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Managing Up - 28 October 2008

A very long time ago, there lived the King of Kings in Persia. Every night for three years, he would take a virgin from the town, make her his wife, and then have her beheaded in the morning. He did this because of the betrayal he felt as a result of his first wife’s infidelity. After 3,000 such executions, he met and married Scheherazade.

On the night before she was due to be killed, Scheherazade began to tell the King a captivating story. Just before she reached the end, and just as she had gotten to the cliff-hanger, Scheherazade abruptly stopped. The mesmerised King, who eagerly wanted to hear the rest, asked her to continue. But Scheherazade said there wasn’t enough time since dawn was about to break, but vowed to finish the story the next day when it would become even more exciting.

 

And so the King kept Scheherazade alive as he eagerly anticipated what would happen next. But every night, Scheherazade would stop just before the end of the story, which made the King keep her alive for one more day. This continued for 1001 nights, by which time Scheherazade had become the Queen and had given birth to three of the King’s sons.

In this supposedly true story, famously called Arabian Nights, Scheherazade influenced the King in the same way you can influence your boss. That one way is summarised using one word: understanding. The more you understand your boss’s objectives, problems, and style, the easier it’ll be for you to get approval for any big ideas you’d like implemented.

Scheherazade understood the King’s objectives (to be entertained), his problems (feelings of betrayal), and style (storytelling). She combined an understanding of all three to get what she wanted. You can do the same thing.

Objectives: Find out your boss’s key performance indicators, and then link any proposed change to the achievement of those goals.

Problems: Discover what’s keeping you boss up at night and show how your solutions will help to solve those problems, rather than your own.

Style: If your boss is analytical, use numbers. If your boss is direct, don’t waffle. If your boss is expressive, tell stories.

Eventually, Scheherazade ruled the kingdom. So can you.

 

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