss. Simply say the following, “I’m excited to work with you. I’d love to learn more about what it’s like to work for you from people who’ve grown under your leadership. Would you be open to introducing one or two of them to me?” Might they be surprised by this question? Yes. So I always give a break on someone’s immediate reaction to this. But if they push back on this question, it might be a tiny red flag. Someone who’s confident in their leadership and what they’re known for shouldn’t be worried. I’ll also remind you that “backdoor reference checking” is a thing. You can do it too on your future boss. And you should.

What do you think about this construct? Are there any leader types I’m missing? Better yet, if you take this out for a spin, I’d love to hear what happens. We’re all in this future together. I want to learn from you too.

Speaking of learning. Here are some more brilliant ideas that crossed my path this week. I thought you might find them thought-provoking.

1. Alex Cohen @anothercohen shared his “Top 5 interview questions and why I ask them.” on Twitter. In my observation, Alex wants to understand how you think much more than what you do. Sound familiar?
2. The leadership of WiTH and Sony Pictures Entertainment created a “Goodbye and thank you!” video as one of their own pivots into a new industry. I LOST MY MIND. So brilliant. And what a great way to amplify someone, create a lasting impression, and promote your organization’s culture all in one go.
3. I got creative with a post about entrepreneurship and the mistakes you should avoid. Just a reminder, you are the CEO and Founder of Future You, Inc. in my mind, you’re an entrepreneur already. Here’s what I had to share.
4. Have you heard the story about the brilliant woman who invented Liquid Paper? Spoiler alert – you’ll find a tale of ambition and generosity all in one. I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit bored with the “How I created a $B company through pure hustle and belief in my vision.” stories. Bette Nesmith Graham story is the kind of inspirational entrepreneurship example I want to see.

What’s coming up in this Potentialist’s world?

You can join me on May 7th for our next live show as we’re going to talk about how to explain your brilliant brain with a graphic. And yes, even when you have a job.
Can’t make it on the 7th? We’re back the following week to talk about how to make it easy for your network to help you. We make it so hard. And yes, I’ll be sharing my template with the audience.

We’ve got tons more good stuff coming in 2021.


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