When you’ve changed and grown but your boss still sees you as an apprentice.
In Star Wars lore, a Padawan is the apprentice of a Jedi Master (a master fighter, strategist, spiritual guru and MASTER of “The Force”). The Padawan apprentices under the Jedi master for a number of years, learns not only how to control a light saber, but how to control his mind, bringing negative emotions under control so that he can develop his telekinetic powers. Yoda and Luke Skywalker (above) had just such a relationship, and even as the apprentice was gaining prowess towards Jedi knighthood, Yoda famously says to him in one scene, “But you are not a Jedi yet!”
As we go through promotions from front line employee to supervisor, to manager and beyond, two sets of people tend to have a tough time adjusting to the transition: our colleagues who are now our subordinates, and our new colleagues who were once our bosses (or several rungs up the ladder from us). Even though they may have groomed us for greatness and been the ones to release us into greater and greater responsibility and autonomy, it is still hard for many to acknowledge the fruit of their own “success”; that the student has now become the master.
In speaking with an executive who faces just that dilemma the Jedi analogy came to mind. After some thought I said, “You can’t control the behavior of the person above you but you can control your own. Are there any ways in which you are still acting like a padawan?” We truly cannot force our superiors to change, but we can change the dynamics of our relationship simply by changing our own behaviors and responses.
Assuming you are either still in a direct reporting relationship but from a much higher position or even an equal now in title and status to your former superior (we’ll say “boss” just to clarify) here is food for thought:
What might “Padawan” (Apprentice) behavior be?
- Continuing to use your boss as your fact-checker, proof-reader, and for approval
- Using the boss almost exclusively as your sounding board rather than branching out to other colleagues and mentors
- Failing to step out and try new things without ‘permission’ (permission and input are two different things)
- Not taking responsibility when you mess up
- Keeping them in the loop for every little thing
- Letting them set the agendas for your meetings
- Not speaking up when slighted or overlooked or are spoken to inappropriately
- Continuing to allow all assignments to be from downward delegation rather than mostly from your own initiative.
How to demonstrate that you are now a Jedi (master in your field)
- Let the buck truly stop with you. Even if your team messed up, they are still your team.
- Step out and do more and more of your own projects, reporting back just to get their insights on occasion but mainly to keep them in the loop after the fact (Click here for the decision tree model)
- Pro-actively ask for meetings, including one-on-ones, where you set the agenda.
- Learn to speak respectfully yet assertively correcting misperceptions about your work or when you feel talked down to. You’re a honcho now, yourself; the conversational tone must change.
- Let the boss know about your discomfort with certain practices that imply you are still in a junior role, i.e. “I would like to now be a collaborator with you on staff meeting agendas rather than, as in the past, finding out the agenda at the meeting.”
- Develop new formal or informal mentor relationships with people who can bring you a level beyond what your boss has
- Continue your education – formal, informal, seminars, classes, reading
- Acknowledge to yourself and your boss that this promotion has required an adjustment on both parts
- Take on your own padawans. You’ve got the goods: pass it on!
Depending on your industry and whether you have gone from a teacher to an Assistant Principal under the same Principal, or from an administrative assistant to a Director under the same Executive Director keep in mind that as titles change, so must mindsets. The mindsets of those around you may change much more slowly than your own so you may have to help them adjust by changing your own behavior.