Be Good to Yourself by Making Your Boss Look Good

This is a hard lesson many of us have to learn a few times in our careers. Here it is – the better you make your boss look good, the better things will go for you. If you get in negative competition with your boss, 99% of the time you will lose.

I’ve noticed that often inexperienced employees have difficulty seeing their bosses get credit for work they’ve done. Of course strong, confident bosses share credit and recognition for superb work and are usually very generous in this regard. But not all bosses are great. Some are just lousy. And most of us bosses are evolving combinations of strengths and shortcomings.

Former Apple genius and techno leader extraordinaire Guy Kawasaki, reinforces this concept of making your boss look good in his terrific book Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions” He emphasizes doing the following Big 7 things for the Boss:

  1. Drop everything and do what your boss asks. Your boss’s agenda is your agenda if she/he asks. You may think it’s not too important or relative to what you’re doing, but trust me, it is. Your boss may not even be able to explain the reason it is important. Just do it.
  2. Under promise and over deliver. I learned this painfully over the years. I liked to communicate my enthusiastic intent to do assignments and therefore I risked making great work appear just good when completed. Be skillful at outlining the challenges with the assignment AND THEN hit a “home run.”
  3. Prototype your work. Test progress on your assignment early with your boss. She will be pleased that you “jumped on it” and also give you a steering correction if necessary.
  4. Show and broadcast your progress. Don’t pump and dump your work. Show milestones and accomplishments along the way. Keep your boss informed. Be your own PR firm. Don’t confuse modesty with naivety. Show your stuff.
  5. Form friendships. When you have lots of friends and supporters at work you increase your boss’s sphere of influence and by extension your relationship with him/her. Plus no one likes to mess with someone who has a large network of friends and fans.
  6. Ask for mentoring. Every boss has something to teach you and we all have egos. Bosses like to share their knowledge with genuinely interested people. Be sincere though, take the mentoring seriously or your relationship will deteriorate.
  7. Deliver bad news early. Again, this is something I’ve learned the hard way. Regardless of how bad the news is, telling it early gives you an opportunity to address it and do damage control. Don’t wait it; it will hurt more later. Trust me on this one.

 Character Move:

  1. Make a decision to give to yourself by making your boss look great. This is NOT “brown nosing” (a horrible phrase actually). It is being generous of spirit and just plain smart.
  2. Check where you are on the Big Boss 7, as I’ve named them above. Be honest. Even if you think you’re better than your boss, this is the right thing to do (unless your boss is doing something illegal and/or immoral of course).
  3. Consciously practice all of the above. Do it. Make your boss look good.

Applying the Big Boss 7 in the Triangle,


  1. Horrible Advice says:

    Making a boss look good should be the byproduct of your work quality; it should not be the goal of your work. Your coworkers, division, and company depend upon you to do what is right and give push-back when needed in regards to what a boss has requested as they don’t always know best and they may not have taken your other priorities into consideration. Doing whatever they say without questioning is horrible advice and should be discouraged by HR and all senior managers. COMPANY loyalty should come before manager loyalty. You are employed by a company who covers your benefits and pays your salary – your boss works for them too and is not contributing to your salary out of his pocket.

  2. Lorne says:

    Paul…I think this is a definite improvement and as you say respects the other people impacted. Thanks ….appreciate the feedback .


  3. Paul Bates says:

    I agree with all of this blog apart from #1 – sure dropping things to please your boss doing might get you promoted faster, but if means letting down other people you have made commitments to then the chances are you will let far more people down doing this than you will by not actioning your bosses request straight away. This isn’t smart or respectful to those other people. Surely it would be far better to acknowledge your bosses request, ask how uregent it is and then deal with it in your priority list at the right time? Also – if you are maxed out with high priority tasks and asked to do something else by your boss again dropping other tasks would be wrong. In this instance it would be prudent to ask your boss to help you prioritise their task and ask them to help you with the decision of which other task(s) should be dropped.

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