Managing Up: Help Yourself by Helping Your Manager

The word “boss” comes with a negative connotation. Like the word director or manager, it implies that your boss is there to give you directions. Shift your thinking. Your boss is your best ally in a quest for your dream career.

Think about why you are getting hired. You are being brought into a team to make your manager successful thus making their manager successful in turn making the entire team and company success. If your manager didn’t need support, they wouldn’t have a need to hire you. Read that slower. IF YOUR MANAGER DIDN’T NEED SUPPORT THEY WOULDN’T HIRE YOU.

Your boss is generally your biggest advocate. They can bring you with them to the top or they can leave you behind to fend for yourself. There are very few bosses who are negative from the start. They might be tough but that’s much different than negative.

Make sure they trust you. If something goes wrong and they don’t have time to deal with the problem, you should be the first person they call to handle it. You want them to feel like their right hand is missing when you aren’t around, heck the right half of their body.

Here are some tips and tricks to build a great repertoire with your managers:

  • Always have a great attitude. Working with someone who is positive can improve any bad situation.
  • Never surprise your boss. I repeat, never surprise your boss. My first boss did a wonderful job teaching me this and it will stick with me for my entire life. They don’t need to know every detail about what you are working on and doing daily, but they do need to know if you make a major decision, change direction, or are facing a challenge that is going to cause them problems if it’s not resolved. Keep them looped in even if it’s just a short email to provide them with a heads up on the situation and how you are handling it. Let them know if they want more details that you can schedule a time for a discussion. If you’re just making sure they are aware and don’t need anything from them add a friendly “No action needed just keeping you in the loop” to the beginning of your email.
  • Instead of coming to them with your problems, bring them solutions, and make sure that they are aligned with your approach. This will allow you to think through the details and formulate a plan which will help you start to develop leadership qualities and grow in your role and it also takes the burden of adding another thing to think about to their list.
  • Once a budget and timeline have been established don’t stray from them. Treat them like a contract. Do everything in your power to stick to any details that the team has agreed on.
  • Don’t commit to anything you can’t accomplish. It’s better to say you will try your best than to make a promise you will have to break later.
  • Learn about your manager. Make it your mission to understand how they think and why they make the decisions they do. Who are they personally and professionally? How do they define success? What are their goals? Read their job description and ask them to walk you through it and what they do for each line item on an ongoing basis. Understand how they operate. What are their biggest challenges? What are the things that aren’t willing to compromise on and don’t want to change? Having a good insight into your boss’s life and mindset will help you make decisions that align with what they want.
  • Don’t expect your boss to spoon-feed you. You can ask questions, but they aren’t there to do your job. Don’t bother them with trivial matters. If you can’t figure out the answer, try your best and then run your recommendation past them for their approval.
  • If you don’t have something to work on or are slow, try to take something off their plate. It will provide you with incremental learning experiences and it will develop a more trusting relationship. The more you take on the more valuable you become.
  • Bring them in on your best ideas. I like to think of my boss as my partner in crime. When I have an amazing idea, I like to secretly loop them in, run it past them, and then work with them to build it out before sharing it out with the larger group. I think building big ideas and working closely in the trenches really build team camaraderie.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for building a great relationship with your boss?

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