No one in the workplace operates in a vacuum. Everyone is dependent on someone else, no matter the job or location. It’s that dependence, however, that can make or break you.
If you work, for example, under a manager who is seen as weak and ineffective, that could seriously impact your chances for promotions or working on top projects. Why? Because his lackluster performance is unlikely to garner few rewards for him – or anyone who works for him – from top brass.
On the other hand, if you work for a strong manager, it’s likely that your star can rise right along with his.
One of the problems, of course, is that employees can misjudge their boss’s status within a company and end up tying themselves to a weak manager instead of a strong one.
For example, you may believe that because your boss is a tiger around you and your co-workers, yelling and blustering and acting like a tyrant, that he must be just as tough around top bosses as well. But he may totally wimp out in front of executives and so has a reputation as a weak link. And vice versa – the most easy-going manager with a nice word for everyone may be very shrewd and tough with the big bosses when it comes to getting what he wants.
What this boils down to is that anyone who works for, or with, a successful boss has a chance of being in on not only the top projects, but reaping additional benefits such as plentiful resources and training.
Still, aligning yourself with the right manager isn’t always easy. It may not be clear exactly who has a powerful reputation with key players, and who just pretends to have one. No boss is going to advertise the fact that he’s seen as weak by the top people, and real power players often do their best work quietly and behind the scenes, with little fanfare. But with some detective work, you can make pretty good guesses as to who has a bright future and might be able to boost your career as well.
For example, when considering a manager’s strength, observe the reaction of others to him. Do other managers, employees and customers really listen to him? In meetings, this means that people don’t interrupt him or check messages on their Blackberries. They make eye contact and wait until he is finished speaking before asking questions. Also, when it comes time for decisions to be made, do others turn to him for his input?
Further, is the boss in the loop regarding company decisions, and is he consulted about those decisions? If he doesn’t seem to know about future plans or is unsure of the next move by top decision-makers, this may mean he is seen as weak by top brass and is not kept informed of vital moves. Those who work for weak bosses often are the last to know of company plans, are under-funded and consistently miss out on key opportunities.
Another key indicator for a power boss is one who makes rapid progress. This means that he not only has risen in the ranks at a good clip, but that he is able to show fast, consistent growth (new customers, new projects, great efficiency and productivity) and is generating the revenue needed to operate his department and help the company. He is assertive in meeting his goals, and his decisions have a direct impact on the business.
So, once you’ve determined the strong boss, how can you align yourself with him so that your career will benefit? Try:
· Offering information. Power players are adept at spotting trends, honing in on key bits of information they can use to propel themselves forward. By passing on industry news or personnel changes or actions by competitors, you make yourself more valuable and visible to the manager. Don’t pass along frivolous information – jamming up his e-mail or mailbox will have the opposite impact and make you just seem annoying.
· Getting to know the inner circle. An executive assistant is often an invaluable ally in getting to know a key player. Ask about the challenges the boss is currently facing, and what he values most.
· Seeking input. While you don’t want to take up the manager’s time with anything and everything (“Do you think I should reorganize my files?”) asking for thoughts on dealing with a difficult customer or brainstorming some ideas for a presentation to a new client can help establish a stronger working relationship.
What are some other ways to position yourself?