Unless you work for yourself, you have a boss (and if you do work for yourself you have a lot of bosses; they’re called your clients and it’s way easier for them to fire you than traditional bosses). And, unless you just inherited a gazillion dollars, it behooves you to ensure your boss is pleased with you. I’m not talking about the phony, sucking up kind of pleased. Most bosses and all true leaders are able to look past flattery pretty quickly. Rather, I’m talking about some basic communication and professional standards of behavior that will mark you as the super star you are, but that are surprisingly UNcommon. In fact, the majority of management counseling, disciplinary actions and even terminations I’ve seen result from these NOT occurring. They are so important that even if you are a technical expert at your job, failing to do these things could be the kiss of death for your career. On the other hand, these coupled with competence could just get you labeled a rock star! And you want to be considered a rock star, because it leads to great things like more money, more opportunity, more responsibility, more interesting assignments and more leadership opportunities.
1: Follow up on a request from your manager:
This one is crucial and a huge source of frustration to leaders when it doesn’t happen. If your boss, or the company owner, specifically asks you to do something there are a couple important next steps. First, DO IT. Second, let your boss know it was completed. You don’t need a lengthy dissertation, but a quick email, text, IM or even, gasp, verbal confirmation that it was done is more than professional courtesy. By doing this, you are relieving your boss from having to worry about something. When you are the person who relieves worry, instead of causing it, this is a good thing for you. Now, suppose step one is not possible and you can’t complete the assignment. This happens and in this situation it is exponentially MORE important to communicate this was not done. Your boss may not like that it was not completed but they will dislike getting surprised with this information even more.
2: Restate objectives to ensure you’ve heard them:
This is not something everyone does, but they should. If communication was easy and straightforward, it wouldn’t consistently rank in the top three biggest issues companies face. I strongly recommend taking notes when meeting with your manager or company owner, even if for no other reason than to keep yourself focused. Always, always and ALWAYS restate the objectives you believe you’ve been given to make sure you and your boss are on the same page. This does more than just reassure you both that you are in agreement, believe it or not, it also is a great way for your manager to process through things. When my employees would do this, it sometimes turned into a fantastic problem solving opportunity for both of us, as I realized there were some missing components in my action plan. Without this critical step, the mission would probably have failed and both me and my employees would have been frustrated.
3: Engage your boss in re-prioritizing:
There will be a time in your career when you are given more than is possible to reasonably do (cough, every day, cough). Most of the time, our priorities are pretty clear, but there can be times when they’re not. Your boss is likely juggling multiple responsibilities as well and, being only human, can lose track of what you’re working on. And sometimes you may be given additional directives from other managers or your boss’s boss. When this happens it can feel stressful, but it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Instead, talk to your boss, reasonably, to ask which is most important. They often times have access to information you don’t which can help prioritize. Regardless, it’s good practice, because this way you are engaging your boss and eliminating the element of surprise at potentially unfinished tasks.
4: Celebrate your team:
This is so important! Teamwork makes the world go round, or at least, good companies. By pointing out the star players on your team to your boss, you are giving him/her a chance to thank them, which can be an amazing boost to morale. In addition, it reflects well on you that you are consciously growing and supporting talent. No company has room for managers who hog the glory or the credit, whether this is spoken or unspoken. It’s confident, savvy leaders who know that building people up is an important component of their job – maybe THE most important.
5: Effectively advocate for the company AND your employees
Most managers are intrinsically good at one or the other, but to be a rock star, you need to do both, at the same time, all the time. It’s impossible to separate which is more important. If the company goes down, no one has jobs and if the people aren’t taken care of, the company goes down. As much as it’s important to celebrate your team, if you are acting more like a shop union steward (in a non-union company) and neglecting to see the big picture of what is in the company’s best interest as well, you will not be successful and you will not be able to partner effectively with your boss. This is not easy, because much of the time it can feel like the company and the employees have opposing interests, but it is possible to find a middle ground and that is where the rock stars live.
So essentially, make your boss (and your company) successful and they will in turn make you successful. Exceptions lie in the cases of grave economic conditions, or working for terrible bosses in terrible cultures but the principles of rock-star-ness hold true even in those situations. Sometimes we are placed in positions to make a difference in bad circumstances, or to elevate our awesomeness to the extent we will be hand-picked by an equally awesome company. So let your inner rock star out!