IT’S a peculiar thing, but whenever David Cameron goes away on holiday or on overseas business, his deputy Nick Clegg fails to shine. Recently the deputy PM even said he had “forgotten” that he was running the country. For most people though, the boss being away is a good opportunity to make their mark. But then again, you have got to be sure you don’t go too far and make it look like you are trying to stab him in the back. So how do you get the balance right? Dr Mark Batey, creativity expert at Manchester Business School, shares his top five tips for shining when you are left holding the reins.
1. Don’t rally the troops. The boss might be away and your colleagues may well be looking for some direction. However, don’t misjudge this opportunity to demonstrate your stunning oratory skills with a Braveheart-esque rallying cry. A quick word with everyone to let them know that you are available, if they need help, should simply suffice.
2. Don’t disappear. Whilst a tub-thumping speech is probably not what people need, don’t be invisible either. Nick Clegg’s surprisingly low-key approach to leadership when David Cameron is away has raised a few eyebrows. So spend a few moments each day walking around, asking if people are okay and keeping your finger on the pulse.
3. Don’t criticise the boss. Avoid the temptation to show or explain how you would do things much better than the boss. You may want to stamp a little of your own authority or flair onto the day’s proceedings – by all means do so, but not at the expense of making your boss look incompetent. Remember, your colleagues will usually have built a strong relationship with your boss and criticism is likely to make you seem petty.
4. Get creative. Creative thinking is a great way of using your boss’s absence to your advantage. Often challenges call for a creative response – be brave and don’t be afraid of bending the rules. Your boss will not be impressed with a lack of initiative, courage or if you stick your head in the sand. Remember, working creatively is about finding solutions to problems and exploiting new opportunities. So use the team around you and get inquisitive.
5. Keep it simple. Being creative isn’t an excuse to rip up the rulebook and establish radical new ways of working in your boss’s absence. Returning to find you have re-engineered the strategy, workforce and that the company is heading in a completely new direction will never do you any favours. Timing is everything – so whilst your boss is away use the opportunity to explore new options and wait until they return to implement dramatic change.