Fact: At some point, every one of us has (or had) a boss.
In so many ways, we look to them to have all the answers. At every rung in the ladder, we expect our bosses to actually lead us, guide us, and be our mentors.
But managers don’t know everything, and more often than not, they need our help, too. Unfortunately, only the best leaders actually ask for it.
But why wait to be asked? Here are five tiny sentences that every boss is secretly dying to hear you say, and that’ll help you manage up and make both you and your manager shine:
1. “I’ve Got This”
Maybe your manager has a few bosses of her own who have just joined on. These new players are demanding, and she may not know how to manage them and their requests. Projects she used to oversee—like the ones you work on—may not be her top priority right now, nor might she be the best person to know how to do them.
So what do you do? Easy. You tell her “I’ve got this.”
Why it Matters
A great boss knows that to succeed, she has to set priorities—which means she has to either let go of some projects or hand them off to someone else. She may not be ready to do either, and she may even worry that doing so might mean she’s becoming obsolete.
Offer anyway. Letting her know you can handle it might give her the confidence she needs to let you run with whatever it is. And, it gives you an opportunity to show your stuff.
2. “It’s My Fault”
It’s scary owning up to something that didn’t go well. Too often people are either not held accountable or refuse to be, pointing the finger elsewhere. Usually, there’s a fear of retaliation if we make a mistake or if we shine light on potential red flags. (Note: If that’s the culture you’re in, you might want to ask yourself if it’s where you really want to be.)
But all things considered, taking responsibility for something you did or raising your hand when you see something that could be potentially damaging to your company is a must.
Why it Matters
You want to build your own reputation as a leader, and leaders know that failure is just an opportunity to learn. At the end of the day, stepping up to own our mistakes shows great character and courage. It’s what every great boss should praise (and not punish) in a direct report.
Likewise, you don’t want to be the one down the road saying, “I should’ve said something earlier.” Bad things happen when people are too afraid or too indifferent to speak up. Think of the greater good and build your own character.
3. “I Disagree Because...”
Your boss may not always like or agree with what you have to say, but he’s far better off with a team that’s unafraid to speak up, instead of a bunch of “yes” men and women. You were hired for your judgement and counsel. Be respectful, but be sure to speak your mind when it serves the company and its goals. True leaders will heed what you say and respect you back.
Why it Matters
No one wants to find himself an Emperor With No Clothes. Confident leaders won’t make you feel as if you’re walking on eggshells when the truth may hurt; rather, they’ll seek out direct reports they know will always give it to them straight. Make sure it’s you.
4. “I’ll Volunteer”
I’m sure we’ve all had (or known) employees who clock watch or do the bare minimum.
How refreshing would it be, rather than having to “volunteer” your staff to take on projects, to actually have someone raise their hand and say he or she will do whatever it is you’re asking—no strings attached?
Why it Matters
If someone else volunteers, you can guarantee that your boss will have a more favorable view of that colleague than you.
And by offering, you also ensure that when a higher-level position opens up, he or she will remember you as the staffer who went above and beyond without expecting anything in return.
5. “Can I Help?”
There are always more things to do than time and resources to do them. Bosses with overflowing inboxes and back-to-back meetings may very well be drowning.
So why not periodically throw ’em a life preserver? Asking if you can help is an open-ended invitation to your boss, letting her know you’ve got her back and recognize that her workload is split between delivering to her higher-ups and managing you.
Why it Matters
“Can I help?” is another way of asking “Are you OK?” Your boss is only human. They say it’s lonely at the top, and that’s often quite true. Letting her know she’s not alone will mean more to her than she may let on, and will help you earn her trust as someone she can count on in times of need.
Sometimes, people think it’s “safest” to keep their heads down and say nothing. That may be wise, depending on the person. But, if you want to make a difference where you work, and you believe that what you have to offer can do that, then don’t hesitate to give these three little phrases a try.
TopicsSucceeding on the Job , Syndication , Getting Ahead , Career Advice , Team Culture , Work Relationships , Communication
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Paolina Milana is an expert in strategic communications. With more than 15 years as a respected leader, her experience spans a variety of industries and environments including for-profit and nonprofit, B2B and B2C, startup and established. A masterful storyteller with a journalistic background, Paolina has helped build brands and bottom lines for organizations, including PR Newswire, Marketwired, YP, Northern Illinois University, The Lighthouse for The Blind, and St. Baldrick’s Foundation. She is a published author and award-winning writer. She currently works as a marketing, PR, and editorial consultant as well as a career transition coach. She also serves as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) helping children navigate the foster care system. Find Paolina at PaolinaMilana.com or follow her on Twitter @PaolinaMilana.More from this Author