When I took my first job after graduating from university, it didn’t take long to realize that I wanted to be the boss. I wanted to climb the ladder and be a manager and then an executive in the firm. Unfortunately, I was a low-level person with no clue how to be a manager. Worse yet, I had no influence with my current boss; I had trouble even getting on her calendar to have a conversation about my career aspirations. It felt like she was avoiding me.
While we would like to hope that our boss would connect with us, this doesn’t always happen, and it does not relieve you of the responsibility of you connecting with them. Developing influence down with followers is usually how we think of leadership, but leading up (your boss) and across (your peers) is equally essential if you ever hope to be an effective leader.
I learned from that early job assignment that my boss was a busy, results-driven person who didn’t just “spend” time with teammates; she invested time in the teammates who helped her generate results. She didn’t ignore me, but she spent more time with some of my peers. I learned how to increase my influence with her and every other senior person in the firm.
Increasing Influence with Your Boss
By far, the #1 way to increase your influence with the people over you in the organization is to LEAD YOURSELF exceptionally well. This means doing your job well and looking for other ways to lighten your leader’s load. It also means managing the intangibles like your attitude, motivation, morale, and time.
Another way to increase your influence with your boss is to DO MORE THAN MANAGE – LEAD. Great leaders are also great managers, but not all great managers are great leaders. So, how does someone without a title lead and not just manage?
- Managers work with processes – Leaders work with people.
- Managers manage tasks – Leaders lead people
- Managers look at today – Leaders look at the long-term, big picture
- Managers manage what exists – Leaders push boundaries
- Managers do what they are asked – Leaders lead change to do what needs to be done
- Managers react to conditions – Leaders create better conditions
- Managers respond to change – Leaders are agents of change
Making it Practical
It would be easy to say, “Yes, I’m going to do more than manage what I have been asked to manage; I am going to lead!” However, if you don’t have a practical view of what that looks like from where you are in the organization, it may be a short-lived exercise. So, what would this look like for you?
You need to be both a manager and a leader to be successful. You must manage the projects and assignments your leader has asked you to handle. The difference is the leadership mindset you bring to those assignments. Now, instead of just doing the assignment, you look at what you are doing and consider the organization’s long-term plan. You would ask why do we do it this way? Is there a better way to do it? What improvements could we make to ensure a better outcome? Is this even the right thing to be doing?
When you take a big-picture view, you will naturally develop a point of view about the business and what your boss is trying to accomplish. When you do this, you will naturally look to help increase efficiencies, reduce costs, or increase revenue. Over time your boss will recognize your willingness to think outside the box and how you are helping her see things she might not have seen before. With a leadership mindset, you can position yourself to become a go-to-player and someone your boss would never try to avoid.
Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with the John Maxwell Company’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.