The relationship with our boss is often a defining factor in our success and something that many of us lose sleep over at night. When things start to get strained, for whatever reason, we have to resort to “basics” in order to get things back on track. The best relationships need constant attention, and if you do the following ten things on a regular basis, then you shouldn’t go far wrong:
1. Do what you promise.
Your boss wants every day to be as predictable and smooth as possible. When they ask you to do something, they should not have to give it a second thought. Expectations should be managed initially; you should give regular progress updates and inform them of any issues that they might need to resolve along the way. If you make a mistake, then be honest about what went wrong and what you are doing to fix it.
2. Put their needs first.
You are a team, and you have to work together to advance your careers. Your boss is not superhuman – you should think about their weaknesses and challenges and understand how best you might assist them. Thinking about their needs will make you far more valuable, and you will receive their genuine gratitude if you take on those responsibilities where they have a lesser skillset (or interest).
3. Understand their style.
You should observe your boss with others in order to understand their natural preferences (as a good boss will also try to accommodate your style when dealing with you). If they prefer email updates – drop them an email, even if they sit right next to you. If they prefer not to be interrupted while working on a big spreadsheet, then wait until they have finished. If they open up to you and share some personal information, well, my advice would be to do the same.
4. Read their moods and reactions.
Work can be a stressful environment, so managing and anticipating their moods and reactions to events is hugely important. If they are in a bad mood, give them space. If they are angry, try to understand why. If they are disappointed, look on the bright side. If they are happy, ride the wave with them.
5. Actively learn from them.
There is no better way to stroke someone’s ego than to ask for advice. If you wish to progress your career, then having your boss as a mentor type figure is invaluable. People development is a key requirement for senior executives, and it is in their interest to assist you to develop both personally and professionally.
6. Ask for feedback.
Let your boss know what you have achieved, how you did it, and how you feel it might be improved next time. They have probably ‘been there and done it’ themselves, so asking for constructive feedback is sensible. Let them know when you have success – every time they praise you adds to that “prized employee” memory bank in their hands. Blow you own trumpet every now and again, give them the opportunity to say well-done.
7. Value their time.
Time is the most important resource that you can manage in your relationship. Do as much as you can to give them more time to accomplish their goals, and they will be grateful for it. If they are bogged down with work, keep the gossip to a minimum, if they are tearing their hair out, drop what you are doing and insist that you help them. Communicate effectively, and they will communicate with you. Witter on about irrelevant rubbish and they will ignore you.
8. Agree to disagree.
You can’t always agree on things. In a situation where your boss requires your feedback, you should present your case thoroughly and logically, especially focussing on the aspects which you think may not be clear enough to them. If they disagree, argue your corner by all means, but ultimately accept their authority and get over it. Emotional disagreements are fine, as long as they don’t lead to longer term discord.
9. See the bigger picture.
Don’t just sit in your little ‘me’ silo. Your boss has to deal with bigger business issues (that you will have to handle one day too), so look at things from their perspective. They will be the ones recommending you for promotion, and if you can demonstrate a broader understanding of the business, that promotion is likely to come all the quicker.
10. Faithfully support them.
You’ve got their back. They need to know that they can rely on you to support them and be on their side in whatever they do. It’s a jungle out there and together you are stronger. It is the ultimate feeling for a boss to have the unswerving loyalty of his team. Make sure that your words and your actions let them know that this is the case.
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