Your boss is the single most important person in determining your career success. This is true whether you’ve achieved a high-ranking position or you’re just starting out in the world of work. You may have brought a stellar grade point average with you out of college or you might have exceptional ability, but the fact is that your efforts to manage-up, deliver on the priorities your boss has identified, and making him or her successful will outweigh any credential or ability you bring to the table. It’s in your best interest to manage the relationship you have with your boss for mutual benefit. The following are some tactics for doing this effectively.
Find Out What is Expected From Your Boss
Your boss is juggling a lot of things at any given moment. Reporting cycles, people development, resource coördination, and a host of other issues are all vying for his attention. The need to prioritize activities and delegate work effectively makes up the expectation set that his boss – your second level boss – has set for him or her. Any effort you make to help him deliver or ease the flow of the processes involved will be greatly appreciated. Your value to your boss increases in direct proportion to your ability to make things happen and help him get things done.
The last thing your boss needs is to find out that you’ve missed an important deadline, or that a project you’re working on is off-track at a late stage, or any other serious disruption that you could have alerted her to in enough time for corrective action. Surprises of this sort can severely damage your credibility with your boss and can leave her with the impression that you’re unreliable. If she begins to see this as a pattern in your work you will quickly find yourself working on low importance or even irrelevant projects and tasks. You career may even stall to the point where you are not being considered for promotion, or worse, you’re on a list of people who are expendable. This is not where you want to be if the company ever needs to control costs through layoffs and staff reductions. Developing a consistent communication flow with your boss and informing her early of any real or potential problems will ensure that you’re able to apply corrective measures as needed and on time. This will also help to build your boss’ perception of you as a competent, reliable employee.
Don’t Waste Your Boss’ Time
As important as it is to maintain a consistent communication rhythm with your boss, you must also guard against misusing his time. If you constantly interrupt your boss’ day with inconsequential or frivolous chatter, you run the risk that he’ll begin to view you as an annoyance to be avoided. Similarly, if you use your regularly scheduled one-on-one time to review vague or simplistic aspects of your work, your boss may tune-out and possibly miss the few important items you really need to tell him about. Unless your boss initiates an informal conversation, you should take care that your interactions with him are meaningful and further the aims of the business in some way. It’s also very important that you structure your one-on-one time such that you are providing a comprehensive yet useful update to him on your projects and tasks as well as the progress you’re making against these. Try developing a template document for these meetings that covers the key aspects of your work and share this with your boss. Once you’ve agreed with him that the template is useful, suggest that this template be used as the basis for the ongoing sessions.
Determine Your Boss’ Preferred Communication Style
Different people have different preferences for the way they receive and process information. Your boss is no exception. Some people value the flexibility and clarity of face to face communication. Others may prefer to receive and process information using electronic mail or through other shared collaborative resources on the company network. Observe your boss for a time and try to discover his preferred communication style. Begin structuring your communications using that style. This will deliver huge benefits to you from the perspective that you’ll know that your boss is paying attention to what you have to say and will respond or process the information within a predictable timeframe.
Offer to Take Things Off of Your Boss’ Plate
This tactic has the most potential for delivering a positive impact on your career. Everyone has more responsibility than they would like. If you have the time and the ability to off-load certain responsibilities from your boss, you’ll very quickly build a perception with him that you are invaluable. You’ll also be demonstrating that you have a good understanding of the business beyond your core responsibilities and that you’re the kind of person that could be groomed for promotion and possibly leadership within the organization. Take a close look at your core responsibilities and try to determine what the outcomes of your work mean to the broader organization. Does your work feed another critical process? Are there other units that are dependent on your work? The answers to these questions will reveal a trail that you can follow to build a deeper understanding of the extended processes involved in the success of the business. If you can learn how to perform the associated extended tasks, you’re in a great position to take some of the load off of your boss’ plate.
A good education and a competent skill-set are key components of your career success. Leveraging these while taking care of the most important thing – managing up – will give you a powerful career edge.