When my client Angela needed help sorting out a number of career-related issues, her relationship with her manager was at the top of the list.
Frankly, it was in shambles. Their working relationship was terrible, they couldn’t get along, and Angela even admitted she thought her boss regretted hiring her.
While I’m sure Angela’s boss had his own faults, I began to realize that Angela had forgotten the fundamental rule of employment: You are there to make your manager successful. Angela was contentious and argumentative, and I could see how her boss might not consider her someone who made his life any easier. (Related: How to play nice with a boss you hate)
On the other hand, when I look back at the best staff I had as a manager, they were the ones doing whatever was needed—and with a great attitude—so that we could all be successful together. In short, they made my life easier.
The good news is, aiming to do the same doesn’t just help your boss out. When your goal is to make your manager more successful—rather than just yourself—you’ll grow as an individual performer, as a professional, and as a part of the team. You’ll learn a lot about what it takes to be a leader, expand your empathic skills, and develop your capacity for leadership. Plus, your boss will likely become your mentor and advocate—which will put many more opportunities within your reach.
It’s not complicated; it just requires a decision and commitment on your part to make it happen. Here are some starter tips for making your manager’s life—and job—easier on a daily basis.
1. Get to Know Your Manager
You can’t make your boss’ life easier if you don’t understand how he fundamentally operates. So, your first step is to figure out what he needs from you—and how you should deliver it.
Does he prefer updates delivered in written form or verbally? Spreadsheets or PowerPoint slides? Does he want information conveyed via email, during a team meeting, or on a voicemail?
Getting to know your manager and his preferences will help you deliver the information he needs, the way he needs it. And who doesn’t appreciate that?
2. Know Your Boss’ Goals
As an employee, you may be so focused on your own goals that you forget that you’re actually there to support your manager achieving her goals. So, make it your job to understand the goals, numbers, projects, and other deliverables your boss is accountable for.
It’s as simple as asking your manager as part of your one-on-one meetings, “If I’m aware of your goals and priorities, I can better support you in achieving them. Can you share these with me, so that I can help you succeed?” Once you understand her goals, you’ll be able to produce deliverables that support her success.
3. Never Let Your Manager Be Blindsided
One rule I always asked my teams to abide by was to never let me be blindsided. In short: No surprises.
So, if you suspect that one of your customers is getting really ticked off and is about to escalate over you—and over your boss—to the VP of customer service, you need to let your manager know. Otherwise, she’ll be completely blindsided by the situation, unprepared to handle it, and likely, not too happy with you.
A blindside creates frustration and chaos that usually ends up in a major time-wasting fire drill. Avoid it, and believe me, your manager will thank you.
4. Don’t Expect Your Boss to Spoon-Feed You
It may sound harsh, but no manager wants to babysit an employee. So if you have questions about health insurance, where to find the pencils, or how to file an expense report, find a colleague who can help you get your answers.
Save one-on-one time with your boss for work-related matters that require collaboration; issues that allow you to flex your intellectual muscles and prove your worth as an employee.
5. Meet (or Beat!) Your Deadlines
When you get an assignment from your manager, enthusiastically commit to the deadline (this means “I’m on it!” not, “I’ll see what I can do”). Then, aim to deliver it at least a day early.
This gives your boss time to flex and adapt in case something comes up—and it always does—rather than sweating it out for you to deliver something at the very last minute.
6. Offer Solutions, Not Problems
Your job is not to constantly point out problems that arise, but rather, to proactively start thinking about what solutions could help address those challenges.
For example, you should never walk into your boss’ office to complain about how the shipping department can never get anything out on time. Instead, you should first go to the shipping department, have a conversation about what can be done to improve the situation, and see what you can do to help.
Then, when you do go to your boss about it, you’ll be able to let him or her know the action you’ve already taken to start solving the problem.
7. Do What You Say; Say What You Do
If you say you’ll finish a report by Friday for the team update, but you come in Friday morning unprepared because “other things came up,” people will probably complain to your manager.
And if that’s not enough, if your manager was counting on that report to take the next steps on a project or to present to the executive team, it will inconvenience (read: annoy) him or her even further.
People who are accountable for their actions and follow up on their commitments are dream employees—and their bosses know they can count on them, no matter what.
Employees who work to make their managers successful are golden. Your manager has a tough job—the stress and pressure of which may not be abundantly evident to you. So, help your manager out and develop your own skills at the same time, by doing everything you can to make your boss’ job easier. When you’re a manager, you’ll appreciate the same.