How to manage your boss to get ahead

A team’s success is almost always a result of both the leader and team members performing well together. The stronger the relationship between the leader and team, the more enhanced the mutual benefits. More satisfaction with the work, greater ownership and accountability, greater efficiency and productivity, less conflict, more loyalty and of course superior results. The importance of this relationship can’t be overemphasised as it can be the key to the success or failure of a department or even an entire business.

The relationship you have with your boss, supervisor, manager or leader will determine how engaged you are at work, how much you learn, how much support you receive (not just from them but your colleagues and the organisation), how fast you develop skills and experience and when it’s time, the direction of your career.

I have been incredibly fortunate, I have and have had amazing leaders over the past ten years focused on how they best serve and support their teams, delivering focused and strategic direction, finding resources and simplifying processes. They all develop and coach, positively criticise and drive hard to get every ounce of performance from their people. However, like most I have also had plenty of managers that lack vision, lack belief in the team/work/organisation, don’t look to improve or learn, don’t make the hard decisions, don’t protect their people and don’t support or train in essence they don’t lead. With every one of my bosses, great, good, bad and disgraceful, I have given my loyalty by producing quality results, meeting deadlines, staying within budget, responding to people quickly, finding problems that need solving and addressing them, contributing new ideas and suggestions and shared any useful information with the boss. In every position I have held I have furthered my career due to the relationship I had formed with my manager.

Talented employees make a conscious decision to be authentically loyal to their leader knowing it not only strengthens their leader’s position and helps them lead better but helps their own career and the team’s performance.

  • Change your mindset and be authentic: Talented employees are truly interested in the success of the team. Make it your mission to help support the cause. Communicate with your colleagues and your managers. Find out what makes them unique. Discuss their goals and objectives both personally and professionally so you can support them in the journey. Find out what critical issues are facing the company right now so you are aligned on priorities. Show everyone that you are authentically concerned more about the team’s success than just your own advancement.
  • Perception is everything: If you don’t have a solid understanding of your personal strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be at the mercy of how others perceive you. It’s a process that will allow you to understand how you can be most effective at what you do, and where you’ll need to improve if you want to be successful. Start with a simple list, “strengths” on one side and “weaknesses” on the other. Be objective, don’t beat yourself up and don’t over estimate. Next talk to those you trust. Carefully selecting those that will give you a balanced opinion and give you clarity and get closer to the truth. As you receive feedback add it to your list. Once you have refined your list find all the weaknesses that fall into the category “I’ve never done that” and push yourself to grow by doing these things you’ve never done. Communicate openly with your boss about what works best for you when being managed and the areas you want to learn.
  • Let them hear if from you first: “Trust is a two way street”. When something goes wrong, don’t wait. Apologise and tell the truth right away with just the facts. Avoid the fall-out of a boss who’s not only having to deal with an issue, but also doubting if they can trust you to pass on important information especially if they are blindsided with the issue by one of their superiors.
  • Come bearing gifts: Problems will always occur. Talented employees avoid participating in them though. Problem solvers don’t create drama or adds to the crisis they focus on identifying the issues, establish everyone’s interests, evaluate the options and come up with one good strategy. Before presenting a problem or question to your boss come prepared with what you would do or how you would answer the question.
  • Find your happy place: Stay calm even when everything around you falling apart and breaking down. Top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. Not only does this reduce your stress levels but It will allow you to better communicate your needs to other people, and help you make more effective, intelligent and emotional-free decisions. Simple techniques include staying positive, avoiding “What if?”, limit caffeine, breathe, and changing your perspective. It is a skill so practice it
  • Have their back: Nearly everyone has a boss, CEO’s have boards, consultants have clients, and even entrepreneurs have to answer to investors and family members. There are always plenty of people who are scrutinizing your team’s performance. Always support the boss’s interests. Especially if your team is underperforming, do what you can to help shore things up. Communicate positively during interactions with your boss’s peers and superiors. Making your boss look good should be effortless and flow with opportunities as they present themselves. You will build appreciation for the support, build credibility as your boss sees their peers respect you and when you make them look good, you invest in a critical relationship and make yourself more valuable in the process..
  • Anticipate every scenario: Two words… Preparation and Information. One of the most remarked upon traits for top performers is the ability to anticipate what is needed before the boss asks. Everybody has been to a frustrating meeting called by a superior where no one at the meeting has prepared the appropriate information for the topic. If only someone had considered what detail the boss had wanted and they had the information ready and on hand to discuss. Listen well and gather information to constantly predict what the boss needs. Anyone can take a direction. But a top performer is already moving the way the boss wants to go.
  • Every idea should be pitched: Lots of people bring to the boss a great idea only to feel rejected when nothing happens. In reality they knocked on the door, voiced the idea and awaited the praise. Everyone likes a good story but very rarely do we take action on a story alone. When you know you have a great idea show it by doing the research, analyse the numbers, provide data to support your opinion and propose an execution strategy. Be well informed and pitch it making sure your boss becomes well informed too.

The relationship with your boss should be treated just like any other important relationship in your life. Cultivate trust, loyalty, respect, support, security and in time a great reference by investing significantly into the relationship.

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