Getting Noticed by a Laisez Fairre Boss

Dear Debra: My boss doesn’t get how much I’m responsible for. He pays lip service, saying few people would be able to pull off all of the things I do and also manage the number of people I do. But he’s never done my job and is clueless about what it really takes. He’s hands off and relies on me to just make it happen. How can I get credit from him and other board members for being a high performer?

Not every boss will give you recognition for your contributions, so it’s up to you to get strategic and credit-savvy.

Keep a file on winning projects you’ve spearheaded. It will be your KaChing! File, filled with your successes. You’ll whip it out for performance reviews and promotion vetting. Write a note-to-self summary at the completion of a project while the facts are clear in your mind—do it right then and there, even if you’ve pulled an all-nighter; record it while it’s fresh or you risk not doing it at all or forgetting important points. Include hard numbers and dollar amounts documenting how your ideas, decision-making and leadership increased revenues, boosted the bottom line, improved customer retention, or improved employee relations.  Keep notes from thrilled clients and colleagues. Don’t be shy about asking a delighted customer to call your boss or CEO.

E-mail is a great medium for taking credit. If you’ve done something notable, send an e-mail to your boss and other board members that tells the story or conveys an idea that is sophisticated and reflects the level of skill that has caused you to be successful—without directly telling how great you are. You’re showing, not telling, showcasing your brilliance by making your thought processes or your decision tree or the obstacles you faced and how you overcame these challenges transparent: “As I was doing this [name the project or interaction], I had this insight…and then… [be specific, yet succinct.]”

When you receive flattering e-mails, from your team, colleagues, clients, don’t hesitate: immediately forward away—to your boss, to board members whose radar you want to stay on, only adding, F.Y.I. in the subject line.  F.Y.I.—that’s all you say. The rest—all that needs to be communicated about your creditworthiness—gets communicated in the complimentary e-mail.


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