If you’re like most people, you have a boss who greatly influences your job satisfaction, learning and development, career advancement and overall well-being in the workplace. And it is your responsibility to lead your boss to make this relationship work best.
Your boss is very likely the gatekeeper for continued growth and promotion opportunities. In fact, according to a McKinsey study, the relationship with your boss is two times more critical for career success than any other workplace relationship. No one has greater direct impact over your career other than you.
In the same way you shouldn’t leave your health up to your doctor, don’t leave job satisfaction and career advancement entirely up to your boss. Accepting this means doing what you can to make this a solid and successful partnership.
Working from home during the pandemic likely shifted how you interact with your colleagues and direct supervisor. With a return to the office at least part of the time, you should choose to make the most of in-person one-on-one time with your boss.
Managing upward is not about sucking up or simply doing what you are told. It is not about being totally deferential nor is it about resisting all the time. Leading your boss means building a solid partnership to benefit them, yourself, and the organization.
“Being held in high regard by your boss is one of the most powerful forms of influence and visibility you can wield,” writes Scott Mautz in his book Leading from the Middle: A playbook for managers to influence up, down, and across the organization. Mautz provides a step-by-step method proven with over 30 years of research and experience on how to build a solid partnership with your boss. These steps include:
- Nature Before Nurture – This is about understanding that this relationship is interdependent between the two of you. Your boss needs you and you need your boss.
- Understand the Asks – What does success look like? What goals are important and why? What should I start, stop, and continue doing to succeed? Are my priorities consistent with yours?
- Style Awareness – You are responsible for adjusting your style to your boss. Things such as decision-making, conflict, formality, behavior, and others need to be evaluated on how well yours align with your boss.
- Get Personal – Express interest in them by seeking to understand their motivations, pressures, aspirations, superpowers, pet peeves, etc. to build rapport, and then reward their candor with discretion to build and maintain trust.
- Your House in Order – Manage yourself well by ensuring that you are managing your team and your work well. This includes delivering results, knowing the business, and ensure you’re bringing the attitude you want reciprocated.
- Purposeful Support – “The support you offer should be intentional about the why and how to make your spirit of servitude more meaningful,” says Mautz. These include providing information, capacity, decision-making, problem solving and advocating to foster a strong partnership with your boss.
Each of these steps is essential and shouldn’t be glossed over as they are integral to making yourself a true thought partner and confidant with your boss. The stronger this partnership, the greater will be your influence and opportunities to grow and thrive.