5 Ways to Support Your Boss (Without Kissing Up)

I don’t know your boss.

She may be great. He may be a pain in the neck. He may be supportive. She may be a real witch.

I’ve been that boss. I’ve had all those bosses. All leaders have “bosses” of one sort or another. Sometimes you are the boss of you. Most of the times, someone else also enters the boss scene. Regardless of what breed of boss you have today.

My guess is your boss also…

  • wants you to succeed
  • is dealing with pressures you don’t fully understand
  • sometimes feels overwhelmed
  • is trying to please a boss too
  • is working to balance work and family
  • is doing the best s/he can
  • could use your help
  • ?

There’s the age-old advice “always make your boss look good.” I find it also useful to make them feel good– reduce the stress by making their job a bit easier.

5 Ways To Support Your Boss

  1. Sweat the small stuff. Do what you say you will, without reminding. Get ahead of deadlines. Administrative stuff is a drag, you boss has better things to do than to chase down your paper work.
  2. Communicate frequently in bulleted summaries— leaders often suffer from information overload. They are often called upon to summarize complex issues on the fly, that’s not when they want to go digging through emails. Resist the urge to cc and forward emails without a summary attached.
  3. Uncover issues & address them — your boss knows there are problems, shielding her from them will only make her nervous. Lift up the issues you are finding, along with the solutions to address them. She will sleep better knowing you are paying attention and are all over it.
  4. Thank him for his help. Be honest and specific. Done well and privately this is not brown-nosing– it’s feedback that can help him help you. A side benefit he will grow as a leader.
  5. Document your accomplishments. This is not bragging, it’s useful. Well timed, detailed summaries helps to support the performance management process.
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Posted in Career & Learning, Communication and tagged , , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

9 Comments

  1. I love this list! I have an employee who cannot bullet anything out. This person continues to write LONG emails to everyone even when encouraged to create a list with bullets or to use paragraphs and space between them. How do you help when someone just won’t respond to feedback?

  2. Thanks so much. Long emails are a common challenge for sure. I learned this the hard way. Years ago I had a senior leader call me and say, Karin “I’m going to sort by your name and delete every email you have sent me. I suggest you summarize it all into 5 bullet points and send me what I really need to know in the next hour.” Great feedback. I sure heard it.

    The larger issue you raise here about helping people who won’t respond to feedback can be tricky. I would start with questions, and examples of exactly what you are looking for.

    So delighted to have you joining the Let’s Grow Leaders community and adding to the conversation.

  3. Great words!! I always tried to anticipate the needs of my boss or bosses so that I could think beyond where they were. As you stated they don’t need to be involved in the administrative work (when I was an admin) That was what I was there for. Bosses that are comfortable in their own skin help achieve this dynamic by helping you see the big picture. That way you can truly see what is needed and why.

  4. This is a really good perspective! I need to share this next time I hear someone complaining about their boss!

    I’ve always kept one thing in mind in my career, “try make my boss look good”. Because of that, even when I’ve had “pain in the neck bosses”, I’ve almost always done well.

    Getting people to understand that they don’t know what their boss knows is tough sometimes, but it’s so true!

    Good stuff as usual!

  5. This is a really great perspective! I need to share this next time I hear someone complaining about their boss!

    I’ve always kept one thing in mind in my career, “try make my boss look good”. Because of that, even when I’ve had “pain in the neck bosses”, I’ve almost always done well.

    Getting people to understand that they don’t know what their boss knows is tough sometimes, but it’s so true!

    Good stuff as usual!

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