Must be: Seven ways to impress
You might save your company $10 million, but if your boss doesn't know you did it, it will be like it never happened. So you need to manage up– systematically make sure your boss perceives that you are doing a great job. Here are seven ways to manage up:
Know your boss's priorities. If your boss is a numbers person, quantify all your results. And know which numbers matter most to her– all numbers people have their pet line items. If your boss is a customer-comes-first kind of person, frame all your results in terms of how they benefit customers. Let's say, though, that you are working on a project that's impossible to frame in terms of the customer. You need to ask yourself, "Why am I working on a non-customer-oriented project if I have a customer-oriented boss?" It probably isn't a high priority for her, so it shouldn't be a high priority for you.
Say no. Say yes to the things that matter most to your boss. Say no to everything else, and your boss will appreciate that you are focused on her needs. Remember that your boss doesn't always know everything you've got on your plate. So when she asks you to do something that you don't have time to do, ask her about her priorities. Let your boss know that you want to finish what's most important, which may mean saying no to lesser projects.
Talk like your boss. If your boss likes email, use it. If your boss prefers voicemail, then phone in your updates. Convey information to your boss in the way she likes best so that she's more likely to retain it. Be aware of detail thresholds, too– some people like a lot and some people like none. A good way to figure out what your boss wants is to watch how she communicates with you– she's probably doing it in the way she likes best.
Toot your own horn. Let your boss know each time you do something that has an impact on the company. Leave a voicemail announcing that a project went through. Send a congratulations email to your team and copy your boss, which not only draws attention to your project success but also to your leadership skills. Whatever mechanism you use, let your boss know when you achieve something he cares about.
Lunch with your boss. If all things are equal, your boss will promote the person he likes best. So... be someone he likes best. Have lunch with your boss and talk about his interests. Get him on your side by asking for advice about a work-related problem. If you are very different from your boss, try to find common ground in your conversations. We all have things in common with others; we just have to find them.
Seek new responsibilities. Find important holes in your department before your boss notices them. Take responsibility for filling those holes, and your boss will appreciate not only your foresight, but also your ability to exceed your regular responsibilities. (The trick, of course, is to make sure you do not shirk your official job duties while taking on more.)
Be curious. Make time to read and remember to listen carefully to what others say. Then ask questions when they're not expected; you will seem more interesting to be around and will elicit fresh ideas from everyone around you. Your boss will realize that having you on the team improves everyone's work– even his own– and that, after all, is the primary objective of managing up.