How to Help Your Manager Get Promoted

When you search “How to get promoted”, you will find millions of articles with all kinds of great tips for climbing the ladder.
However, here’s a fact of organizational work life that isn’t often mentioned: your success is heavily tied to the success of your manager.  In most cases, when your manager wins, so do you. If your manager has little chance of being promoted, then chances are, you won’t get promoted either.
Think back over your own career, and about some of the managers you’ve worked for. I’ll bet when you worked for a successful manager you had:

– More resources
– More credibility
– More meaningful, value-added work
– More development and career opportunities
– A bigger slice of the merit increase, bonus, or commission pie

Now think about when you worked for a failing manager. By “failing”, I mean a manager that isn’t hitting their numbers, getting results, has limited potential or career options, isn’t seen as credible amongst their peers, and doesn’t get along with their own boss. Stuff usually rolls downhill in these scenarios, so you probably experienced:

– A lack of resources; your team was always at the end of the line when it came to budget, office space, equipment, headcount, etc….
– No matter how good you may have been, you carried the stain of your manager’s bad reputation
– You worked on low priority projects that didn’t seem to matter
– You didn’t get much coaching, and maybe not much development (failing managers are usually threatened by ambitious, high achievers)
– A lack of career growth opportunities – because your manager was stuck in place, and didn’t have the political clout to be an advocate for his/her people

And oh by the way, if you’re thinking the best way to clear the path for your own promotion is to help get your manager fired – forget about it. First of all, it’s slimy. Second, when a failing manager gets fired, the organization usually brings in an outsider– why would they want to promote another one of the losers on a losing team?

So it’s in your best interest to work for a successful manager, and maybe even help them get promoted, so that you can get promoted!

Here how:
1. Starting with the obvious: do a great job yourself. A manager’s success is the aggregate of their team’s success. Put your manager in a position where they can bask in the glory of your success. When a manager doesn’t have to worry about how well you’re doing your job, it frees them up to focus on more strategic opportunities.

2. Support your manager behind his/her back. Help protect your manager’s reputation by spreading good news about him/her. While it may be tempting to join the crowd when the water cooler conversation turns to boss-bashing, don’t do it. You’re not doing yourself – or your own reputation – any favors. It’s especially important to let your manager’s manager know what a great job your manager is doing.

3. Give your manager credit for your own successes. When you give that acceptance speech for employee of the month, don’t forget to acknowledge your manager.

4. Nominate your manager for an award. There are plenty of industry awards to go around these days – you and a couple of your co-workers could work behind your manager’s back to submit a nomination.

5. Show confidence in your manager’s potential. A lot of managers don’t get promoted because they don’t think they’re ready, or perhaps they haven’t been formally tapped as a “high potential”, so they don’t even try. Inspire your manager (if you really believe they can do it) to think of themselves as having potential.

6. Make development suggestions on how to be better prepared for larger opportunities.“Hey, have you ever considered volunteering on a not-for-profit board? That would be a great way to learn how to work with diverse people and functions, and get an organizational perspective”. 
Just be careful here that you don’t come across as making remedial development suggestions.

7. Give feedback to your manager. Positive, specific, and sincere feedback lets your manager know what they are doing well so they can keep doing more of it. It’s also a good confidence builder. Well intended, specific and proactive constructive feedback can help keep your manager out of trouble. When your manager asks you to fill out a 360 degree assessment, take the time to give honest ratings and thoughtful comments. Every manager needs a trusted advisor on the team – someone they can go to – or that will approach them – then they need to hear the truth.

8. Help your co-workers; be a team player. Managers waste a lot of time dealing with employee performance issues, time that could be spent on more important priorities. If your coworker is struggling, don’t just ignore it or tattle to your boss. Offer to help.

So go ahead, hitch your wagon to that rising star, and who knows, you might just be sitting in your manager’s chair someday.