You have a boss if you work for any company. This is the person that calls the shots and decides whether you move up the chain or stay where you are. This is the person that can make things happen in your career or give you lots of headache or both sometimes.
Before we talk about how to become your boss’s top go-to person, which you must learn in order to move up the corporate ladder and yes, I’ll be spilling some of those beans soon but first, we are going to step back and examine a radical viewpoint about bosses today. Get ready for some fun and self-discovery today.
Taking a Close Look at Boss-Employee Relationship
So how do you like your boss?
Looking back at my old corporate job, I actually really liked most of my old bosses. They were good people; they gave me lots of freedom, they didn’t get on my nerves too much, and they generally took good care of me. Occasionally, a sour lemon would come along. Either he or she would move on or I would leave to go to another group, and soon, I would be back with a decent boss.
Now don’t get me wrong. There were a lot of obstacles on my career advancement route – the executive leadership’s bad decisions, the ludicrous corporate initiatives, the broken merit system, the upper management’s hypocrisy of over-promising and under-delivering, and the absence of any challenging work whatsoever. Oh and the politics.
But my bosses were good people and I really enjoyed my relationships with them. So as far as bosses were concerned, I remember being generally happy.
Yet, something was just never right about the relationship of boss-employee to me. At first, I thought maybe my ‘ambition’ of rising up the corporate ladder was clouding my judgement and making me too proud or too good to have a boss. You may know the feeling?
But then I realized that unless you are the CEO, you will have a “boss” and even as CEO, you have shareholders who tell you what to do so you always have a boss when working a corporate job. There is always someone above you in the organization chart. You always have a boss to report to. Period.
Then I read a story by Paul Graham about how we as human beings were not meant to have a boss. And hang with me, I am not about to suggest you go off on your own or anything – you can actually work this concept to your advantage in your career advancement right there at corporate.
So Graham compares us to animals in the wild. He describes how animals come alive outside the imprisonment of a zoo and he describes that we too come alive when we are free and without any structure or routine. And I can attest to some of that after having bosses and then becoming my own boss for 2+ years.
But here’s the interesting part: You were not naturally meant to have a boss in the sense that bosses are defined and know to masses.
People define bosses as these superiors in a hierarchical structure and they describe corporate life as simply nothing more than imprisonment of the spirit. Graham argues that the hierarchy structure, which is symbolic of your boss, can strip your freedom, your creativity, your full potential and your appetite for risk, for real failure and for massive success.
Getting on Equal Footing with Your Boss
That’s fine. Thank you Paul Graham. Now I want to help you use this information to your advantage, plus tell you how I got promoted with hard work combined with effective boss-employee relationship. Ready for it?
If we as human beings weren’t meant to have bosses, then bosses as human beings (they are humans too, yes) weren’t mean to have direct reports.
Instead, imagine this:
What if you found a way to be on equal footing with your boss without disregarding his status and position?
What if you weren’t so much “below” him in the food chain and in all other aspects as you were a partner, an equal in influence on decisions and a fellow collaborator on big projects?
What if you dropped the boss-employee notion, and learned to treat your boss as your true ally, your true partner, and your gatekeeper?
Notice, I did not use the words “buddy”, “friend”, or “peer”. You still respect your boss and don’t forget that he is your boss but you don’t treat him as though he sits on a throne and gives out orders all day. You bring yourself up to meet him where he is, and you do this very delicately.
So that’s the concept: Coming to equal footing with your boss because not only does he then notice and respect you more, he will start to put a level of trust and confidence in you that you can’t get when you are in the old boss-employee relationship.
And that’s exactly what happened to me, when I started to change the way I related myself to my boss. The doors of opportunity opened and on one occasion, I decided the terms for my own promotion with my boss, instead of being all full of fear and shame and “hoping” for a yes when I asked for a little raise! Now that’s a revolutionary change in the way you will experience career advancement.
I’ll leave you with one quick action: Examine your current standing and relationship with your boss. Observe it as an outsider. What is the one thing you can change to come closer to equal footing with your boss? Start doing that tomorrow.
Until next time, think about how you can turn around your relationship with your boss with small actions and come closer to that equal footing we talked about. I have faith in you! Now go do it!