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Make Your Boss Happy

make your boss happyA dear friend and colleague once shared with me a secret to his success: Upon waking each morning, he asks himself, What question should I be running on today?

Those simple words trigger his mind to reflect on his potential and frame his thoughts for the day.

In my work as a performance consultant to top executives in the leisure industry, I’ve seen firsthand how simply asking the right questions can put you in the proper frame of mind to master the challenges ahead and become the kind of employee that gets noticed and rewarded.

Here are seven questions to ask as you begin thinking about ways to put your career on the fast track to success.

1. Do I take responsibility for my mistakes? When something doesn’t go as planned on the job, admit your mistake to your boss and own it. Try saying something like, “I should have done this differently” or “Here’s how I can make this better next time.” Your boss will appreciate the honesty and focus more quickly on what you’ve learned rather than dwell on what you did wrong.

2. Do I know what drives my boss’s decisions? Before asking your boss for input, think about what information she will need to make an informed decision. If your boss is a numbers person, bring the data. If she’s a bottom-line-only boss, bring the budget. If your boss bases her decisions on people, know the players. If she is most concerned about the number of complaints you’ve received on a certain issue, be ready to talk about specific situations.

3. What can I do to be more proactive? Avoid going to your boss with a problem until you’ve spent some time thinking about possible solutions. That way, you can foster an environment that allows you to suggest improvements. For example, try saying, “I’ve been thinking about [the problem] and have an idea. What would you think about…?” You can create positive and powerful perceptions about your capabilities by providing ideas that can help your boss easily resolve the issue at hand. Just be sure you’ve outlined the pros and cons of each solution, so you can demonstrate that you’ve thoroughly considered each option.

4. How can I manage my boss’s expectations? To get your plan approved, it must be well received. And that means carefully considering how, when and where to bring up a new idea to your boss. What approach, situation, location and timing have elicited the best responses in the past? How can you use this approach for the same success? Depending on the issue, you may want to schedule a meeting, discuss the topic over lunch or add it to the agenda at your next staff meeting. The key is to choose the right delivery time and location to make sure your idea gets heard.

5. What can I do to further my organization’s missions? A common trait among fast trackers is the ability to make their bosses look good. They understand that sometimes the best way to cast themselves in a positive light is to be a team player who pitches in for the department’s benefit. How can you make sure everyone benefits from your thought or idea? Figure it out, and then follow through. Your boss will appreciate the initiative you take to create solutions to your department’s problems.

6. Am I giving my boss what he needs to succeed? As a young manager, I frequently found myself working side by side with my staff at the front counter. It was a very comfortable place for me and, because I hated paperwork, I preferred serving customers rather than completing reports. One day, however, my boss called me into his office and came unglued. A report I was responsible for was long overdue. My response? “The front desk staff needed me. Aren’t our customers more important than a report?” But here’s the thing: I hadn’t considered how my procrastination impacted everyone along the chain of command, starting with my boss. He needed the information in my report for his boss, who was preparing a bigger report for the organization’s executive director, who needed it for a board meeting later that week. Customer service was important in this case — internal customer service.

7. What image am I projecting? Gaining visibility is crucial to getting ahead. And that means maintaining a professional image at all times. What kind of image are you projecting? Are you viewed as a team player or a loner? Someone who works behind the scenes or as a self-promoter? A person who solves problems or one who creates them? The impression you send while on the job can have far-reaching effects — a hard lesson I fortunately learned early in my career. Here’s what happened: A colleague and I were competing for the same promotion. When she received the nod, I became her subordinate. Chalk it up to youthful ignorance, but I had the misguided notion that if I made her look bad, the decision makers would realize they made a mistake in choosing her over me. For three long years, I made her life miserable. I talked behind her back. Criticized her every decision. Mocked her to my co-workers. Finally, I decided to move on. I applied for eight jobs outside the organization and received a few second interviews, but no offers. Years later, I had the biggest “ah-ha moment” of my career: All of the people who had been in a position to hire me were the same people who I had been complaining to about my boss. It didn’t matter that I had talent; they had seen me at my worst. Not surprisingly, none of them wanted to hire me. Heck, I wouldn’t hire me! We all need to let off some steam occasionally. But when you engage in boss-bashing and complaining, everyone will notice.

As you think about your plans for the future, ask yourself: What question should I be running on today? When you focus on putting your best foot forward, you’ll quickly find the fast track to career success.

(Photo by iStock)

About Ruby Newell-Legner

As a Fan Experience Expert, Ruby helps leaders in sports, leisure and entertainment build strong teams between front line staff and management, and make exceptional customer service a way of life. She has consulted with and designed customized training programs for more than 60 sports and entertainment venues, 80 leisure facilities and 29 professional sports teams. From the only 7 Star Hotel in the world to Convention Centers, from Denver to Dubai, Ruby brings unprecedented expertise and insight on how to create a service culture that motivates employees and promotes customer loyalty and retention.

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