The best technique for getting ahead at work is choosing a great boss. Not a great job, a great boss. A great boss is one who listens to employees, who is willing to let employees make mistakes and learn from them, who understands the value of loyalty, who is willing to go to bat for employees and who makes sure employees have everything they need to succeed.
But here’s the problem: great bosses are in high demand, but unfortunately in short supply. So jobs with great bosses don’t open up that often.
What can employees who don’t have great bosses do to get ahead? Here are a few thoughts that will help you get ahead even if you have a lousy boss. They will also make you more valuable to that great boss who may be in your future.
There’s one more big bonus to practicing these tips. They will also make you a great boss when you have the chance to step up and lead others. If there’s one thing the world needs more of, it’s great bosses.
Focus on results
There is plenty of good advice about how to get a job and what to do after you’ve landed one, but results are what matter most in the workplace. That said, results are defined differently for every job and every company. At one job, the most important result may be contributing to growing revenues. At another job, the most important result may be creating loyal or happy customers. At another job, the result may be fitting into the team dynamic in a way that facilitates the group effort. It’s important to know which results matter most and then focus on them.
Once the results that matter most for your job have been identified, it is important to identify the metrics for success in achieving those results and tracking your performance yourself. Make sure you are improving.
If no one is telling you which results matter most and how success is measured, you need to be asking questions. Don’t make assumptions and don’t wait for someone to volunteer the information you need. Get out in front and stay in front with salient questions.
This doesn’t mean ask questions so you will appear to be engaged. Only ask the questions you need answers for.
Show me a solution
No whining and don’t play the blame game. There is no future in pointing out a problem without also sharing a solution.
You probably aren’t the first one to notice the problems you see. The real problem is that no one is stepping up to solve the problem. Instead of just pointing out a problem and waiting for someone else to do something about it, bring a solution to the table.
Admit your mistakes
But then move on. There aren’t really any benefits from mistakes except learning what not to do in a single situation. If you learn your lesson, you’ve already gotten everything you’re going to get from making a mistake. Move on.
Be ready for change, even before your first day on the job. Chances are, if you stay at a job long enough, you will be asked to perform more than one task that is not on your job description.
Don’t let your title limit you. Ask the questions to understand what results are expected and what the metrics for success are. Do your best not to take on new tasks until both you and the person making the request have a mutual understanding of results and metrics for success. This will ensure you get credit for your work.
Often, taking on new responsibilities means you will not be able to perform a task you have been responsible for. Don’t just assume that task will be taken care of. Make sure you know who will be responsible for your old tasks–it may be you.
You’re going to be more engaged with your job if you’re continually doing something new. This translates into personal growth, but it also translates into increasing your value as an employee.
The devil is in the details
Make sure tasks get completed. Too often in the daily hustle from one crisis to the next, many tasks don’t get completed in one sitting. This is a reality of the modern workplace. Juggling more than one project is a skill most employees need to have.
Even though your boss asks you to stop doing something to work on something else, it does not mean your boss doesn’t want you to complete the task you were asked to stop. Always go back and finish up those incomplete tasks.
Try to have some fun. Humor and laughter in the workplace can make the day go by quicker and creates an atmosphere that everyone enjoys being in.
Following these tips will help you get ahead in your current job. The real value of this particular set of tips is that they are getting you ready for leadership and establishing the capability you will need to as a leader–leading by example. Keep your eye on the goal of becoming a great boss one day. The workplace needs you.
Ivan Serrano is a business and finance journalist living in the Bay Area of California. Connect with him on Google+.