JM: What do I do as a new manager/team leader when I see opportunities to improve our team and my manager is unreceptive? In general, how do I deal with an unreceptive leader to whom I report?
SC: It's easier to get forgiveness than permission. If what you think is wise and reasonable, I would just do it. If it involves certain areas the manager preserves for himself or herself, I would show respect for that and exercise initiative proactively in other areas.
I would empathize with the problem the leaders or managers are facing and come up with initiative suggestions as to what you might do to help solve those problems. As you increase your capability in doing this, and as confidence in you grows, you inevitably will find that you will be increasingly empowered, and you will reach a point tat which you will have influence with the entire culture. In short, your circle of influence will become very, very large.
I saw a very dictatorial president of an organization treat everyone like "go-fors"—go for this, go for that—and listen to no one's opinion, get no feedback. One manager, seeing this, stopped criticizing and instead anticipated what the president was requesting and became the best go-for, but also, anticipating the need, presented the information in a way that would meet the deeper need. When the president saw this happen, he was astounded. He began to say to himself, "Wow! I'm going to do what he recommends."
This manager's circle of influence got so large that the president hardly would make any significant moves without that man's blessing. When he retired, there was a special award given to other people who were proactive in not criticizing but complementing their managers and leaders, and it was named after this man.
JM: What can I do if I feel I am being held back from opportunities within an organization because I am seen as a star player on my team, and my manager wants to keep me in the current role for the team's benefit?
SC: I think I would talk courageously and frankly with the manager or the leader about your feelings, and then, also, listen empathically to his perception and feelings, but don't capitulate to them. Instead, listen to understand and restate to the other person's satisfaction. Then try to work out a third- alternative solution.
This may be difficult in the initial stages, but if you stop criticizing and complaining and start trying to think creatively, I think you almost inevitably will come up with a third alternative, because the manager does not want to lose you. That's a possibility in the manager's eyes. You have become almost indispensable, and that's one of the reasons he doesn't want to give you new opportunities. But if you show you can help in succession planning and in coaching and training people who will carry on the same approaches that have worked so well for you, or if you can build your approaches into structures and systems so that those systems and processes essentially have become institutionalized into the culture, then you can move on to higher responsibilities and stewardships without jeopardizing the successes you have achieved in the past.
Stephen R. Covey is co-founder of FranklinCovey and author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and "The 8th Habit."