From The Archives: How To Be Your Boss's Wingwoman

Photo by  on  Unsplash

Photo by on Unsplash

Last week, we hosted a career bootcamp on Creating Strategic Alliances at work. Alliances are important because, when done well, they can lead to increased visibility, promotions, mentoring, and simply having someone in your corner advocating for you when the going gets tough.

One of the most key people to have in your corner is your boss.

By: Minda Harts, Founder, The Memo

I was having dinner with some friends at Katana in West Hollywood, California, and we were discussing career development for women (big surprise, right?). One of my girlfriends mentioned being her boss’ “wing woman.” It immediately made me think about the importance of being an awesome wing woman, and how mastering this role could lead to future promotions.

Does your boss look to you as his/her go-to? Does your boss bounce new ideas off you before she/he announces it to the team? Does your boss have an active role in your professional development? All of these questions boil down to one main idea: Does your boss keep you top of mind? It might sound harsh when you put it in these terms, but your boss should view you as his/her biggest ASSET.

Your boss should not get through the day without communicating with you, because you’re such a vital part of the team. Miranda, played by Meryl Streep, from The Devil Wears Prada, wanted her assistants to anticipate her every need. Miranda had high (albeit, sometimes ridiculous) expectations for her team! When there was a promotion available, Andy (Anne Hathaway’s character) had the opportunity to snag the top spot because she finally began to see how critical her role was to Miranda’s success. Their relationship changed when Andy started being Miranda’s go-to girl - in other words, her wing woman. There are so many great career nuggets in The Devil Wears Prada. It’s worth seeing again if it’s been awhile.

If you are looking to move up the ladder in your career, one way to do so is work on those wing woman skills. Here are THREE tips on how to start being the best darn wing woman your boss has ever seen:

Ask For More Responsibility.

Take time out during your week and assess one or two areas within your department you could offer to take off your boss’ plate. This might be something you already know how to do or a great opportunity to ask your boss to teach you. This ultimately frees them up to work on other projects. By doing this, you are signaling to your boss that you want additional responsibility, and that you are actively thinking of ways to help make their job easier. Even if they don’t give up any of their duties, they can’t help but think of you in a new light.

Take The Initiative.

I once asked my boss if I could plan a staff retreat. I noticed our team’s morale was low and there weren’t many opportunities for us to come together to share lessons learned and celebrate the wins. I proposed a half day retreat of team building and strategy for the year. My boss was thrilled that 1) I brought the idea to her, and 2) with her permission, I would create a skeleton of the day and run it by her. This wasn’t another item to put on her plate, but rather was an opportunity for me to take on a leadership role and help the team dynamics. I then took it a step further, and recommended we incorporate some of our teammates to lead some of the sessions to give them an opportunity to lead as well. Do you see what I did here? Not only did I take on a leadership role, but I also helped to empower some of my teammates. Leadership isn’t always about you shining, but creating space for others to shine as well.

Dress For the Role You Want.

I think back to the days when my girlfriends and I would go out on a Saturday night and play each other’s wing woman. In order to be a great wing woman, you have to dress the part. You both have to be stunning for the night. Your boss has to not only see that your work is stellar, but also that if they were to send you to a meeting on their behalf, you would represent him/her and the business well. If everyone is wearing jeans on casual Fridays, don’t be afraid to switch it up and wear a dress or a pantsuit. When I think about my work, I think in terms of three’s. I want to be a triple threat! There is an old saying that says, “Dress for the role you want.” If you see yourself in the C-Suite, then girl, spruce it up every now and then. My grandmother used to say… “Show up and Show out!” Don’t be afraid to do just that!

Every step of your career should be strategic. If you want your seat at the table, give your boss every reason to create a seat for you! You can be your office’s own triple threat by asking for extra responsibility, taking the initiative, and dressing for the part you want. With these three tips, your boss will see you as a vital part of the company and will think of you for opportunities as they arise.

To learn about other players in your office that you can (and should) form alliances with, check out the recording of our Creating Strategic Alliances career bootcamp.

This article originally appeared November, 2016.