The Big Question

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The big question I asked during a coaching session last month was “When you told your boss that you had a need, what did they say?”  Your boss cannot possibly read your mind. When you put another in a position of having to read your mind, you will be disappointed.  The big question is simple: “When you shared your need or your desire, how did they respond?”

The context of the above story was a manager that was frustrated with many items including: their career, lack of role clarity, a desire for inclusion and empowerment.  These are all valid concerns that I hear from managers every day.

The key is what we do with these needs / wants / desires.  I see leaders deal with their needs in one of three ways:


We all do this. We deny that we have a need or desire and stuff it down deep.  Denial is a great enemy of the critical competence of self-awareness.   For some reason, I see leaders de-validate their own development and needs in exchange for what seems like a noble reason: service.

We often deceive ourselves into thinking that we only advocate for others.  In actuality advocating for ourselves is a demonstration of assertiveness.  Your ability to develop yourself is directly proportional to developing others.

Remember the story of the starving baker? He spent his days baking for others that he did not realize how hungry he was.  If the baker goes down, where does it leave those reliant on his bread for nourishment.  The same applies to you.

What about the story below about the woman who has chronic headaches but won’t take a gander at the nail in her forehead.  Crazy I know!


We blame, we point fingers, we complain, we lash out and we take it out on others.  This is actually a cowardice act that indicts you as the villain.  Sure blame your boss at the water cooler.  How is that working for you?

Your credibility as a leader is threatened because your team or peers see how you handle stress or difficulty.  We often lash out in anger because of a goal that has not been met.


This is when we come in touch with a need and communicate it without emotion.  We use words like: “It would be helpful to be included in this meeting because it will help my team more effectively align.” or “How can I be a part of this change process?” or “I need to be included to be more successful in leading my team.”

If you have tried to assert yourself and yet do not see responses, then a different approach or method may be necessary.  This is only after you have had multiple conversations.  Many times we think, “Whew! I finally had that difficult conversation.” Unfortunately, your relationship with your boss is dynamic and evolving. A conversation is not an event, it is a method used to strengthen your relationships.

It was exciting to see my client move toward their boss with confidence.  In the end it was about being an advocate for themselves  and that was 90% of the challenge.  The outcome of the conversation was an open door for continued discussion.  What is on your list that you are neglecting?