Repeat after me.

I distinctly remember the first time I was in a meeting with a former boss and heard him state verbatim some ideas and suggestions I’d offered to him just hours before the meeting. Say what?

I also remember feeling a bit surprised. I guess I had expected him to say something along the lines of “Susan and I were talking about this in preparation for the meeting to today and she has some good thoughts about how we might proceed.” This wasn’t a big deal really – I was over it almost immediately. At the time, I chalked it up to he’s the boss and part of my job is to make him look good. (I still believe that by the way).

Years later, I realize that the circumstance I described was actually positive for me. When your boss repeats your words and ideas, it is a clear acceptance of your expertise. Besides, keeping score on credit for suggestions and opinions is tricky business and I don’t recommend it. Instead, I recommend that you understand that educating your boss is part of your responsibility as an effective colleague.

Knowing how well this technique worked, I began to systematically offer to my bosses the language necessary to support goals and plans. Usually, I was overt about it. I’d suggest a quick meeting or phone call any time I knew my boss was going to be representing the interests of my team. I wanted to make sure he or she was prepared to make the case on our behalf.

I recent years, I made it a practice to repeat what I’d heard from members of my own team. In fact, before senior leadership meetings, I purposefully sought out individuals and even rehearsed my spiel for them. I wanted to have my facts straight, I wanted a better understanding of the issues, and I didn’t want to promise something we couldn’t deliver.

Please don’t misunderstand the point of this post. There’s no one on the planet who believes more strongly than I do about recognition and appreciation for individuals who work with me. It is my regular practice to defer any credit I get to the team I work with. The point is this: maybe you’re currently hearing your own words repeated by your boss and you’re taking it the wrong way. Embrace the repeat after me. It means you done good.


Author: susantevans

Susan T. Evans is director of corporate and foundations relations at the College of William & Mary. She is a proven strategic leader with deep expertise in advancement, communications, brand management, marketing, digital strategy, technology, administration and organizational development. She is known for creative and strategic approaches to challenges within higher education, nonprofits and business.

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