While The Boss Is Away: Step Into Leadership Roles and Prove Yourself
Your manager’s time away from the office is your opportunity to demonstrate your leadership in his or her absence and gain respect that will position yourself for a promotion. Use these five steps to get you promotion-ready by the time your manager returns from vacation.
1. Identify your manager’s expectations and priorities before she leaves.
Do not let your manager leave for vacation until you have had the opportunity to meet with her and discuss her priorities and expectations. Understand what she wants completed and by when. In addition to her expectations, ask about her priorities. This will help you understand the bigger picture, how your responsibilities achieve greater organizational goals and what matters to your manager.
Consider writing up and sending your manager a short (no more than one page) document identifying the projects and tasks that you have been asked to complete to ensure you are both on the same page. Also, identify an emergency line of communication. Agree on what word(s) to include in the subject line of an email to alert her of an emergency. If there is an emergency related to delivering on one of your tasks, know how to best get a hold of your manager while she is out of the office.
Sitting down with your manager and clearly communicating each other’s needs helps to avoid misunderstandings, builds trust and confidence, and fosters productivity, all of which indicate effective leadership.
2. Speak up about the resources you will need.
When you know your manager’s expectations and priorities, you must tell your manager what you need in order to complete your projects and meet expectations. Do you need an extra teammate? Do you need access to information? Managers are sometimes unaware of what is necessary to get the job done. It is your responsibility to communicate what you need to be able to achieve your manager’s goals.
3. Manage people, and show them you can lead.
When your manager is on vacation, step up when you can be a resource. An important role of a leader is managing people. Do not take over your manager’s role. Rather, place yourself in a position to offer help. Seize the opportunity to communicate with your colleagues and provide guidance. Make sure they have what they need to move forward with their work. Ask questions, and take the time to get to know your colleagues and their goals. If they see you taking a sincere interest in them and their development, it can inspire them to become advocates for you and support your career advancement by speaking up when you are being considered for a promotion.
4. Exceed your manager’s expectations.
If you can exceed your manager’s expectations, do it. How do you exceed expectations? In meeting with your manager before he left, you have noted her priorities. You can use this information to surpass expectations and further your manager’s priorities.
Your manager says, for example, that she expects you to write and post two blog posts for the company’s website while she is away. In meeting with her before she left for vacation, she also shared with you that one of her organizational priorities is that the company starts being seen as a thought leader in the industry. To exceed expectations and help the company be seen as a thought leader, brainstorm and develop a strategy that will generate innovative content and get more people to read the blog.
Exceeding expectations is the sign of a leader. It will impress your manager, and it can inspire others to go above and beyond what they have been asked to do.
5. Debrief your manager.
Before your manager starts back at work, consider sending him a brief email with a high-level status update of your progress while he was on vacation. Meet with you manager in the first couple of days after he returns to go over details. (Consider scheduling this meeting even before he leaves town.)
This meeting with your manager is your opportunity to share what happened while he was away. If you accomplished a lot or had great success either individually or collectively, tell him. Do not devalue your accomplishments or rationalize your successes so they seem less meaningful. At the same time, tell your manager of any issues you encountered, how you managed them, and what you learned from such situations.
This column originally ran in Forbes.
About the Author
A lawyer and strategist, Avery Clark helps individuals and organizations position and advocate for themselves to advance their priorities. She advises clients globally on career strategy and business owners, corporate leaders, and startup founders on thought leadership and organizational strategy, having worked in the public and private sectors, most recently at the University of Maryland Center for Health & Homeland Security working on crisis management. The National Association for Women Lawyers recognized her for her work in policy and the advancement of women.