Contributed by Farnoosh Brock, Founder and CEO of Prolific Living, Inc.
It took me a long time to figure this out at my previous career in a Fortune 100 company: it is far better to see yourself as an equal to your boss than as someone working “under” him or her.
This subtle shift in mindset completely changed the conversations I was having with my bosses as well as the directors and VPs with whom I worked. It brought my true value to light and as a result, it helped advance my career growth.
Frankly, I was surprised because it all comes down to mindset, especially if you are – like I was – a high performing valuable part of the organization, and already doing the work and getting the results, and yet your career is not advancing accordingly.
What can this shift in mindset do for you?
First, what does being equal to your boss mean? I do understand the corporate hierarchy, the chain of command, and the need for respect and authority – I lived and breathed corporate life for 12 years – but you can do all that and still act in an equal partnership.
You can continue to show respect, and to let him or her have the final say on decisions, and yet position yourself as a true equal in the relationship.
And your boss will thank you for it if you do it right and I will tell you how to get it right.
First, stop thinking so much about what you can “get” out of your boss such as leaving early on Fridays or fighting over a 3% raise. Instead, focus on ways that you can encourage him or her to willingly “give” you your true worth in compensation and responsibility and consider you an indispensable part of the organization.
And how do you do that?
First, start understanding the real worth and value you bring to your team and your organization. Are you really doing things that are worthy of marking you indispensable? If the honest answer is no, then take the time to assess your current role and if need be, create a smart strategy to change your role or find the right position.
But let’s say you are worthy of being highly regarded, so then look at the perceived value that your boss puts on your work. If there is a gap (and there generally is!) between the true value that you bring and the perceived one in his or her mind, it is your perfect opportunity to set the record straight once and for all.
Here are my 3-little known ways to get on equal footing with your boss.
1. Think big picture. Talk big picture. Help big picture.
Forget the small details. Bosses and directors and vice presidents are busy people and they are always focused on the big picture – the vision, the strategy, the direction of the company. They have a lot on their mind so instead of taking away their time and attention for stuff that concerns the average employee, think about ways that you can be an equal thinker and contributor in their realm. They will welcome the extra help.
You don’t need permission to think and talk big picture. Read up the news about your company. Be in the know on what’s happening and on the challenges your leaders face, and be able to speak intelligently to them. And be a very good listener once the conversation begins to flow. You’ll learn a lot.
2. Offer solutions to your own problems and to those of your boss.
Most employees come to bosses with problems. It’s not fun to be in a boss’s shoes. You are responsible for your direct reports. You have to listen to their woes and come up with solutions. You already know to go to the boss with both a problem and a proposed solution. I would take it even further and say that you should offer solutions not just to your own problems but also to those that your boss faces for the rest of the team.
It may sound like I am asking you to do your boss’s job. Not really!
If you can just offer solutions and recommendations, you are helping him think through his headaches and easing his pain. You will not be the one doing the actual work, only the equal thinker in the problem solving stage.
Now that brings you on pretty equal footing very quickly.
3. Set expectations and boundaries with flexibility and sincerity.
Expectations are when you talk about what each of you expects the other to deliver. Boundaries are where you express your limits – what you are willing and not willing to do and yes, you can absolutely do this in any position and any company.
This does not make you a difficult person; it shows that you have respect for yourself and for your boss. Now the trick to doing this well is to add in both flexibility and sincerity. This shows that you value your work and you are willing to bend your rules on occasion, and this helps establish immense trust between you and your boss.
Your relationship with your boss will go far when you are flexible and sincere in everything that you do, and when your real intent comes from a good place. You can be firm, say no, and get to yes all when you exercise true sincerity and flexibility.
These 3 little-known ways have helped me get on equal footing with my bosses in corporate. What about you? Have you tried any of these methods or others to get on equal footing with your boss?
About Farnoosh Brock
Farnoosh left a 12-year successful career at a Fortune 100 company to start her own company, Prolific Living Inc. and follow her passions in writing, podcasting, and digital media. She teaches busy professionals how to manage their “mid-career crisis” and smoothly transition out of miserable jobs into thriving professions, including but not limited to entrepreneurship. Learn more by checking out the Smart Exit Blueprint course which is now open for August registration.