A good boss is someone who is invested in you.
They offer advice, give constructive feedback, and come up with ways to let you shine. But even good bosses are likely to lapse in this area. They have their own projects, interpersonal challenges, and professional goals to also think about.
That’s why when it comes to your career development, you need to take the reins. As our Ink+Volt founder Kate Matsudaira advises, you need to manage your manager.
Managing your manager means taking the lead and actively getting your boss to invest in you. It means having more purposeful one-on-one meetings, finding creative ways to show off your strengths, and putting yourself out there.
Here are subtle but impactful ways that you can get your boss to invest in you–without them knowing it.
Send weekly status updates
If you’re not sending weekly status updates to your boss, you’ll want to start this week. It’s a simple but effective strategy that lets your boss know just how valuable you are.
Put simply, a weekly status email lets your boss know what you’ve completed this week. In fact, you could even take your current to-do list and turn it into your status report.
Weekly status updates have two benefits:
- You're keeping your boss updated on your work. They’ll know where things stand and have a much clearer idea of what is needed from their end.
- By sharing these status updates, you’re also subtly tooting your own horn and sharing your weekly accomplishments.
Sharing your wins in person can feel awkward and boastful, especially if you’re not used to doing it. But a weekly status email is a low-key way to convey your achievements. It lets your work do the talking.
Plus, managers are busy people and they don’t always know what’s going on in your world. A status update lets them know just how much work you’ve been doing.
Here’s how to make your weekly status email pop:
Make it skimmable. You don’t want to add to your boss’ workload. The idea is to make it short and sweet. This means avoiding dense blocks of text or long, flowery sentences. Think bullet points and action words. Grab their attention by bolding or underlining keywords.
- Drafted presentation
- Arranged travel and hotel accommodations for speakers
- Drafted email newsletter to be circulated next Monday
Add pending items. You can also include items that need your boss’s review or clarification. This way you can both be on the same page and you’ll be much more productive.
- Event budget finalized - need your approval
- Final report attached here - need your review
- Marketing meeting next week - should I raise x or y issue?
Whether you work at a traditional 9-5 job or in a freelance capacity, a weekly status email is an essential career tool that will help you get noticed.
Take advantage of your one-on-one meeting
If you have regular one-on-one meetings with your boss, make them count. You can use these meetings to get valuable feedback on your performance and pitch yourself for opportunities.
For your next one-on-one meeting, come prepared with a list of questions.
Writing down a few questions beforehand will save you from having to come up with them on the spot. It might be helpful to ask questions regarding your role and expectations as well questions concerning your work performance.
Below are some sample questions you can use or modify:
- This week I was going to prioritize x,y,z–do you agree or would you like me to prioritize something else?
- Upon completion of a project – what went well? What could I have done differently?
- This week/month/year what have I done that was really great? From your viewpoint how could I apply that to future projects?
- Is there anything you would like to see more of?
What’s your boss’s biggest headache?
Take care of it for them.
Your boss can’t do everything and be everywhere at once. They also have strengths and weaknesses. Some bosses are great at capturing the big picture, but they have no idea what’s going on with the nitty gritty. Some bosses are better at strategic thinking and forecasting, but are lacking in communication skills.
This is where you can play a valuable role.
Identify the work issues that drive your boss crazy. Maybe they hate dealing with spreadsheets. Maybe they hate schmoozing at work events. Maybe they hate writing work emails.
For the next week or so, take note of the things that your boss doesn’t have time for or hates doing. Then, make a list of possible solutions and provide one to your boss.
If you’re not sure what skills you can offer, don’t worry. To paraphrase Ramit Sethi, you don’t have to be an expert, you just have to be a little better at it than your boss. So you don’t have to be an excel whiz, you just have to be good enough so that you can take this item off your boss’ plate.
This week, identify a problem and offer a solution. Your boss will appreciate your initiative and problem solving skills.
Demonstrate informal leadership
Want to get noticed at work? Flex your informal leadership skills.
Whereas formal leadership is traditionally connected to someone’s job title, like a CEO or a manger, informal leadership is defined by your experience and interests. Your strengths will be seen as a prized resource and you’ll build a strong reputation at work.
Take some to reflect on your strengths. If you’re not sure what your strengths are, then think about the different times that your coworkers have come to you for help or advice.
Maybe you’re great with coming up with witty copy. Or maybe you have an eye for design. Or maybe you know the company’s history and policies inside and out. Whatever your strengths and interests are, you can utilize them to develop your informal leadership skills.
So if your coworkers are always complimenting your social media savvy, send out a monthly newsletter with tips and tricks. Or, the next time there’s a team meeting, pitch some marketing ideas for social.
Over time, you’ll grab the attention of your peers, manager, and company at large. You’ll also gain experience and build confidence.
What are the different ways that you manage your manager?