When I think about the advice I have received from my various mentors one of the earliest was from a first line supervisor at Kraft Foods back in 1972. This is one of those words of advice that I still follow today. His name was Dick and he would tell me every chance he got:
“Your main job at this company is to make me look good.”
I used to laugh at him and continue doing my job, not paying much attention to him. Over time I began to realize what a golden nugget those words of advice were. I have tried to apply them to every company I have worked for and every position I have held in those companies. No matter how what your job is, applying these words of advice will make your job easier and your chances of success will improved.
I apply this rule in both directions of the hierarchical chain of command by equally trying to make my boss look good to his boss and making the employees who work for me look good. By applying the rule in both directions I am the one who ultimately looks good.
There are many benefits to be earned by making your boss look good. The most obvious is if your boss looks good to his superiors then he is more likely to get promoted out of your way and you can take his job. Another benefit of this approach is that your boss’s boss may notice your hard work and realize you are carrying the operation and again promote you in recognition of your effort. I have successfully used both of these tactics to gain a promotion on several occasions.
When applying the rule in the other direction to those who report to you and making your direct reports look good there is nothing but positives to be gained. One of the first positive results are that you develop a sense of trust and respect among your employees. Having the trust and respect of your employees is an extremely important aspect of achieving success. I have seen good managers fail by not earning the respect and support of their employees. They can make your life miserable and sabotage all your efforts if they do not feel you support them.
There are many ways to make your employees look good and they are easy to apply. One of the best is to offer training in all aspects of the job and helping prepare them for the next position or level by sharing your knowledge and expertise. Encourage them to share their ideas and motivate them to learn all they can about the operations. Most importantly give your employees the recognition they have earned for their efforts and share it with their fellow workers and to your superiors. Not only do you win the support of the employee being recognized but of all the other members of the team.
Once you make your employees look good your superiors will notice and therefore you look good in their eyes. You will develop a reputation among your superiors as a good trainer and leader. Your employees will work hard to ensure you meet your goals when they know you are supporting them. One of my greatest achievements that I look back on, is the employees that I have helped encourage, train and develop for promotion.
In both of the situations described I have helped create a positive leadership environment for the entire team. By making your boss look good, you look good which makes for a win-win situation. By making your employees look good, they will work to make you look good and once again you have created a win-win situation. This is a sign of true leadership; when all parties can achieve their goals and meet the companies goals together.
Even as I write this advice I am following the words of my mentor because my goal as a leader is to “make you look good.”