by Priscilla Claman http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/11/get_to_know_your_bosss_boss.html
Many people meet their boss’s boss when they are hired, and then promptly forget about her. But does your manager’s manager know what you’ve done recently? What does he think of you?
If you can’t answer these questions, then getting to know this leader could advance your career. Your boss’s boss has a broader perspective on your organization than you (or your boss), and can see more of what’s coming down the pike — be it new products or possible new assignments. And by forming a relationship with this person, you can develop that perspective too.
I can name several times in my own career when my manager’s immediate superior was a key factor. For example, early in my career my boss arranged for me to rehearse a presentation with her boss. With his coaching, I was able communicate my point more clearly, and learned to check the overall accuracy of the presentation. Meanwhile, he took an interest in the project I described in the presentation, and followed up to see how it was doing. Through this increased interaction, we developed a comfortable relationship. Once while discussing our company’s mergers, and I told him I was interested in a course on the impact of mergers on employees. Although my boss wasn’t interested in this topic, her boss was. He encouraged me to take the course. There, I learned what made mergers successful and passed that information along to him. A year later, I had an interesting new job as the human resources representative on the mergers and acquisitions team.
Developing this relationship definitely had a positive impact on my career. But how can you get to know your boss’s boss if she is not as easily accessible? Here are some suggestions.
Interact with her, directly or indirectly. Take advantage of every opportunity to touch base. When he gets a promotion or honor, send him a note of congratulations. If you find a relevant article or book, send your boss a copy and ask if she thinks her boss would also like it. Also, try to find opportunities to ask questions. Is there a contact that you need to do your work? Is there a course you want to know more about? Ask you manager first, and then ask if his boss might have more suggestions.
Increase your overall exposure. Improving your visibility will get your performance on multiple radar screens. A great way to do this is to volunteer for a cross functional team or a task force. Send periodic progress updates on your work with this team to your manager, and ask to send a copy her boss too. It might seem like extra work, but it’s a chance to expand your internal network and reputation.
For example, a client of mine in customer service volunteered for the company’s annual community project. She and her team researched several options, decided on an activity, and realized they needed $2,000 beyond the budget. She made a presentation to the VP of Public Relations, the CFO, and the president of the company to get the extra support. Not only did she and her team get the extra $2,000, but the VP of Public Relations took a shine to her and hired her within the year.
Produce results that will catch her eye. Become famous with your customers — internal and external — and send along any compliments you receive to your manager. She will undoubtedly send it up one rung in the hierarchy — since your success reflects positively on your boss, who wants to get noticed by her boss too. It’s traditional to evaluate people using customer responses in customer service jobs, but people in finance, human resources, or information technology can use this approach.
Not only will these activities enable you to more easily connect with your boss’ boss, but they will also help you network more effectively and advance your career. When you are successful at your job and in good standing with your boss, it’s much more likely that you’ll be noticed by the leaders who manage her.