Blog | The Brainzooming Group - Part 196 – page 196

Managing relationships with bosses throughout your career will be among the most critical personal leadership roles you’ll fulfill professionally. Think about how you’re managing the relationship with your boss:

  • Do you work well together or are there personal challenges between the two of you?
  • Do you learn from each other?
  • Do you drive each other crazy?
  • If you weren’t working together, would you stay in touch professionally over time?

You alone can consciously take the personal leadership steps in strengthening and managing relationships, including those with a boss. The often used phrase for this is “managing upward.” While the phrase describes aspects of managing relationships with bosses, the dynamics are deeper.

From my personal experiences and observations, here are 16  ideas to consider in creating a stronger working relationship with your boss. (BTW, I alternated “he” and “she” as personal pronouns throughout the list.)

16 Ideas for Managing Upward

  • Understand your boss as a teammate and a client because both roles are relevant.
  • Ask and learn how your boss likes to communicate? Deliver communications that work for him, with the “right” amount & type of information.
  • What are the strengths & weaknesses of your boss? Complement both of them in your working relationship.
  • What’s her decision making style? Propose recommendations in ways that fit how she evaluates & decides on things.
  • Hone your skills to anticipate what he needs and see things coming before they actually happen.
  • Demonstrate complete trustworthiness. Display the highest integrity. Don’t break confidences; safeguard the “vault.”
  • Be networked – know who knows things and be able to share relevant information your boss might not be privy to in her relationship circles.
  • Have a great working relationship with your boss’ assistant and the other key people around him.
  • Be a strong negotiator.
  • Ask questions – help her think through issues and get to stronger points of view based on your contributions.
  • Provide ideas and recommendations – not long lists of what’s wrong.
  • Be honest with your fact-based opinions – let him know if (and why) you think something isn’t correct or won’t work.
  • When you challenge, do it with facts and know when you need to give up the challenge.
  • Be prepared to give her what she needs, even if it’s not what she asked for (if she even bothered to ask for it).
  • Go above & beyond when the effort’s needed, without questioning it at that moment. Make sure, however, “most” of your dynamic efforts get noticed.
  • Let your boss know when he does a good job. Everyone appreciates knowing this.

Tomorrow we’ll complete the series on managing relationships by turning attention to the dreaded corporate sociopath and managing relationships with these people who can create so much havoc in organizations. – Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!


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What can you do through critical personal leadership behaviors and managing relationships to make your workplace better, even when the odds appear stacked against you?

This question was an off-shoot from a recent conversation with a senior, but newly-placed, leader in a major corporation. Shortly after starting a new position, this individual was being routinely thrust into the middle of pre-existing, passive-aggressive political battles which have turned nasty through a shifting power structure.

Yuck. Been there, done that.

The conversation prompted me to think about advice on managing relationships I could offer based on having had to deal with comparable situations in the past. The advice falls into three categories:

The next three days, we’ll tackle these topics about managing relationships.

11 Personal Leadership Ideas

Today’s post includes ideas on things you can do to make sure you’re performing well on critical personal leadership behaviors. Self-assess your performance and work on improving where you’re coming up short:

  • Always act with honesty & integrity. While you’re at it, look around – you’ll be judged by the company you keep. Are you comfortable with what that judgment will be?
  • Recognize the role emotions play in business (it’s bigger than you might think), but place a premium on facts & logic. They’ll win out eventually. Are you a fact-based leader?
  • It’s vital to figure out your purpose & priorities, but you also have to be open to modifying them at some point, too. Do you know and embrace what really matters?
  • Continually challenge yourself to grow and expand by seeking out and listening to varied points of view – even ones you disagree with completely. How varied is the group you reach out to for perspectives?
  • Be distinctive. Give people lots of people lots of good things to remember you by. Is it clear to those in your organization where you’re adding distinctive value?
  • When you meet someone, along with remembering their name and asking them questions about themselves, identify one or two ways you can help them. How many people are on your current “helping them” list?
  • Shut up and listen for a minute – you hardly ever learn while you’re talking. Are you known as a listener?
  • Learn how to communicate your ideas in multiple ways so you can be ready to share them in the forms your audience is willing to hear them. Is your communication repertoire multi-dimensional?
  • Make sure you try lots of things because no one thing will work in every situation. When something doesn’t work, acknowledge it and learn everything you can to get better next time. Do you have lots of possibilities underway?
  • Constructively challenge ideas to find what’s “right,” realizing not everyone has the same definition of “right.” Are you known for a level of tact that allows you to push hard without people even realizing it?
  • Bring intensity to what you do along with passion. And work your butt off. Well?

What personal leadership ideas would you add to the list that you use in managing personal relationships?

Tomorrow, ideas for creating a stronger team with your boss. – Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!


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In case you think “how to be more creative” ideas aren’t real techniques used by people in more creatively-oriented industries, a recent “Entertainment Weekly” article shows that’s not the case. In an interview-based article called, “Kids at Heart,” directors Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams talked about their careers, their creative relationship, and the movie “Super 8.” The how-to’s of creativity fascinate me, and I’m always up for listening to practitioners talk about the techniques and perspectives infusing their creative processes. Here are 8 creative lessons from the guys behind “Super 8.”

1. Collaborate with People Stronger than You

It can be intimidating to be paired up with a creative force having more experience or notoriety. But what better way to be more creative? While Abrams says that working with Spielberg leaves him “paralyzed with disbelief” at times, he views Spielberg as his creative “consigliere.”

2. Focus Your Creativity

When developing “War of the Worlds,” Spielberg asked Abrams to craft the movie’s script. Abrams was focused on getting the TV series “Lost” off the ground though, so he passed.

3. Create from Your Distinct Talents and Passions

“Super 8” offered the directors an opportunity to pursue a subject central to both of them since youth: making movies. The film also intertwines their shared interests in science fiction. Creativity from a true passion always seems easier.

4. Creativity from Putting other Pieces Together

To enrich the “Super 8” storyline, Abrams wove in a monster-oriented movie theme he’d already floated to a studio. Since there’s no law against creative piling on, look for other ideas and concepts you can attach to current creative projects.

5. “Applied” Creativity IS Creativity

Sometimes creativity is purely about art. Sometimes it’s more pragmatic – such as getting your way and staying out of trouble. Spielberg’s first movie as a child was of toy trains colliding. The motivation? HIs father had told him if he continued wrecking his trains, he’d get them taken away. With the movie in the can, Spielberg could watch his trains smash together over and over without fear of punishment.

6. Combine Creative Genres

Abrams loves “combining genres.” He described a movie he made during high school as a “comedy-meets-science fiction-meets-love story.” Stretching yourself creatively can mean combining what nobody else is willing or able to combine in pursuit of your creative vision.

7. Go Against Trends

Discussing “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Spielberg said that up to that point, movie interactions between humans and aliens were antagonistic and confrontational. His objective was to “buck the trend” and depict something different. His starting point was an extraterrestrial being traveling so far to Earth wasn’t going to come here for violence.

8. The Right Creative Moment Matters

What’s creatively appropriate now, might not be later. Spielberg and Abrams talked about the impact of “Close Encounters” being about a man who turns his back on his family to follow the aliens. Not only do they doubt a studio would make a movie with that plot line now, Spielberg himself, after having seven children, admits he wouldn’t write the movie with a father leaving his family.

Great lessons, huh?

And all of them are within reach of any of us figuring out how to be more creative in our daily lives! – Mike Brown

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” for help on how to be more innovative! For an organizational creativity boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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For reasons which I’m still not entirely clear, my wife was watching a recent marathon of the Bravo reality TV program, “Millionaire Matchmaker.” It’s ostensibly a look at a matchmaking business run by Patti Stanger catering only to single, upper income men and women looking for love – or something damn near like it. Since “improve yourself / learn something-oriented” reality TV shows have been a major source of inspiration in developing the Brainzooming method, I’m always a sucker for watching one, too. Lo and behold, The Millionaire Matchmaker marathon yielded multiple solid strategy ideas relevant to strategic business relationships. And that, my friends, is clearly fodder for a Brainzooming blog post. Here are 5 strategic relationship-building lessons that can be valuable for developing million dollar strategic business relationships as well!

1. Figure out your relationship non-negotiables first.

Identify your absolute requirements from a relationship before pursuing it. In one case a guy with a variety of failed relationships was evasive and very vague about what he really wanted in a woman. Patti challenged him to list his 5 relationship non-negotiables. A definitive list helped him do a better job of evaluating and ranking potential candidates as he met them. The same concept works in business, too.

2. Evaluate many more candidates than you’ll ultimately select.

Don’t ever think you’re only looking for one “perfect” match. Patti interviews many more candidates then her clients will ever meet, and she makes them meet MANY potential people before they select one. Build an ample pool of clearly attractive candidates (who meet your non-negotiables list) and let the narrowing process work to get to the best ultimate candidate for a strategic relationship.

3. Ask questions – lots of questions.

It’s important to know what you’re getting into with a potential relationship partner. Patti Stanger both asks lots of questions and puts candidates in situations where they have to ask questions of one another and uncover who they really are. Before diving into finding a strategic relationship partner, ask yourself lots of pertinent questions also. Do the same with every potential candidate. No matter how well you think you already know them. Even better, observe them in situations as close as possible to those you’ll experience during the relationship. It’s all good learning.

4. Look for someone “age” appropriate.

Patti tries to match people on various criteria after interviewing the millionaires and potential dates. She hits especially hard on people whose immaturity shows through via an interest in dating outside their age range. Translating that to strategic business relationships, are you looking for candidates who are equally strong (if not stronger) partners for your organization? Don’t set your sites on partners you can dominate. Seek  out those who will challenge and make you grow as an organization.

5. Don’t force awkward situations early in the relationship.

That initial date can always be a challenge. Patti has a list of what her clients on “The Millionaire Matchmaker” are not supposed to do on first dates (i.e. no dates requiring swimsuits). Her intent is to minimize stress points for everyone involved. It’s a great idea to not push a strategic relationship too far, too fast. Organizations and the individuals active in the strategic relationship need time to get comfortable with one another before a potential crunch time hits. Build that time into the early relationship stages.


Pretty decent strategic relationship lessons from what is admittedly real junk food TV.

Do you watch “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” and if you do, what other lessons (other than “Patti shouldn’t wear such short skirts at her age”) have you learned from it? – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand strategy and implementation efforts.

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I know you know I think Twitter is an incredibly valuable random input tool to be more creative. Here are 7 ideas for how you can exploit Twitter for instigating creative ideas when you most need them:

1. You’re searching for more creative blog topics.

Watch the Twitter stream for interesting headlines (i.e., “4 Communication Traits of Successful Leaders”). Without reading the original blog post, write a comparable blog based around the same idea featuring your thinking on the topic.

2. You want artistic ideas.

Take a statement-oriented tweet (i.e., “The night has come . . . pour yourself into your Friday night”) and build on it as a creative idea starter for a story, poem, or song. You could also use it as your inspiration for a drawing, painting, or dance, too.

3. You’re looking for answers.

Pose a question about a topic where you need creative ideas. Direct the question to specific persons (@ them) or use popular hashtags to increase the question’s exposure. Unless you’ve cultivated a tight community of people you interact with, just throwing a question out into the Twitter stream won’t be very productive.

4. You need a steady stream of creative ideas.

Cultivate your own group of creative, frequent tweeters you can interact with on a regular basis to share creative ideas with one another. Your group can provide a wonderful source of creative instigation on an ongoing basis to help you be more creative.

5. You have a specific topic where a creative boost is needed.

Search for tweets which include your keyword/topic of interest along with a question mark (i.e. creativity ?). You’ll get a sense of other people potentially struggling with similar creative challenges on Twitter. You can try to start tweeting creative with them about your common interests.

6. You want informal reactions to a creative idea.

Suppose you already have creative ideas, but you aren’t sure which to pursue further. Share creative ideas via Twitter as a way to “workshop” them with reactions from real people (okay, and maybe from a few bots). Use retweets and the conversations specific ideas start as a crowdsourced indicator of where to invest your creative pursuits.

7. Your creative block is about what to tweet.

Sometimes even generating 140 creative characters feels impossible. Look for interesting tweets in your tweet stream and share reactions to them. Say somebody tweets about having crashed and slept for 10 hours. You could tweet: “If you find #creativity lagging, maybe you’re exhausted? Make time to get TOO MUCH sleep tonight.” You’ve borrowed some creative inspiration and been able to offer a creative idea you didn’t have before.


These ideas have all worked for me. Are you using Twitter to be more creative? What creative idea starters work for you on Twitter or other social media channels when you’re searching for how to be more creative? – Mike Brown


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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic ideas! For an organizational creativity boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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During June’s #Ideachat, a side conversation developed over the challenges faced by individuals who can uncannily anticipate future business situations. One comment was watching people make mistakes which could clearly be anticipated is a source of great frustration. My comment was the ability to anticipate the future allows you to help influence business situations for the positive instead of waiting for a train wreck to happen. Besides, I’ve seen people use the ability to accurately anticipate future business situations to add to their personal mystique and enhance perceptions about their contributions.

The #Ideachat conversation got me thinking about individuals I’ve worked with who are especially adept at knowing what the future holds.

11 Possible Do’s

Here are 11 behaviors, qualities, skills, and talents you can work on to more effectively anticipate the future and use it to your advantage:

1. Do rigorous homework on your situation without disclosing your effort or everything you’ve learned.

2. Hone your ability to analyze a situation and truly understand the real motivations of the individuals involved.

3. To better understand personal motivations, substitute other words for “money” in the old maxim, “Follow the money.” Some good ones to use? Power, recognition, pride, or havoc, as appropriate.  Doing this will explain both historical and many future behaviors.

4. Make a quick mental calculation of any risk you’re considering taking before you take it. Take ALL the smart risks and SOME of those not so smart which could lead to spectacular results.

5. Be a confidant. Always listen to people who like to share secrets, especially true secrets.

6. Cultivate a personal flair for the dramatic.

7. Improve your observation and insight skills. Share your observations and insights only when they’ll have dramatic impact.

8. Don’t speak immediately when asked a question. Long pauses and deliberation add mystique.

9. Use stories and examples which, on the surface, have little relevance to the matter at hand, but ultimately unveil themselves to be right on point.

10. Don’t always follow the same physical interpersonal, mental, or virtual paths.  Be unexpected. Show up in surprising places.

11. It’s more important to ACT on your insights than SHARE them.

1 Important Don’t

There’s one important “don’t” as well: Don’t say, “I told you so.” Part of effectively using your strong understanding of the future is being subtle and not rubbing it in peoples’ faces!

What things do you do to better anticipate the future in your business?Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your brand strategy and implementation efforts.

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The other day a Brainzooming reader told me I was the oldest person she knew creating social media content all the time.

Then she said it was a compliment.

Then we both laughed.

That was followed by an awkward pause.

While her statement clearly CAN’T BE TRUE, being relatively seasoned in business means I HAVE learned many valuable career lessons that would have been great to know when my business career started at Kansas City Infobank.

Going back through recent tweets, here are 9 career lessons for YOUNGER Brainzooming readers from further into a business career:

1. View your entire business career as a portfolio. Manage every element of the portfolio to create your “art.”

2. As a species, humans chase after lots of things we think will be glorious that will really make us miserable.

3. It’s okay to have a list of things you’ll never do and then to let them go without a second thought.

4. Don’t correct someone who has a better perception of you than you have of yourself.

5. Some things we demand answers for are completely insignificant. Keep moving forward.

6. If you read a business case study in a magazine, it’s likely a highly fictionalized work by that point.

7. The thing that pisses you off may just be what saves you. Next time you’re mad, look for what you should be learning.

8. Never underestimate the positive value of a fresh start. They’re incredible. Seek fresh starts out.

9. No amount of helpful advice can really outshine someone making a personal sacrifice to help another person.

Anybody else with a few years of experience have some lessons to add? Mike Brown

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

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