Climb the Ladder by Saying These Six Things to Your Boss

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I’ve spoken with a lot of college students over the years. One of my favorite questions they ask me is “what are you looking for in an ideal employee?” I love the question for a number of reasons because even the fact that they’re asking me a question like this is one of the things that I look for in an ideal employee. I always tell them there’s no checkbox of qualifications that I’m looking for. Instead, I’m looking for people who are curious, ambitious, entrepreneurial and unique. I want people who are self-aware and aren’t afraid to ask questions.

Looking back at the people I’ve promoted, written recommendations for and nominated for awards, they all had this mindset. And they all consistently said six things to me:

  1. “How am I doing? How did I do?” Ask for feedback early and often. It shows that you want to improve and that you want to know how to do things better. After every presentation you give, report you complete, article you write, etc., make sure you ask your manager if he/she has any feedback for you. And don’t let them get away with just telling you that “you did a good job.” Ask them specifically what you could have done better. Seek the negative AND the positive feedback.
  2. “Don’t worry about it – I got it.” One of the things that all managers love is to be able to cross something completely off of their to-do list because they know that someone they trust is taking care of everything – from beginning to end. From doing the actual work to keeping the right people informed, the ability to take something entirely off your manager’s plate and do it well is something that will be much appreciated. It will also give you some great experience in showing him/her that you’ve got what it takes to move up to the next level as well.
  3. “I just read/watched/heard…and it got me thinking that…” Learn how to look at everything you read/watch/listen to from a work/client perspective. I want people who are constantly on the lookout for newer, better, more efficient ways to do things and who can apply them to their current work. You should be bringing new ideas to your boss at least as often as he/she is bringing them to you.
  4. “I don’t think that’s the best way to do that. How about we do it this way instead?” Please, don’t be a yes-man/woman. Disagree with me. Don’t assume that what I say goes. Sometimes, I have no idea and am just throwing ideas out there and want some honest feedback on them. When I was first given a team, the first person I approached was a good friend of mine whom I knew would be candid with me and tell me when I was wrong. I knew that she’d tell me my idea was awful idea long before it ever made its way to a client.
  5. “Here’s what I’d recommend and why.”If I’ve asked you to work on something, don’t just send me your research. I want to know your thoughts on it too. You’re the one closest to the research. Give me your recommendation and your rationale for it. It shows me that you can think critically and that you can back up your assertions.
  6. “Here’s what I learned and how I’ll do it better next time.” Learn how to be your own worst critic. One of the best things you can do is become self-aware. Know where you’re strong, know where you’re weak and know where you can improve.

Here’s the great thing about these sayings – they aren’t just for entry-level employees. These are all things that I try to talk with my boss about regularly. At no point should you ever feel that you’re too old or too high on the organization chart to ask for feedback or to challenge the status quo. Climbing the ladder doesn’t stop at the first, second or fifth promotion. Keep these six things in mind all the way up the ladder and you’ll keep going up and up and up.

Courtesy of Steve Radick

Steve Radick joined Brunner, Pittsburgh’s largest independent ad agency, in 2014. As VP, Director of Public Relations, he is responsible for managing external communications and reputations of brands across the home improvement, retail, consumer-packaged goods, non-profit, manufacturing, and restaurant industries. Most recently, he led the public relations efforts for AdWeek’s #1 Super Bowl commercial – 84 Lumber’s Super Bowl commercial, “The Journey Begins.” His team was also named 2017 “PR Team of the Year” by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Steve is an industry-recognized consultant, blogger, speaker, and strategist. He has authored his own blog ( for the last eight years and his writing has appeared in publications like The Drum, PRWeek, MediaPost, PRDaily, and Entrepreneur Magazine as well as books like Cases in Public Relations Strategy, THINK Public Relations and Global Content Marketing. A sought-after keynote speaker, Steve has given presentations on a variety of marketing, branding and leadership topics at events sponsored by the U.S. European Command, PRSA, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), WVU, Penn State, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Southern Indiana, the University of Denver, the COMMIT! Forum, CMO Leadership Summit, UBM TechWeb and many others.

Over the last few years, Steve’s perspectives on branding, marketing, and public relations have also appeared on KDKA Radio, WTAE, KDKA-TV, Telemundo, CBSNews, AdWeek, AdAge, Federal News Radio, The Washington Post, and Mashable.

Prior to joining Brunner, Steve was VP, Associate Director of PR Cramer-Krasselt, the second largest independent ad agency in the country. Before that, he spent nine years at management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, where he possessed a Top Secret security clearance, consulting with clients from across the federal government.

Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Steve is a die-hard Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates fan and graduated from Bethany College with a B.A. in Communication. He’s the proud father of three daughters, all of whom harbor dreams of being the next American Ninja Warrior.

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