Helping your boss will help you

"How can I get ahead?" Part of the answer is closer than you think, cultivate a good relationship with your boss.

No other person is more important to your career - now and in the future. He or she controls the work you do, the opportunities you have, and the performance ratings you get.

I hear many complaints about bosses: They're indecisive, authoritarian, workaholics, demanding, lazy...

The problems begin if you expect your boss to be perfect or to have full responsibility for managing your relationship. Just as your boss manages you, you should manage your boss.

Like a good marriage, your relationship with your boss requires daily attention to his or her needs, style and goals. Here are some things you can do to start managing your half of the partnership:

·        Study your boss' strengths and weaknesses. If he or she hates detail, make sure you cross the T’s and dot the I's for your boss. If your boss isn't organized, develop a foolproof pending system and filing system. If your boss is moody, stay unemotional and objective. If indecision is his weakness, make sure you have the facts.

Besides complementing weaknesses, use your boss' strengths. If your boss has been with the company for years, ask questions to learn about the politics, culture and people. If he or she has a clear view of the big picture, ask for a snapshot before and during projects.

·        Protect your boss. The unspoken rules dictate that you ride shotgun for your boss' pet projects and big goals. This means defending them from those who take open potshots or from subtle snipers. As a scout, you need to report any trouble ahead, so your boss can prepare for rough terrain. This also means disagreeing with your boss if you feel that his or her plan could be ambushed.

Never expose your boss' flank by revealing confidences about him or her. Indiscretions have a way of shooting you in the back when you least expect it. Be on your boss' side, and he or she will be on yours.

·        Make your boss your partner. If you let your boss share credit for your ideas, you're likely to gain an influential ally when your ideas need support.

Ask your boss for advice and guidance when things bog down. Think together, plan together. If you listen, he or she probably will, too.

·        Take the load off. Take the monkeys off your boss' back. This means making as many decisions on your own as you can. Any monkeys you bring to your boss should come with recommendations on their care and feeding.

·        Put yourself in the boss' shoes. Consider your boss' boss and the pressure your boss is under. You may begin to realize why he or she has different priorities than you do.

Learn what your boss does each day. Sit in on meetings if possible or ask how they went.

A little empathy can improve your perspective and the relationship.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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