By Sharon E. Jones
‘Managers never like to be surprised. So, the best way to be indispensable is to make sure you routinely keep your manager updated on your work.’
Tip 1: Build on What You Are Told
When a manager gives instructions, a good employee will closely follow the directions and do what she is told. However, a great employee will not only follow the directions that she is given but will also add value by pushing the project along, anticipating the manager’s next step. Your managers are often busy managing multiple aspects of project. Therefore, you can’t expect your managers to do their jobs and also yours. They won’t have time to spell out every single aspect of your project assignment. During check in meetings, let your manager know what you both had agreed upon and the extra effort you put in to advance your aspect of the project. When you demonstrate competence, your manager will likely give you more independence to run with projects, and you will become a little more indispensable.
Tip 2: Have a “Can-Do” Attitude
If you want to become indispensable to your manager, then one of the best ways to distinguish yourself from your peers is to be a “can-do” person as opposed to someone who often says no. Managers look for professionals who not only produce exceptional results but also have a “can-do” attitude. The best way to strengthen your bond with your manager is to step up when he or she makes a request. If you can become a reliable “go-to” person, your relationship with your manager will strengthen. Realistically, you will not be able to complete every request exactly as it is outlined. Demonstrate your commitment to your manager first by saying yes, then bring up an alternative plan of execution based on your time and resource constraints. If you find a way to reliably deliver results, especially in difficult situations, your manager will begin to view you as a “go-to” person.
Tip 3: Lighten Your Manager’s Workload
Volunteer to take projects off of your manager’s plate. During check-in meetings, ask about projects coming down the pipeline. If you hear about a project that fits your skillset, offer to get the ball rolling. To become truly indispensable, identify ways in which your skillset complements your manager’s skillset. If your manager hates doing a particular task and you are willing to take it on, she will want to keep you around for as long as possible. One note of caution: while it is OK to occasionally volunteer for administrative work to make your manager’s life easier, you should prioritize going after projects that demonstrate and grow your skillset.
Tip 4: Keep Your Manager Updated
Managers never like to be surprised. So, the best way to be indispensable is to make sure you routinely keep your manager updated on your work. You can do that by establishing formal check-ins or informally do so by dropping by. You can also send email updates. Your office culture will dictate the appropriate manner for the update, but frequency is important. Also, be sure to give your manager a heads-up if there is a problem you have encountered so that it can be addressed at an early stage. Remember, no one likes to be surprised at work.
If you want to become indispensable to your manager, then one of the best ways to distinguish yourself from your peers is to be a “can-do” person as opposed to someone who often says no.
A graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard College, Sharon E. Jones is the founder and CEO of Jones Diversity, Inc., which offers services to organizations looking to improve their workplace culture and create more diverse and inclusive teams. She recently published a book, “Mastering the Game: Strategies for Career Success.” For more information, visit www.jonesdiversity.com.