Here are 10 habits that will earn rave reviews from your boss:
1. Have your act together. Stay on top of things, ensure your boss only has to tell you something once, don’t let things fall through the cracks, and generally be someone she can rely on.
2. Show your boss that she doesn’t need to follow up with you. When she assigns you work, it will either get handled or you’ll circle back to her for any follow-up needed. Give her the peace of mind of knowing that if she talks to you about it, she won’t need to remind you about it.
3. Get aligned with your boss about expectations. Talk explicitly about your goals for the year and what success would look like for you, as well as what decisions she should be consulted on and what kinds of things you should handle on your own without her input. If you sense there are areas where you’re on different pages, bring them to the surface and get aligned; don’t just ignore it.
4. When you bring problems to your boss, also suggest solutions. Saying “What should I do about X?” puts the problem on her plate to solve. You’ll make her job easier if you instead say, “Here’s the situation with X. I’ve thought about A, B, and C, and I think we should do C because... Does that sound right to you?”
5. Be credible. Don’t keep secrets or hide your biases. Be vigilant about putting all the facts on the table when you’re discussing things with your manager, so that she never has to wonder if there’s something you’re not sharing with her.
6. When you make a mistake, take responsibility for it. Say something like this: “I made a mistake here. It happened because ____, and I’m doing ____ to fix it and ____ to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” And even if something isn’t a mistake per se, your boss may love to hear when you’re focusing on improving. For instance, you might tell her, “I wasn’t thrilled with how the conference went, and next time I’m planning to ____.”
7. Pay attention to what kinds of questions your boss asks so you get a better understanding of the types of things she cares about. By noticing what she seems worried about, you can often draw larger messages about the sorts of things she’ll care about in the future. You can then anticipate those things in advance and address them before she has to ask.
8. Listen to feedback with an open mind and don’t get defensive. It’s fine to disagree, but do it in a non-defensive way. For instance, it might sound like this: “I see what you’re saying. The way I was looking at it was…”
9. Don’t let frustrations fester. If you’re unhappy about something, raise it—and raise it with her, don’t vent to others. (Of course, be smart about this: Bring it up at a time when your boss isn’t swamped or frazzled, and think about your delivery ahead of time, just as you would want her to do if she were raising a sensitive issue with you.)
10. Thank her when she deserves it. If she goes out of her way to get you a raise or a promotion, or if she gave you helpful feedback, tell her. You might be surprised by how few people do!
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.