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The Champion Forum Podcast

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TCFP122: Help! My Boss Is An Alpha!

Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! We all know a boss who has a dominating and assertive personality. They are confident, authoritative, and unafraid to take charge, but it can be a double-edged sword for their subordinates. Personality theorists call these leaders "alphas." In this episode, we'll talk about working with an alpha boss, how to handle their personality, and the keys to success under their leadership.


Characteristics of an Alpha Boss

Confidence

Alpha bosses are highly confident in their abilities and decisions. They exude self-assurance and are not afraid to take calculated risks. Some alpha leaders allow their confidence to turn into arrogance without even realizing it, causing their employees to be uncomfortable presenting them with new ideas.


Decisive

Alpha bosses are known for their ability to make decisions quickly and confidently. They are willing to take responsibility for their choices and don't often ask for other people's opinions.


Assertive

Alpha bosses are unafraid to speak their minds and clarify their expectations. Their assertive and direct communication style can come off as abrasive or rude, especially to passive employees.

Results-oriented: Alpha bosses are focused on achieving results and are often driven by goals and objectives. They prioritize productivity and are always looking for ways to improve efficiency.


Competitive

Alpha bosses strive to be the best in their field. They are not afraid to take on challenges and always look for ways to outperform their competitors. They hate to lose!


Q: Describe a time when you saw your boss express one of these characteristics. What other characteristics does your boss have that make them challenging to work with? How have you overcome a difficult situation with your boss?


What is it like to work with an alpha boss?

Your experience working with an alpha boss will depend on your personality and working style. If you prefer to take the lead, working with an alpha boss might be inspiring. They can be great mentors, providing guidance and feedback to help you grow in your career. If you prefer a more collaborative approach, working with an alpha boss might be challenging. They might not always listen to your ideas or take your feedback into account, which can be frustrating.


How do you handle an alpha boss?

Be Confident

Alpha bosses respect confidence, so speak up and share your ideas. Don't be afraid to challenge their ideas or ask questions, no matter how uncomfortable you feel. Alpha leaders see a lack of confidence as weak; they would rather be challenged by you.


Understand Their Communication Style

Alpha bosses might not have time for small talk or pleasantries; be direct and concise. Refrain from giving your boss unnecessary information or side stories. Provide the details that will allow your boss quickly make a yes/no decision with confidence.


Don't Provoke Them

When you have a different opinion or question their position on a given situation, approach the conversation with curiosity, openness, and flexibility. While remaining confident in your own stance, show that you are willing to defer to your boss's stature and position. Phrase your questions in a way that establishes your intent to gain clarity, not to question their authority.


Instead of: "Don't you think we should xyz?"

Try: "I'm wondering what you'd think of xyz."


Never Retaliate

The worst thing is to meet confrontation with opposition. The most effective tactic to conflict is empathy. Gain clarity around the situation by fully understanding your boss's perspective. Take ownership, when possible, rather than assuming a defensive (or offensive) position. If a team member working under your leadership makes a mistake, it is YOUR responsibility, even when it is their fault.


Focus On Results

Alpha bosses are results-oriented, so focus on achieving your goals and delivering high-quality work. Show them that you're a valuable asset to the team and are aware of your key metrics.


Q: If you have worked with an alpha boss, what else did you do to improve your professional relationship? Which of these suggestions is the hardest for you to do? Why?


Application Activities

  1. One way to deal with a direct person is to practice using assertive communication. Assertive communication focuses on expressing what you need clearly and confidently. Think about how you talk. Do you use a lot of qualifiers like "maybe," "I think," or "I'm not sure, but…." Identify words, phrases, or body language that you use regularly that may demonstrate confidence or a lack of confidence. The more you become aware of these habits, the easier it will be for you to change your behaviors to project more confidence.

  2. Your boss may or may not be an alpha, but they are likely different from you. If you know your boss's personality type, take some time to compare it to your type. Look for similarities, strengths, weaknesses, and areas that might cause tension. Planning for these situations will help you respond clearly and with empathy.

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