Your boss is the most important person in your career aside from yourself.
I’ve never seen anyone get promoted without their boss’ support (unless the boss was about to be fired).
If we start from the assumption that you don’t have a bad boss who isn’t going to be supportive no matter what you do, there are steps you can take to strengthen your relationship and improve your odds of getting promoted.
Build trust and partnership.
This means gaining clarity on your boss’s vision for the business and knowing where you complement your boss vs. where you overlap with her. That way you can become a key player to help her achieve her own goals. For example, if your boss is a visionary, then you can add value by being great at structure and process. Together you can deliver on the common goal.
And because trust is crucial in the relationship, be sure you keep your boss informed and never go around your manager and take your ideas or concerns to a more senior person. Don’t even APPEAR to be going around your boss. Let your boss know before you bring issues to someone above them.
Make life easier for your boss.
Your boss is probably dealing with pressure and deadlines every day. You could help by starting every meeting the way a friend of mine does. She’ll sit down and ask her boss questions like “What are you worried about and how can I help?” or “What can I get off your desk for you today?”
When you have an assignment, be resourceful in getting things done. That means not having to go back to your boss every time you hit a roadblock. My best team members always made sure they understood right up front what they were being asked to deliver, and then took the time to think through how to get at that creatively.
And most importantly, don’t be “hard work” for your boss. We all know people who are very needy of attention–what one of my friends calls, “couch time.” Your boss is not your therapist or your career counselor. Sure, your boss has responsibilities for mentoring the team, but make sure you also have other avenues for getting the emotional support you need.
Make your boss look good.
Here are the three best ways to do this:
- Come up with new ideas to advance the cause. I really valued team members who proactively came to me with ideas that could help us succeed in a bigger way. They would make suggestions like, “I just saw company X do Y. I think we could adapt this to work for our client base as well.”
- Talk positively about your boss. Of course they need to deserve it, and when they do there’s nothing like having team members vouching for you independently. Everyone needs good PR!
- Produce results. At the end of the day, it’s important to come through with the goods, and there’s still no substitute for delivering excellent results to make everyone look good.