13 ways to manage your boss, and why you might need to

May 25, 2017

If your boss is too busy to manage you, you need to manage your boss. Here are 13 ways to do it well so you can still grow your career.

If you work at a large firm you will likely have your daily tasks and job targets clearly mapped out for you. You are more likely to be managed well.

It’s not quite the same at smaller firms, which is where most graduates – over 90 per cent – end up working. Most bosses of smaller firms are too busy to manage you. People, time and finances are stretched. Your boss needs you to muck in and manage yourself, and the smartest way to do this is to manage your boss.

So, where do you begin to manage your boss?

Let’s get first things straight: you exist to support your boss. So, managing your boss simply means to manage the delivery of what he needs from you. It’s about making sure you do the right things.

Managing your boss makes you proactive in your career development. You will also be helping to make your boss’s life easier, something he or she will thank you for. You will come across as productive, action-orientated and invaluable.

Here are 13 ways to manage your boss well

No.1 Get to know your boss.

The single most important step you can take to manage your boss is to get to know how your boss works. This is vital. Is your boss an early or end of the day type of person? Know your boss’s moods and preferences. Know when he or she is most approachable. Talking with the boss’s secretary or PA can help.

No.2. Find out what your boss’s top priorities are.

Again, if there’s one, a PA can be invaluable for helping you to find out what’s most important to your boss. What’s he or she working on right now? It may not be work you’re directly involved with but work you can support to run smoothly.

No.3. Know the past.

Familiarise yourself with the company files to find out how things have been done in the past or got to where they are now. These files will provide useful historical information on customers, key products, sales performances and so forth. Your boss will appreciate that you know background stuff that he or she doesn’t have to tell you. Useful sources of help include annual reports, handbooks, newsletters, procedure manuals, brochures and the company’s social media and website pages.

No.4. Ask questions.

Don’t be afraid to ask your boss to clarify the details of what you’ve been asked to do. It’s better than assuming and getting it wrong. Say something like, “Let me just clarify that that I’ve got this right” or “So, what you’d like me to do is x, y, z?” Also, be clear on when a task must be completed by asking for deadlines.

No.5. Think ahead.

Suggest steps you might take to complete a task as this does two things: first, it demonstrates initiative and the ability to think for yourself; and two, it enables you to double-check whether you are going about stuff the right way. If you can identify the challenges ahead and how you will tackle them your boss will appreciate that.

No.6. Think for your boss.

Don’t expect your boss to know everything. If you have ideas you think can help, share them. Present your ideas in meetings, send your boss cuttings and information about stuff you think might help him. Think about what he or she needs too. This may also mean following up on stuff your boss may forget. Perhaps he promised to send you information or hasn’t returned a call. Your boss is busy and has lots on his mind so you just may have to think for two.

No. 7. Build a reputation as a problem solver.

Your boss is solving problems much bigger than the ones you face. Don’t add to them, especially if they’re trivial. Think about how you can solve them yourself. It’s why you were hired. Whenever you tell your boss about a problem always include a couple of solutions.

No. 8. Be honest about your mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes so when you do, don’t shirk responsibility for them. Tell your boss what you have learned from any mistakes you’ve made. It will reassure your boss that you know how to avoid the same thing happening again. If you’re to regain your boss’s trust you must build a reputation for honesty and straight-shooting.

No. 9. Use your strengths to support your boss’s weaknesses.

We all have different strengths and we all have weaknesses. Use your strengths to help, not to highlight your boss’s weaknesses. Besides, when your boss can see your strengths and abilities it will give him or her more confidence in you; it will build the relationship.

No. 10. Keep your boss updated.

Do this by producing a monthly report. Include progress updates for on-going projects, tasks you’ve completed, milestones you’ve achieved and what you’re working on next. A single page will often do. It saves your boss second-guessing. Listing your achievements will also help you build a strong and convincing track record that will serve you well in both this and future employments.

No. 11. Deliver the goods.

Whatever you were asked to do, complete it all. Don’t bring half done tasks back to your boss. Don’t give him or her extra work, or work you should have done.

No. 12. Don’t argue with your boss.

Don’t confuse this with passivity or failure to share your views. But remember that the ultimate authority and decision belongs to your boss so know when to press your point and when to retreat.

No. 13. Meet your boss halfway.

Finally, as someone once said, “Don’t wait for your ship to come in: swim out to meet it.” Look for opportunities to impress and make your boss look good.

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