Coaching up. Making Your Boss Better and Your Life Easier

Over the course of my career, I have been fortunate to have great leaders who have shown me how to manage up at the middle and executive levels of a company.

However, there is a difference between politics and managing up. Doing the right thing to make your boss look good is not always “sucking up”. Below are three key learnings that you can implement tomorrow which will make your boss’ life, and therefore your life, much easier.

Show Me the Data!

Most of the time, your boss doesn’t enjoy being on your tail. But without data and a plan, it is tough to grant high autonomy in high-pressure situations.  If you have a plan, write it out and be prepared to back it up. If you have an idea, lay out the pros and cons, detail the data, and then present it. The beautiful part about this plan of attack is not only will you be doing your boss a favor, you will also be more organized with your own thoughts and ideas.

Caveat: Bring the right data.  Be sure your data is accurate and tells a complete story. Don’t be tempted to omit facts just to make your case look stronger.

Manage Expectations

Many people, myself included early on in my career, think that doing a good job equals success.  However, the phrase “good job” can be subjective, so be aware that your boss may have a different idea of what equals a “good job.”

When I was 26, I went to my director of sales and told him that I wanted to be a leader in his group based on the fact that I was consistently crushing my quota. He looked at me and said that my perspective was flawed. For him, he chose leaders based on top performance in daily activities and those who spent time helping other team members.

With eyes now open to what equaled success in his eyes, I had an accurate roadmap to achieve my goal.

A few months after our conversation, a leadership role opened up. I was up against a woman who had relocated to that specific market, had been with the company for nearly 3 years, and had higher sales numbers than I did. But because I understood my director’s expectations, I had worked on daily productivity and teamwork, and I was chosen for the position.

No Surprises with Mistakes

Missing a deadline is bound to happen from time to time. However, not raising your hand and asking for help in time to effect the outcome is a different story.  Your project is a small piece of your boss’ responsibilities. Surprising the boss with a mistake close to the deadline means they have little time and resources to correct it, and they are the one with egg on their face. If you get off track, take action and alert your boss of the situation. Own your mistakes and learn from them. Missteps and oversights will happen, but nothing is worse than excuses about how the dog ate your homework.

By giving your boss the tools they need to make great decisions, you make your boss the hero. Have a clear plan, understand their expectations, and make sure surprises don’t come up. This will not only be appreciated by your higher-ups, but will cement you as a valuable member of their team.


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