Bosses like extra effort

Are you a savvy subordinate? Do you know what your boss is looking for and how to deliver? Are you interested in moving up in your organization?

Managing your career takes much more than getting a degree or performing the technical parts of your job. The subtle aspects of performance are the often the key elements that can make you or break you when promotion time comes.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Did you understand your boss's performance expectations on the last few jobs/projects your boss delegated? Make it your job to ask your boss not only about the delegated task but also its context. Asking "why" will help you understand the demands and the bigger picture so you can commit your energy and produce a more thorough product.

Did you make your last few deadlines? If you are promising tight deadlines because you think it's what your boss wants to hear, you may be mistaken. If you can't meet your deadlines you lose points for dependability and you'll soon find your boss breathing down your neck "checking progress" on your assignments. Most managers would rather negotiate a realistic deadline that will result in a quality job...especially if a broken promise will make them look untrustworthy to their bosses.

Do you ask for performance feedback? If your manager isn't giving you regular constructive coaching, it's your responsibility to ask for it. You can't wait for performance review time to hear the news; it will be too late to do anything about it and the damage will be done (to your merit increase as well as to your performance review form). Asking, "How am I doing" on routine work is a good idea-you may never know if little annoying things are starting to add up. Schedule meetings following significant assignments and simply ask, "I'd be interested in knowing what you liked and what you thought I could improve for next time." Sometimes managers are worried that negative feedback will cause a strong reaction or demotivation in their workers, so giving your boss permission to coach you will be a perfect invitation.

Do you have a "can do" attitude? Bosses love employees who tackle problems with commitment and energy. If it's a problem that is bugging your boss, put some of your other work aside and take some action to solve it. It may be as simple as making a few calls, typing a memo or locating some files. Doing some of the legwork will begin to take the pressure off your boss and will win you lots of appreciation. If the problem is big, commit as much time and energy as your boss will allow. If your boss is losing sleep over it, lose some sleep yourself until it's solved.

Do you keep your boss informed about work progress, office politics, latest technological developments, etc? Employees who are careful to keep their managers informed are valued. Too often, employees pay more attention to grinding out the work than communicating about it. As a manager moves up in the organization, he or she becomes caught up in meetings with upper management and becomes more and more removed from the day-to-day operation. Managers who are well informed are able to make quality decisions and are usually more willing to ask employees for input and advice.

Are you careful to adjust your priorities to your boss's needs? Although changes can be frustrating, they are often necessary because of things such as top management decisions or competitive pressures. If you are keeping pace with your boss, he or she will feel you are being supportive and responsive-two key traits all bosses appreciate. If priorities shift constantly, try to provide a stabilizing influence by putting your energy into big-ticket problems and look for causes rather than quick-fix solutions.

Are you willing to disagree with your boss? Most bosses welcome employees who will tell them they disagree with a business decision and why. Employees who think through problems and are able to anticipate the potential impact of various recommendations are worth five employees who sit on their opinions. Good soldiers who march off into battle without questioning or thinking for themselves are not much help in this age of fierce competition.

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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