Making your boss successful. Why even bother?

To the brash 20-something-me this was as cheesy as anything could get. Making one’s boss successful is the kind of thing that would earn you the choicest epithets – apple-polisher, bootlicker to the more unparliamentary set of adjectives that would make anyone cringe.

Understandably so. He is the boss for a reason. He knows it all. Or should at least know it all. So why go the extra mile to make him successful. After all, I am busting my behind for him already. Ain’t I?

It is entirely possible to spend a lifetime of working, minding your own business, doing the tasks assigned to you and not having to think of such esoteric ideals as making one’s boss successful. After all, I am doing what I am paid to do. Whether it is the mundane execution of a boring routine, or the active creation of a product, service or selling your wares to meet your target. Focusing on the day-to-day and not pausing to think how what I do fits into the company’s mission or my group’s success is the demystification we will attempt here.

It took me a while to see the merit in the whole argument. And not just the rookie-me. Even the VP-me has a lesson to learn here. The higher up the food chain the more the corporate imperative to make your boss succeed. Choosing to ignore will be a choice only for a very short time. Denial is certainly an option here.

There are any number of means and methods on the ‘how’ to make your boss successful. My point though is ‘why’. If you knew the why, the how is only a matter of detail. Anyone with a job can easily figure that one out. Can’t you?

Here are four reasons why –

  1. Consider your boss to be your translator. Any decent boss, is also the quintessential lexicographer. The guy who translates the vision/mission statements of the company to the rest of us. Thankfully most companies have their vision statements written in English. Even so, if you happen to be nine layers below the CEO, those statements could barely mean anything. ‘To do x with y in z place’ could very well be Latin for ‘Its a bright and sunny day’. If the company hired you, they certainly trusted you with your ability to read English. But that is not to say, you could translate an otherwise lofty sounding vision statement and convert that into actionable work items that can be executed on a day to day basis. If you are already doing this, then this is clearly not for you.
  2. Trusting your boss to act in the interests of the organization. To your boss’ credit here is the typical dilemma that most of them have to go through. It is one of having a directive that he/she cannot completely share with everyone in the group.The larger the company, the more competitive the industry, this is a classic scenario that all bosses have to face time and time again. Orders from above warrant a certain outcome and often times the details are not shareable. If you are a leader or are in the process of becoming one, this scenario or the potential for one should be a no brainer to you. Times like these call for implicit faith in the boss’s directive and doing what it takes to make him/her successful. Second guessing your boss’ motives and directives is always an option. On the contrary, trusting and complying, certainly has its benefits.
  3. Your boss’ success is your success and vice versa. Let’s face it. You succeed or fail as a group. When was the last time, your boss succeeded while the rest of your group failed? Yes, there are always exceptions to any rule. A stray case here and a stray case there, does not count for anything. A natural extension of this universal theorem is that, your boss is looking out for the group’s interest. And if you consider yourself part of the group, then bingo!!! Making your boss succeed only increases the chances of you doing your part for your group to succeed. At a much simpler level, your boss has a vested interest in seeing you succeed. Your success means, the group’s success and that eventually means his/her success.
  4. Its good for you. Plain and simple. Think about it. We like people who are like us. We like people who help us and respond positively and favorably to us. We like people……you get the drift. Your boss is no exception. He/she is as human as anyone can get. And that means being subjected to the same emotional turmoil that the rest of us go through. You be nice. And he/she will certainly be nicer. Plus, a happy group performs better, delivers better, not to mention earns better.

With so many benefits, implicit and otherwise, subtle and bold, intangible and concrete, the argument for making your boss succeed should not have to be a matter of argument.

Consider this the ‘Why’. The ‘how’ is easy. If you really need a kickstart to the ‘how’, how about simply walking up to your boss and popping the question ‘Boss, what can I do to make you successful?’

Will you?

The Elusive Obvious – Why YOU should manage YOUR career

Legend has it that Sir Isaac Newton made two holes on his door for his cats to go in and out. Asked why two holes, he was supposed to have replied that the big one was for his big cat and smaller hole was for the kitten. What seemed obvious for the layman, apparently proved elusive for the genius scientist.

The story could very well be a myth, but the lesson is not.

Most times, what seems like the obvious thing to do is also the most elusive thing for most people. You could even call it the most elusive obvious factor in career management.

Here are the three most often quoted reasons why we do not manage our career:

Expecting the organization to manage it for you. Not a bad thought at all. Most organizations do manage the careers of those who work for them. Amongst those that do, career management is a corporate goal. Making career progressions available on the intranet, conducting internal career fairs, facilitating annual reviews are only a few of the ways in which corporations help manage your career. This is the best the organization can do. Specially for large corporations where providing a level playing ground and equal opportunity is a key goal in employing and retaining people. In essence, the organization is meeting its part of the bargain. It would be unfair to expect an organization to focus on each individual, measure and provide for his/her growth.

Expecting your boss to manage it for you. Nice thought. And it might actually work. Almost. People management is the bosses single biggest portfolio. Everything else follows. However, depending on the number of people the leader manages he/she can be mindful of only so many careers. Not to mention other corporate necessities like meeting numbers, reporting and the other chores that define a leader’s existence. In spite of all these mundane necessities, many leaders still do a fabulous job of helping their team members manage their careers. Problem though is, the boss can only focus so much on your priorities versus the ones of your peer. Plus, most bosses do not come with mind reading capabilities that allow for them to figure out which way you would like to take you career in. If you are thinking people management and your boss is thinking technology management, then your goals are bound to look more like a parallel set of lines than two lines that are bound to meet at one point.

Settling in and getting lost in the day to day rigor of the job. This is a big one for most folks. Depending on where one is on the job continuum – whether it is getting that dream job, settling into the dream job, getting used to the day-to-day routine, solving the next big problem, solving even bigger problems so on and so forth. For 90+% of people, the day to day rigor just overtakes the core need to be mindful of their career progression. A life altering moment is the next milestone when most folks wake up to take stock of their position on the career line. And for most folks, in most cases, that could be a tad bit too late. You are either caught working in outdated technologies, not kept up with the happenings in the industry you are in, aged gracefully or any one of the myriad of other reasons.

So back to the question. Why should you manage your own career? Simple answer – because no one else will. Duh!!!!! That simple. (Wasn’t that simple to me at least till a few years ago!)

This is the biggest realization I recommend to my clients who come to me for career advice. Understanding and accepting that you have to be responsible is the great first step. The rest is all in the details. Most people will figure out ‘how’ to manage their careers. Any number of avenues exist to advice on how to take the next step. But very few will push you to realize Why?

So, now that you have heard it – Will you resolve to manager your career?