Over the years, I have written many columns and books on management, particularly management in pulp and paper mills. However, if I can summarize this subject in one sentence, that sentence is: "Make your boss look good." There is no better way to advance your career or the business of your company than following this platitude. However, this does not come without some caveats and assumptions.
First and foremost, your boss must be competent and understand the objectives of the entity for which you both work. I'll hasten to add, you must follow the precept stated above even if your boss is incompetent. An incompetent boss just makes your job more difficult, for you have to be able to discern the boss's incompetencies and plan a work around.
Then you must not take the platitude lightly. For making your boss look good means:
- You are supporting your boss and helping them with their inadequacies, all the time letting them think they are doing great things and all the time with a smile on your face.
- When a deficiency appears, you have developed a keen sense of which ones you need to take to your boss and which ones you quietly solve on your own.
- When you see a structural deficiency, you find a corrective solution and either implement it or suggest it to your boss to implement, depending on budgets, costs, timing and internal resources. Let your boss be the hero if you can.
- If your boss gets into a sticky or embarrassing situation, you help extract them from it (as long as it does not compromise the company's principles and is not illegal).
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If your boss is focused on internal matters and seems lost as to the direction to take his charges, including you, help them out. Sort matters out in your own mind first. Start with your customers, no matter how far from the customer your department may be.
As an example, let's say you are in the kiln/recausticizing area in the mill. I can't think of an area that could be much further removed from the customers. Yet, this area can have an impact on keeping and maintaining customers as well as making sure the mill's margins are high enough to be profitable. If your boss can't figure this out, help them.
First, you can affect the uptime of the mill. Running a steady operation without hiccups assures that you are doing your part to keep the mill operating reliably and hence delivering the company's products to the customer when promised and with no surprises.
Second, you can work to do your part to deliver consistent quality internal products from your part of the mill to the dependent departments.
Third, you can assure that you are producing your internally used products at the lowest possible cost. This means constantly shopping the markets for the best alternatives for any feedstocks you may need to purchase, operating the best possible predictive maintenance systems and so forth.
It is fall. Many of the spring graduates from the pulp and paper schools are just getting their feet wet in the mill culture. I recommend you share this column with them before they become too self-absorbed in internal matters.
For safety this week, the first and foremost thing you can do to make your boss look good is to make sure there are no safety incidents in your department. A poor safety record can destroy careers.
Be safe and we will talk next week.