I have learned the tough way that if you can get your boss to trust you, you are much likelier to have a successful career. Your boss can be your biggest ally (or not!) – the one who recommends you for cool projects, introduces you to the right people etc.
When I was starting my career my biggest mistake was thinking that I could change my boss or go over my bosses head. The likelihood of either of these tactics working is slim and also potentially dangerous. But if you still decide to go that way, ask at least three key mentors in your life. In the meantime, here are 3 shortcuts to getting cosy with your boss.
Shortcut#1Understand Your Boss
Interview your boss to learn her expectations of you and share your expectations with her. Do this every time you change projects, roles or companies. Use your first meeting to learn your boss’s priorities and to understand how she will assess your progress. Remember: Your boss has a boss, too.
If you can make your boss look good to her boss, you will be well on your way. Try to find out how your boss is rewarded. If she is awarded based solely on sales revenue, for example, spending your time researching process improvements may not be of great importance to her.
Your goal is to make yourself indispensable. What problems keep your boss up at night? What problems can you help solve? What is she really interested in, but has no time to explore further? Offer to research this area as an ‘after-work’ project.
Once you have interviewed your boss and isolated key priorities, agree on your top objectives. Have your boss provide a picture of the desired outcome and ask for it to be specific. What will be the tangible result of the task at hand? At this point, you should ask clarifying questions and be sure to repeat what you hear. If you don’t, you might find yourself spending a day working on something that doesn’t matter. A good check-in question is “what is my deliverable at the end of the day and how does it add value?” Always be working on what matters to your boss.
If something is added to your plate, agree with your boss on the top one or two objectives to be accomplished in the next week. This will help you prioritize. When you find you are over your head (and hopefully those learning moments are abundant throughout your career), ask for help on how you can get better. If it is a skill that needs developing, your company may have a professional development budget. Ask your boss where to find help. If she does not know, start with your human resources department.
Know Your Boss’ Hot Spots
It is important to get to know your boss’s pet peeves. Perhaps it’s people being late to meetings or interrupting her when the office door is closed. Find someone who worked with your boss in the past and ask for a list of these hot spots. Your boss’s personal assistant is a key person to get to know. Often, he’s the person who knows your boss best.
Just like your boss, you have your own hot buttons. Often these buttons are pushed when a person’s actions remind you of someone you don’t like or something negative that happened in the past. Try to see these annoyances as learning experiences, because you will undoubtedly have more work relationships in which the same behavior materializes. It is important that you know your own hot buttons so that you can self-manage your emotions. You cannot control the way your boss behaves but you can control your reaction.
Excerpt from “Hitting Stryde: A Gen Y Career Survival Guide” by Daneal Charney and David James Singh. Now available in an e-book format.
Photo: Above photograph used under CC license
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