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Posted by David Brown, CEO Hays US on Friday, May 18, 2018
As an experienced senior leader, your boss’s boss can teach you valuable lessons through their own journey to career success. And in practical terms they tend to have final say on decisions impacting your career’s momentum, from approving your participation in a training course, to granting you more responsibility in your current role, all the way up to getting that well-deserved promotion.
Of course, when developing a working relationship with your boss’ boss, there’s a fine line to tread. You need to be tactful and make sure you’re not undermining your immediate boss or damaging that relationship. But if you want to advance in your career, you really need their boss to be aware of you and your capabilities. So how to do it? Through the four main points addressed below.
Build a strong relationship with your boss and team
Your boss has a closer connection with their boss than you do, and periodically the two of them will discuss your performance – a discussion that heavily involves your boss’s input. For that to go well, you need to have a good relationship with your boss. You can help foster that by striving to meet (or exceed) their expectations and seeking constructive feedback whenever possible.
Part of your boss’s assessment is going to be how much and how well you collaborate with your team. Working in isolation will harm the team’s dynamic and productivity. You can avoid that by maintaining an open, communicative relationship with colleagues, helping them as needed, and asking for their insights and expertise. If you’re a productive, engaged member of the team, that’s something your boss will notice – and it’ll influence how they talk about you to their boss.
Increase the dialogue with your boss’s boss
You may find yourself intimidated by your boss’s boss, especially if you haven’t had much contact with them to date. If you’re worried about presenting poorly, start with small openings to make polite exchanges. A cursory “Hello, how are you?” as you pass in the corridor, or even just offering to make them tea or coffee if you’re both working late in the office can help break the ice.
Other opportunities will arise once they know you a bit better. You’ll find you can share ideas or questions at opportune moments – when they’re giving a departmental update and have opened the floor for questions at the end, per se. Here and elsewhere, keep an eye out for chances to build professional rapport. Be mindful of their seniority, and limit overly familiar exchanges. But if you’re applying common sense to strike the right balance between friendly and professional you can go a long way toward your boss’s boss thinking well of you.
Self-promote your expertise
One of the best ways to build a reputation in your organization – and have that well-earned accolade eventually reach your boss’s boss – is through tactful self-promotion.
Talk to your boss about opportunities for sharing your expertise as a way to both help the team and get noticed. Offer to start a blog, speak at events, or presenting to your boss’s boss at company meetings. You can also offer internal training sessions or onboard and train new hires. What you want is to establish yourself as the “go-to” person for an area of expertise in which you excel.
Think bigger picture
You don’t just want to be known for a single area of expertise. It’s a great starting point, but you want to be able to answer the demands of your immediate role and aid the strategic direction of your team and your organization overall. Getting noticed happens in stages, but sometimes you have to aim bigger.
As Hays CEO Alistair Cox states in one of his blogs: “Thinking big means breaking out of silos.” So don’t be afraid to show interest in broader aspects of the business like current objectives and challenges to the organization as a whole. Be proactive in suggesting your own solutions to problems. Your boss’s boss will notice someone who can contribute to a wider business strategy – someone willing to break beyond the confines of their role to contribute some bigger picture thinking.
Getting noticed by your boss’s boss is mostly about building relationships, both with your colleagues and your bosses. But it’s also about showing what you can contribute beyond the base expectations of your role. It can be a delicate situation to navigate, and it takes time, tact, and patience. But once you have your boss’s boss on your side, there’s no telling how far you can go. If you’re not already on your way, get Hays on your side and let us help you put yourself in the limelight.