It may not appear in your job description, but making the boss look good—and even protecting him or her from the slings and arrows of everyday business—has to rank up there with your most important "unspoken" duties, right? (Otherwise, what happens to you when the boss goes down in flames?)
With that in mind, here are five tips on covering the boss, from Ronna Lichtenberg, author of It's Not Business, It's Personal: The 9 Relationship Principles That Power Your Career (Hyperion):
1. Be an important-people person. That is, make the people who are important to your boss feel important and cared about. Sound pleased to hear from these people, Lichtenberg advises, especially when they're being "a pain." Don't let your boss's irritation with them come through in your voice tone.
One way to make them feel important, even when the boss can't take their call right away: "I know [the boss] will want to talk with you as soon as the meeting finishes. How can I help you in the meantime?"
Your good will makes the other person feel good toward the boss.
2. Bond with your boss's boss's assistant. That will help you discover a range of ways to make your boss look good, including the best times to set meetings.
3. Play to the crowd by reminding your boss to recognize other staff members' birthdays, employment anniversaries, etc.
4. Watch his/her back. Being plugged into a different network grants you insight the boss might overlook. Lichtenberg still praises an assistant who warned her about a "friendly" colleague who plotted against Lichtenberg behind her back.
5. Watch his/her front. Messages dashed off in the heat of the moment can ruin your boss's reputation. When you suspect that the boss is preparing one, suggest that he or she "sleep on it" before sending.
Better yet: Tell the boss you'll send the message. Then, hold it for a day, and ask the boss innocently: "Do you still want me to send that message to ...? I figured you might want to revise it after you'd given it more thought."