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.

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