Your boss can be a great career management ally – IF you have a solid working relationship, that is.
In “4 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Your Manager,” our team shared tips for “managing up” without stepping on your boss’s toes, by:
- getting to know the person behind the title;
- understanding his goals and work style;
- anticipating his needs;
- supporting his areas of strength – and not trying to change him.
But there’s another individual who often has just as much (if not more) influence over your career trajectory. Who is this person?
Your boss’s boss.
The more you’re known and respected by superiors at all levels, the brighter your career prospects will be. So once you’ve strengthened your relationship with your manager and perfected the art of “managing up,” set your sights higher to accelerate your career growth. These tips, summarized from the Harvard Business Review article “To Boost Your Career – Get to Know Your Boss’s Boss,” will help you foster a stronger connection without undermining your immediate supervisor:
Make your enthusiasm apparent.
Being mentally present and fully engaged when interacting with your boss’s boss is a great way to demonstrate how serious you are about your career. When appropriate:
- ask relevant, information-based questions;
- seize opportunities to continue conversations outside formal meetings;
- ask your direct manager for career-related advice, and then ask him if his boss might have additional ideas (to prevent the perception that you “went over his head”).
Find and strengthen common bonds.
If you’re intimidated by your senior manager’s responsibilities or influence, get over it. You’re both human, and you both have lives outside the workplace. So, as you did with your direct manager, gradually learn about your boss’s boss on a human level. What are his hobbies and interests? His favorite places to travel? How did he get to where he is now? Look for common interests you can build upon.
Even though this individual is two rungs higher on the corporate ladder, he’ll probably welcome your attempts to connect on a personal level. And if you find that he’s not responsive, don’t beat yourself up – you can’t win over every person you encounter in business. Pull back the reins a bit and stick to more conventional ways of strengthening your relationship.
Raise your profile.
Your boss (and his boss) expect you to do good work. That alone is not enough to get you noticed by higher-ups. So look for other ways to increase your visibility, without being completely self-serving:
- Share compliments you’ve received from colleagues, customers or clients. Your boss may pass them along to his boss, because your success makes your manager look good, too.
- Think and act like an entrepreneur. One way to take ownership is by pitching ideas for solving problems outside your immediate role.
- Volunteer for a cross-functional committee (preferably managed by your boss’s boss). This will increase opportunities for direct interaction with him, broaden your network and heighten your visibility internally.
- Find mentors, sponsors and advocates who will increase your visibility and promote your career development.
Remember the chain of command.
As you strive to strengthen your relationship with your boss’s boss, keep your priorities straight. Your relationship with your direct manager should always take precedence, so keep him in the loop with any interactions you have with his boss. At the end of the day, your supervisor likely still has the greatest influence over your career!
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Read Level Up for more career growth tips.