In order to be a leader in the workplace you need to start thinking like the boss. Thinking like your boss not only helps the company run more smoothly, but prepares you for advancement. “You need to understand what success looks like from her/his perspective so you understand business priorities and your priorities…Otherwise, you risk "working hard" rather than "working smart," says Susan Battley, leadership psychologist and author of Coached to Lead: How to Achieve Extraordinary Results with an Executive Coach. Adds career and leadership development specialist Stacey Hawley, founder of consulting firm Credo, “You will be forcing yourself to perform at a higher level and therefore improving your career development. In terms of managing up, thinking like the boss should help minimize stress. If the quality of your work is improving, your boss will not feel the need to micromanage you."
Your manager will appreciate the effort as well. “People like people who are like them. Bosses have no time. If you think like them, you'll very likely save them time (time to explain, time to debate, time to give instructions, etc.) You'll also very likely do things for them that they haven't even asked for, because you think like them and "read their mind". Bosses love staff who make things easy for them and save them time. They'll notice you. They'll appreciate you. You'll be on the forefront of their minds for promotions, for sure," notes Anja Schuetz, a people management coach and recognition professional.
But thinking like the boss and acting like the boss is a thin line you don't want to cross. You don't want to appear to be trying to take your boss's place. “You don't want to come across as competing with your boss but rather supporting your boss's--and the team's--effectiveness and success. This means you want to establish and reinforce a trusting relationship with your boss, and showing by your words and deeds that you respect and value the relationship,” says Battley, founder of Battley Performance Consulting, Inc. “Never, ever, do anything that takes your boss by surprise. Bosses hate surprises, even of the good variety. They want to know and be prepared for what's going on.” But, now all supervisors will feel threatened, Denise Altman of management consulting firm Altman Initiative Group, Inc. points out. “Smart bosses will appreciate it," she says. "Approach it with the understanding that you aren't trying to show your boss up; you're trying to make your boss more successful by being more in tune and more successful. If you have a boss who doesn't appreciate your trying to think bigger and better, start looking for a new place inside or outside the company."
Steps to think like the boss...
a) "Communicate frequently with your boss about his/her priorities, as these may change and often quickly. Ask your boss: 'What are the top three things I should focus on this week/this month/this quarter?' to confirm that your thinking is aligned," says Battley.
b) “Ask questions,” Altman agrees and adds, “Get your boss to help you understand his or her challenges and goals. Read up on the company and try to better understand the big picture from that vantage point. What has made the company successful in the past? What initiatives is the company pursuing that you should understand?”
c) "Develop a dual work focus--one eye on the near-term and one on the longer-term," notes Battley,