Why it’s okay to ignore your boss

March 1, 2015, 9:00 PM UTC
Courtesy of David Reese

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “During your first few months on the job, how can you impress your boss?” is written by David Reese, vice president of people and culture at Medallia.

The excitement of getting a new job: is it even possible to accurately describe this feeling? You feel accomplished and, more importantly, special. And you should. You’re eager about your new role and your new company — maybe you’re starting a more senior position or finally landed your dream job. So, go ahead. Open that bottle of champagne and celebrate. But don’t forget: your first day is right around the corner.

During the interview process, you probably set expectations about your abilities. Now, it’s time to deliver on those promises and impress your boss. But how? Well, maybe not the way most people might tell you. Let me explain. We have a natural inclination to somehow “show” our new boss that we’re working. But for a lot of new hires, there’s not much to do during the first few weeks. Instead, I’d encourage you to do something that’s going to feel very uncomfortable: give your boss the least of your attention. Yes, you heard me correctly. Here’s why.

Take advantage of these “free” days before projects start dominating your time. Get your hands dirty and truly get to know the business you’re working for and the customers you’re serving. Schedule one-on-one’s with other coworkers and leaders, both in and outside of your department. Ask questions that will get to the heart of your company’s strengths, challenges, and vision. Understand how you fit into that picture, where you can make the biggest impact, and what you can do to create that impact. Simply put: go where the value is.

Don’t wait to have your hand held or to be told to do things. At a lot of companies, beyond basic training, there isn’t a dotted line to follow. It’s up to you to go hunt for the details, connections, and resources you need to be successful. Remember when your new boss interviewed you, and you told them you would hit the ground running? This is what hitting the ground running looks like. It’s gathering the context necessary to do your best work. It’s delivering that work to your boss and everyone else — and all of them realizing you can get things done (well) with limited help.

That, at the end of the day, is what’s going to truly impress your boss — your ability to be self-sufficient.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: During your first few months on the job, how can you impress your boss?

Advice for new employees: Stop trying to impress your boss by Kat Cole, group president of FOCUS Brands.

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