EditorialsLife

Getting along with the boss

published by the Nashville Business Journal

The relationship you have with your boss is one of the most important in your daily life. To be honest, it probably ranks right behind the one you have with a spouse or significant other. In part that’s due to the sheer amount of time you spend on the job. But it’s also the meaning behind the relationship: your earning potential depends on it. 

Getting along with your boss is big business. And it rests squarely on your shoulders. I know. Early in my career I was given lots of responsibility, leading more than 50 employees and proving to my boss that I could deliver.  

I learned very quickly that having a solid rapport with my boss was good for peace of mind and great for my career. Here are a few thoughts on making this relationship work:

Build a sturdy communications bridge. Figure out the best communication style for your professional relationship. Work it out together. Find the answers to questions like: How frequently should we meet? Better to have one longer weekly meeting or short daily ones? Want just the headlines or details? Get real clarification as early as you can in the relationship.

Help your boss achieve. Every leader wants to win in business. We all want to succeed. Learn the key measures of success in your work group and help the team (and subsequently your boss) shine. When your group meets or exceeds goals, life is good for everyone. 

Limit important communications. When you are talking or writing to your boss keep communication focused no more than two or three key points. It’s hard to get real attention on more than a few topics at once, so you’ll help the relationship by keeping things focused

Define standards of written materials. Does the boss want detailed reports or bulleted memos? How much research or backup material is necessary? A friend once put it this way: “Does the boss want to know what time it is or does he/she want to learn to build a clock?”

Agree to disagree. Your thoughts and ideas are valuable, and bosses need to hear all sides of the important issues. Be careful, be respectful, be calm. When you want to present a different point of view, chose the time and venue carefully. And don’t get into these discussions at times of high stress.

Always support your boss. Get behind the boss in every way you can. Negative remarks always boomerang and will give you one big black eye. Be positive—it always pays off! If you do encounter issues, approach your boss proactively, rather than stewing and saying something you shouldn’t to the wrong person. 

What motivates your boss? Maybe he/she is big on punctuality. If so, be on time—all the time. Maybe he/she dotes on grandchildren or values family above all. If so, don’t forget to comment on life outside work. Maybe your boss reads a lot. So recommend a book. Figure out what motivates your boss and make it work to your benefit.

Be a coach and teacher. Leaders respect those who do the most to develop the team. Take every opportunity you can to help others build their job skills. Initiatives like this sit well with the boss and encourage respect among your peers.

Toot your own horn occasionally. It’s just fine to let your boss or others know about your accomplishments—tastefully. Stay humble, stay accurate and don’t sound like a braggadocio. 

Every boss is different, which means we must learn how best to adapt. Remember, as you grow in your career your boss is also growing. Think of every interaction as an opportunity to learn and evolve. In the process, you might even help your boss in become a better leader. 

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