How to Succeed : Helping to Solve Your Boss's Problems

personal development Jun 03, 2022

Key Piece of Advice

I have given this piece of advice for over 25 years. It has proven a key piece of advice for successful career development, if not stellar career development.

You are in for one of the best pieces of career success advice you will ever hear!

Once I tell you it will seem so obvious!

Ready, okay here goes…

Make your boss happy, but how?

If you're like most professionals, you want to do whatever you can to make your boss happy. But sometimes it's tough to know what will make them happy - and even tougher to actually implement those solutions! In this post, we'll give you some tips on how to solve your boss's problems.

Yes, bosses have problems.

Yes, there are many ways you can help.

You are not alone in wondering how to help your boss!

It doesn't really come naturally to most people to think of helping to solve their boss's problems.

It may seem to be overstepping or presumptuous. 

Or, perhaps, the boss may not seem to have any problems.

Develop your skillset!

I am here to tell you that a crucial part of being a stand-out employee and developing your skillset is to develop the habit of helping your boss solve their problems.

Realize that their success is your success. You are part of a team.

This post may contain pretty simple advice, but boy does it work.

Solve your boss's problems.

So let’s lets think about that a bit.

One of the best things you can be called at work is a “Go to Person” in the sense of when there is a tough problem to tackle, you are the person who gets called because you have the skills, attitude, knowledge and the boss knows you will put forth the effort to tackle that problem.

How to be a "go-to person"?

One way to become that Go-To Person is by observing what is going on around you and noticing when there is a problem that needs to be tackled, and showing the initiative to take it on, even if not asked to do so.

A leader is responsible for everything that happens or fails to happen. I’ve mentioned this before, but in this context what I mean is that if there is a problem, it is by default your boss's problem.

Bosses tend to be very busy people, usually with more on their plate than most employees assume. So when a problem arises you can make quite an impression if you are the one who takes it on and solves it.

Two ways to notice problems to solve.

Two of the most common ways to notice a problem that needs to be solved are during meetings with the boss and also casual conversations.

During meetings, especially the usual recurring weekly or bi-weekly staff meetings, the boss may throw out something he was assigned to do by their boss. Or, the boss can, just as a way of updating the staff, mention something that has occurred that needs to be taken on.

The other way to notice a problem is in the course of a conversation with the boss about something ongoing, they mention that they have not gotten to something because of this new thing that has come up.  

So, think about this for a second. The boss has said that they can’t get to what needs to be done because of some problem that has arisen. What an open door for you!

How do you take on the problem?

So, you’ve heard of a problem. How do you go about taking it on?

Well, there are two ways for you to take on a problem for the boss.

The first way to take on one of your boss's problems is to volunteer. When you hear of the problem, ask your boss, say hey boss, can I take a stab at solving that problem for you?  

The boss sees you in a good light and knows that you are addressing this problem.

The best-case result of this is that the boss says yes, you take it on and solve it, and you are a hero.  

As we would say in the Marine Corps, end of text, how copy? That’s it!

You are taking another step toward becoming a Go-To Person.

But what if you volunteer and the boss says no, he has someone else in mind to take on this problem, or the boss is going to take it on.  

Well, guess what? Without having to do a thing you have made a good impression on the boss by your willingness to take on the problem.

The second way that you can take on your boss’s problem is to just do it. Just handle the problem.

Don’t ask the boss if you can take it on, just take it on, solve it, and let the boss know.  

It is important to understand that this approach is best for small, pain-in-the-ass problems that don’t require authority or resources to solve, just a little extra effort on your part.

Now, when you go back and tell your boss that the small problem he mentioned in the morning meeting is taken care of, you, again, rise in stature and take another step to be the Go-To Person.

Remember to keep up with your own job requirements!

So, I mentioned a little extra effort.  

For both approaches to work, you have to put in the extra effort.  

Unless the problem is significant and requires a shift in your work to tackle it, then it's best if you put in the extra time to solve the problem.  

Why? Because if you stop doing your normal job to focus on this problem, then the boss has a different problem and that is making up for your lost work.  

So, to have the most impact and make the best impression, take the time, put in the extra effort, and solve the boss's problem without creating a different problem or creating the impression that you don’t want to do your regular job!

Here are my 3 takeaways.

  • One of the most frequent pieces of advice I give people wanting to get ahead in their careers is to Solve Your Boss’s Problems. It's frequent because it simply works.
  • You do that by noticing and taking on the problem by putting forth the extra effort, above your normal job.
  • If you do this, you will get noticed and appreciated, and take one more step toward becoming a Go-To Person.

If you want to get ahead in your career, start by solving your boss's problems. It may seem like a daunting task, but if you put forth the extra effort, you will be noticed and appreciated. And who knows? Maybe one day you'll be known as the Go-To Person in your field. I hope this helps you reach your career goals!