How can I best build credibility with my boss?

by Sam on January 12, 2010

One-Minute Answer: The CEO who commands the respect of her Board is free to lead with confidence. The VP who pleases his CEO will become a succession candidate. The manager prized by the VP she reports to is going places. The administrative assistant who wins the favor of his manager has job security and career potential.


Your success is determined more than anything else by the person you report to. You need that person’s backing when you go up against others. You need that person’s assent for your ideas. You need that person’s honest feedback on your performance. You need that person’s grace for your mistakes. You need that person’s vote when the next promotion opportunity arrives.


Most people assume that the best way to get ahead is to do good work and therefore be seen as a rising star. Not a bad assumption, but an incomplete one. Several of the high-performing executives I’ve coached were among the best-kept secrets in their companies because they neglected a core duty. They failed to be in service to the person they reported to. They failed to build sufficient credibility with their boss.


Are you certain that you’re performing that duty? Are you a prized follower? It may be worth five minutes to take a test and find out.



Five-Minute Answer:  The assessment below is in four parts. Each one covers a different credibility-building component of your relationship with the person you report to. Get the most out of each part by choosing the one behavior in that section that you display more fully (ñ) than the others and the one that you display less fully (ò) than the others.


Part A: Understanding My Boss (circle one ñ and one ò)


1.  ñ  ò   I know my boss’s vision, dreams, values, beliefs, aspirations, and needs¾what’s really important to him/her.

2.  ñ  ò   I know the expectations my boss has for my performance—how he/she wants me to carry out my duties.

3.  ñ  ò   I pin my boss down for critical details regarding assigned projects when those success factors aren’t made clear up front.

4.  ñ  ò   I am able to see issues through my boss’s eyes; I accurately anticipate his/her every reaction.

5.  ñ  ò   I know what he/she considers my strengths and weaknesses to be and in what areas I’m expected to improve


Part B: Problem Solving and Initiating (circle one ñ and one ò)


6.  ñ  ò   I recommend alternative solutions for the problems I need to bring to his/her attention.

7.  ñ  ò   I suggest ways to reduce expenses or to spend money more efficiently.

8.  ñ  ò   I suggest ways to increase revenue, find new markets, or do a better job of delighting customers.

9.  ñ  ò   I recommend ways to do things better and faster; I’m a fountain of ideas for continuous improvement.

10. ñ  ò   I stretch beyond my job description, hunting down solutions to problems that I may not necessarily be expected to solve; I take initiative.

11. ñ  ò   I welcome new challenges and responsibilities.


Part C: Communicating (circle one ñ and one ò)


12. ñ  ò   I keep my boss well informed of my progress on projects he/she needs to keep track of.

13. ñ  ò   I give my coworkers, particularly those who also report to my boss, the information they need from me to perform their jobs successfully.

14. ñ  ò   I communicate to my boss with positive, can-do language.

15. ñ  ò   My language skills are sharp; I am an accurate communicator.

16. ñ  ò   My boss approves/adopts a majority of the ideas I suggest.

17. ñ  ò  I speak and act respectfully toward my boss and behind his/her back.


Part D: Performing (circle one ñ and one ò)


18. ñ  ò   I am reliable and consistent; I can be counted on to deliver and to follow through.

19. ñ  ò   My word is my bond to my boss, my colleagues, and my customers; I am honest.

20. ñ  ò   I treat both internal and external customers in a way that reflects positively on my boss.

21. ñ  ò   I accept full responsibility for the outcomes of my efforts.

22. ñ  ò   I am open to feedback on my performance from my boss; I accept it and use it to improve the quality of my work.

23. ñ  ò   I succeed at making my boss’s job easier and reducing the pain in his/her work life.


Finally:  Are you serious about maximizing the respect your boss has for you? If so, print this assessment with your four upward and downward arrows circled. Present it to your boss with a request that the two of you discuss your choices at a meeting a week later. If you’re not serious enough to take such a step, find someone else in a position to give you feedback on your arrows. If you’re even less serious than that, do two things. First, celebrate your fourñ’s—you’ve earned a pat on the back, even if it has to be self-administered. Second, make a vow to yourself that you’ll improve your behavior on your fourò’s.


Enough Said: A boss is someone who’s early when you’re late and late when you’re early. ~Unknown author

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