Never Upstage the Boss – The First Commandment of CX Influence

Never Upstage The Boss

Let this sink in:

“All the important decisions about your career will be made when you are not in the room.”

Carla Harris at the Global Leadership Summit

The most important relationship at work is with your boss.

Your boss, alone, has the power to grant you a back-stage pass to the private executive afterparty — or banish you to a wasteland of ravenous soul-eating spreadsheets.

To lead CX, you need to be at that afterparty.

High-fiving the sales guys. Laughing with the CEO. Smashing old FTP servers with Matt from I.T. after a data center migration.

If you want access to senior leaders, then you need your boss on your side.

So never upstage your boss.

up-stage (verb) [via Merriam-Webster]
1. to draw attention away from
2. to force (an actor) to face away from the audience by facing upstage
3. to treat snobbishly

Because Customer Experience projects impact multiple departments and functions, you’ll earn the executives’ attention. Other leaders, like your boss, might be craving that recognition.

Jealousy is a human emotion. We all feel it.

Your boss feels it too.

How does your boss react? Maybe she plays it cool.

Or maybe he embargoes your access to senior leaders, ignores your requests for resources, and “forgets” to invite you to the budget meeting for the next quarter.

Honest mistake. Won’t happen again. Right?

Bosses may [shut you out] if they don’t believe you’re loyal to them, if they feel threatened by your expertise, or if they’re concerned that you’re undermining their standing with the rest of the organization.

Liz Kislik, What to Do if You Think Your Boss is Shutting You Out (HBR)

So what do you do instead? Cultivate your boss-relationship with trust-building practices:

  • Review results with the boss before sharing. Get her blessing.
  • Ask your boss to promote the CX message. If he won’t, find out why.
  • Seek your boss’ advice. (Even when you don’t think you need it).
  • Always share credit with your boss.

Important: Don’t be manipulative or fake. Be your authentic, well-managed self. Nurture your boss-relationship so you can collaborate and co-create the future.

“Never Upstage the Boss” is the First Commandment of CX Influence.

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