How much time and thought have you put into the art of working up the organization? This is different than just trying to get your organization to like you, respect you and promote you. There is a real skill in trying to work with your boss, and those who take the time to master this skill make their lives and their supervisor’s lives so much easier. Simple things and common sense make a huge difference. Take a look at this Harvard Business Review blog as a starting point for this discussion.
The first point to consider is that both you and your your boss have a very different and unique set of responsibilities. Yes, they overlap at times but in reality you are expected to do things and she is expected to do somewhat different things. Your boss should in no way do you job, and typically she won’t if you show that no help is needed. When this doesn’t work, you say your boss is micromanaging and the boss complains that she needs to do a lot of hand holding. This is not a good situation and I would argue that it is your responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen. Remember that when your boss takes time to do your work it takes time away from what she is supposed to be doing for her boss. Let’s look at a few ideas that can help you avoid this situation.
The first rule is to get your work done and always finish it ahead of time. If your boss has to worry about you hitting a deadline she will start to get involved and that is where a lot of trouble begins. When deadlines are missed and things get left to the last minute, tension rises because everyone looks bad. The boss looks like she can’t manage and becomes frustrated because your inability to finish impacts her image and perhaps career. When work is done early, it demonstrates total control and mastery of the assignment. It shows that you have capacity to do greater things, perhaps at a higher level in the organization. When work is always done right on deadline it indicates that this is difficult for you and you may even be working at a job beyond your potential. The tricky part is not just getting it done but doing the work well.
The second key to working with your boss is to make everything seem very simple, even the most complex tasks. Always remember the saying that simplicity this side of chaos is worthless, but simplicity on the other side of chaos is worth all the money in the world. You have to work your way through all the chaos, thoroughly consider and analyze all the possibilities and then present the obvious answer once you solve the riddle. So many people just think the job is over when they complete the monster slide deck, when what is needed is the one slide or one page that simplifies all the work done getting through the chaos, and the recommendation. All the work is in the deck, but the key is to simplify everything so that attaining approval is automatic. The work needs to be so thorough that there is no doubt all options were analyzed, but it also needs to reach a conclusion. You show competency when you are able to gain approval without making your boss become part of the decision making process. She should merely have to approve the obvious conclusion you present.
The third key is that you keep your boss informed of what you are doing and the progress you are making. This is an art in and of itself. You need to show in a very simple way that everything is under control. With the status update on each job there should be concise talking points that she can use with others in the organization to show she is totally in control and has bought into the process and the progress her people are making. Even though you might be doing all the work, it is ultimately her project. This communication flow is critical and if done right it eliminates a lot of confusion and second guessing as to what is happening. It allows you to keep control and gives the boss total confidence in you and your work.
When thinking of this issue, I like to envision a rocket ship blasting off into space. Your boss should be viewed as the astronaut sitting in the capsule and you are the massive rockets that puts her into orbit. She needs to feel she is in control, but at the same time she knows her career is ultimately in the hands of the firepower burning fuel like crazy to get her to her destination. At the same time you need to recognize she is the firepower that launches her boss into space as well. Like a space shot, it really is a beautiful thing when it works well!