How to Help Your Boss Help You

Career Blog

In an ideal world all managers would be dedicated people developers – talented leaders who take pride in and pleasure from educating and advancing their direct reports. Unfortunately few people are truly altruistic. If you want your boss to actively promote your career, often times you’ll have to make a personal investment in his. So follow these four guidelines to expedite his success…and yours. 

Go Above and Beyond
  • Kick the Field Goals: Be dependable. Make sure your normal job duties are automatic points on the board.
  • Listen: Speaking of boards…be a sounding board. Most people blow smoke. Be tactful when required but offer honest advice and counsel when asked. “Yes Men” are useless.
  • Fill the Gap:If your boss isn’t a numbers guy, be the Excel guru. If she struggles with words, play a little Cyrano de Bergerac to help her presentations sing.  
Make an Impression
  • Don’t Brag:Too much “I” language is dangerous. A good boss will want to develop and advance talent, but give the impression that you are gunning for his/her job and you might find yourself ostracized.
  • Have a Plan for where you want to go, why it makes sense as a next move, and how your boss can help. When the time comes to move on, make sure you have a well-trained replacement in place so the big guy is covered.
  • Ask for Help…to Help Him: Have your eye on an expensive certification? Position your request in a way that will showcase how the investment will help you complete your current goals better and/or faster and you may get the green light. Managers will often support your goals if they see the personal win.
Share Your Accomplishments 
  • Just the Facts: Let data sing your praises. Treat performance reviews and like interviews – explain the challenges you faced during the year, the actions you took, and the results you achieved. Often people forget their wins and hyper-focus on their missteps. So take time to record and celebrate success.  Being able to articulate a specific percentage increase in production or value of additional sales, etc. will help you stand out.
  • Supplement with Stories: Gather praise from customers and key stakeholders that show you are able to build relationships while getting results.
  • Note Team Contributions: Present a few examples of how you helped colleagues get results…. and balance those stories with how they helped you.
Learn and Earn…That Raise
  • Leverage Deliberate Practice: Ask your manager for honest feedback about your weakness and then work methodically to improve them while leveraging your strengths.
  • Transfer the Knowledge: There are pockets of excellence in both performance and culture in even the worst-led companies. Practice the behavior you want to see and it will catch on, making life easier for everyone including your manager.
  • Share Your Proof Points: There is only so much money and so many promotions slots to go around. So share your achievements and then demonstrate with data why selecting you for a promotion/raise is a smart, defendable call.

Like everyone, managers have limited time and attention spans. The pressure of running a team and answering to senior leaders all while completing their own deliverables can overwhelm even the most well-intended people leader. So take time to ensure you’re seen as a key player worth the extra effort.  

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