You probably won't find it in your job description, but one good way to do your own job better is to help your boss do hers better, too. You'll earn loyalty and support and gain a better appreciation of what's important and how to achieve it. Helping your boss become more effective makes it easier to get the resources your team needs.
Here are some simple ways you can help:
- Ask questions. It's natural to begin by asking what kind of help she wants. But keep your eyes open for opportunities, too. You may spot "win-win" situations where your boss appears to need help the most, and where you can gain skills or experience that will aid your own career. Instead of simply asking, "Do you need any help?" you can ask more specifically, "Do you need any help preparing the market research summary on that project?"
- Listen carefully. By coming to your boss with helpful inquiries, you're opening the door to valuable information and insights. You'll almost certainly learn quite a bit about the problems and opportunities your boss faces, and how she deals with them; the skills and experience your boss employed to achieve her current success; and the resources available in your organization, and how you can use them to achieve your boss's goals — and your own.
- Offer suggestions. Discreetly suggest ways to improve performance; either things your boss can do, or that you can do, or that you can work to change together. Your boss may be too close to a problem to see an obvious solution, and as a front-line manager you probably have easier access than does your boss to the people you work with and the information they possess. And working in concert, you can improve policies, procedures, priorities, or reporting arrangements that neither of you could change alone.
- Cause no grief. Like a doctor, your biggest concern in helping your boss must be to do no harm. This means you should never act on your own in her bailiwick unless you're under direct orders, or you're 100% certain you can create a 100% beneficial result for your boss. To know this, you must stay in close contact with your boss: checking on projects and plans, considering future possibilities, reviewing emerging opportunities, and sharing goals and values.