Impressing your boss can sometimes feel like trying to hit a moving target.
Having a good relationship with your manager can be the make-or-break difference between whether or not you love your work. It can also be the difference between getting a promotion and raise and being passed over.
While knowing your boss’s personality, communication style, and priorities can go a long way in making sure you’re tailoring your workstyle to their specific needs and demands, there are a few methods that will help you make sure you’re getting noticed for all the right reasons no matter who your boss is.
Whether you’re interested in improving your relationship with your boss or making sure you get off on the right foot with a new manager, here are tried and true tips that will make you stand out in the best way possible.
Speak up: ask questions, share ideas, and add perspective
When you’re the new person on staff or the most junior person in the room, asking questions can sometimes feel uncomfortable. Do it anyway.
As I have learned the hard way, it is *far* better for you to speak up when you don’t understand something and ask “how?” or “why?” than to spend hours and hours trying to figure something out on your own.
If you’re asking clarifying questions about process or how to do something correctly, trust me, your boss will appreciate being able to take the time to walk you through things in the moment rather than after the fact. You're probably not the only one who didn't understand, so this gives them a chance to help everyone be better.
Process questions can be easier to ask than questions like, “Why are we doing it this way?” Or, “Have you ever considered…?” But these types of questions — questions that provoke thought and dialogue — are just as important.
Sometimes speaking up means you are offering the team a fresh, new, or different perspective that they hadn’t considered before. This can be especially true if your team is made up of members who have been with the company for decades and have “always done it this way.”
Asking smart and thoughtful questions isn’t always easy or fun, but it will definitely impress your boss. Who knows? Your questions might be the catalyst for the next exciting change on the team, and be the reason your boss consults you again in the future.
Take good notes
Once you ask those questions, make sure you write down the answers.
I’m one of those people who would probably forget my own name if I didn’t write it down. I have notebooks and lists for every project, deadline, and planned shopping excursion. Even if you think you have a great memory, study after study has shown that we are far more likely to remember things when we write them down.
That means it’s important to come to meetings with a notebook where you can document the conversation, next steps, and deadlines discussed. This will help you not only retain more of the discussion, but also give you something to refer back to when you start having that sneaking suspicion on Friday afternoon that you’ve forgotten something.
If you’re looking for a notebook that will match your style and is light and streamlined, we love the Founders Notebook. If you’d prefer something a little more templated, the Ink+Volt Meeting Notes Notepad is formatted to fit seamlessly into the flow of your meetings and help you to never miss a beat.
Be prepared for your one-on-one meetings
A crucial piece in anyone’s relationship with their boss is how they approach their one-on-one meetings. (Read more of our tips on how to have a great one-on-one here!) These regular updates are opportunities for you to have open dialogue with your boss, get solutions to your problems, and — maybe most importantly — develop a strong relationship.
So how can you make sure that you’re using your one-on-one meetings as an opportunity to impress your boss?
- Set an agenda: Make a plan for what you’re going to talk about before you sit down with your boss by creating — or adding to — a meeting agenda. Whether you’re using a digital planning tool or just emailing it to them, make sure to give your boss at least 24 hours notice about what you’d like to talk about so they can also make sure they’re also prepared for the conversation.
- Be prepared to drive the conversation: A good leader should let you take the reins during a one-on-one, so don’t be thrown for a loop if your boss’s first question is, “What would you like to talk about today?” (This is where that agenda comes in handy!)
- Be present: When it comes to your career, impressing your boss might be the single most important thing to focus on. So when you have one-on-one time with them, make sure you’re not distracted by notifications on your phone or laptop, or sidetracked by irrelevant conversations. Stay focused, attentive, and on-topic, and your boss will be sure to take notice.
The Ink+Volt 1:1 Notepad is a tool to help you impress your boss and take your one-on-one meetings to the next level. It has all of the key elements of a successful one-on-one meeting, including a topics section where you can set the agenda, space to take notes on your discussion, and an area to outline next steps and deliverables to make sure both you and your boss are aligned on who’s taking on what work, and when it will be completed.
Come up with solutions
One lesson I learned very early on in my career was to stop bringing problems to my boss that I hadn’t already thought of solutions for.
In one of our one-on-one meetings shortly after I had started on the team, I shared a problem that I was having, and instead of telling me what to do, she said, “How are you going to solve it?”
I was stunned. And I have to admit that it took me some time to come up with an answer. But after talking it through with her, I learned an incredibly valuable lesson: Yes, your boss is there to help you solve problems. But if you’re going to grow — and if you really want to impress your boss — you should at least *try* to solve the problem yourself before you ask for their help. And if you can’t solve it, take some time to brainstorm possible solutions for your boss to consider.
This goes for owning your mistakes, too. Instead of going to your boss and saying, “I shared the wrong numbers with our client, what should I do?” Try saying, “I shared the wrong numbers with our client. This is why it happened, and here’s how I’m going to fix it. Are you comfortable with this plan?”
Even if they don’t like the solutions that you’ve proposed, the fact that you’ve been careful and considerate enough to try problem solving will go a long way in winning them over.
(If you need a little help assessing and diagnosing problems, we love the Lessons Learned Notepad!)
Send status updates
This might be one of our favorite ways to impress your boss. It takes all of 10 minutes out of your day, but can go a long way toward demonstrating the value that you’re bringing to the team as well as the breadth of your workload.
Here’s how to do it: On Friday afternoons, send your boss a short, bullet-pointed list of everything you did this week, what you plan to work on next week, and any places that you might need help.
That’s it! To make things even easier, you can probably pull most of this information from your weekly to-do list, planner, or calendar.
Why should you start doing this? Let’s face it: Your boss has no idea what you do all day. They might have a vague sense of what you’re *supposed* to be working on based on your conversations in your one-on-ones, but they aren’t deeply aware of every single thing you’re spending your time on throughout the week.
Taking a few minutes to write a short (that’s important!), clear email that highlights all of the ways you’re dedicating your time and talents to the team is the difference between your boss thinking that you’re doing a good job and *knowing* that you’re doing a good job.
What are some of the amazing ways you’ve impressed your boss in the past? Or if you *are* a manager, what are some of the most important things that your staff members have done to wow you? Drop us a line on Facebook or Instagram, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org — we’d love to hear from you!