deal with bossWhen I worked at Deloitte, I had to write a lot of proposals (documents to sell consulting work).  I remember one time my team and I worked hard for a week to pull together a kick-a** proposal for a high tech company.  We worked late and came in early to create a good draft.  On Thursday evening, I finally had a chance to review the proposal with the Partner and Senior Manager.

We weren’t expecting many comments, as we did our homework and knew our competition. Well, the Partner thought differently, and began to word-smith our draft on every page, asked us to switch the order of our sections, etc. I felt pretty irritated, since most of the comments did not seem to add value. Since he was the Partner, I had to listen and figure out how my team and I were going to make the adjustments he asked for that night.

While I kept calm for the most part, the Senior Manager, whom I knew well and respected, could tell that I was irritated. He pulled me aside after the meeting to check in with me, and he gave me this advice:

 “Lei, I know you and your team worked hard on this proposal.  It’s an excellent draft.  I saw that you were irritated with John’s comments, so I wanted to share a perspective with you that I think will help…

Everyone needs to feel valued, even the Partners.  Even when you have an excellent draft for anything, you can always expect most Partners to give you feedback – even if they are cosmetic and sometimes unnecessary.  You need to let them, and just assume this as part of your job.  Stay calm, listen, and let him feel good about it.

Think of it this way: it’s like an alpha male who needs to “pee” on the tree to mark his territory.  All he is doing is saying that he is still the boss, and he wants to feel like he added value.”

I had a really hard time with situations where Senior people added little value, but wanted me to listen to them anyway. In light of that, his advice was very eye-opening for me and very helpful to my career.  It’s important to maintain a good relationship with senior people if you want to move up fast.  It’s not about kissing a**, but it’s a fact of the business life.

This Senior Manager’s advice gave me a new perspective, and since then has helped me stay calm in almost any situation where I am discussing work with a senior person.  Now I answer and listen calmly, even if their comments don’t add much, because I know all he or she is doing is “peeing on the tree,” and it’s my job to let them.

It also serves as a good reminder to minimize unnecessary feedback on my team’s work just to feed my own ego. As a team leader, I try to only give comments that add value.  This will keep the team motivated, and help them feel valued.

Your comments: Can you relate to this story? Does this new perspective help you? Add your comments and questions below and let’s have a discussion.

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I am always in your corner.

– Lei

One Thought on “Let Them Pee on the Tree

  1. Kate Lin on April 29, 2014 at 5:58 pm said:

    Awesome article and a new way for me to describe this.

    (I’ve heard other people complain about this like seagulls swooping overhead and crapping on things and swooping away at the 11th hour, or alluding to coming, planting a giant turd, and then leaving.)

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