Visibility is key. You may not always be in the same meetings as your skip level manager (your boss’s boss). If this is the case, it is hard for them to see first-hand the impact you are having. Visibility of your work to upper level management is important as well as getting their guidance and input. One way to stay connected with your upper management is scheduling 1:1 meetings with your skip level manager on a regular basis. Now you should expect these to be moved or cancelled, but be persistent. Once you secure the time, be well prepared for the meeting. You can send pre-read email that outlines what you want to cover or send an example of your latest work to share in the meeting. Also it is good to focus on your topics for half the time and use the other half of the time to understand what is on his/her mind. What is the largest challenge they are facing? What is keeping them up at night? What are their near term deliverables of the broader team? What is the latest success? How does he/she feel that your mutual goals are being achieved? The more you know about the larger picture, the better you can tailor your work to deliver against the most important issues that need to be addressed.
One way to become successful is to make your managers successful. But you can’t even start to create a plan on how to do this until you know what your management chain goals are. At a minimum you should understand the goals of both your immediate boss and your skip level manager, your bosses boss. Then the important part is determine how do your goals ladder to their goals. How important is what you are doing in their view? Are your goals their top deliverables as well or are they down lower on the priority list or worse yet, are they even on the list at all? It is important to know how your commitments and goals relate to your managers so you know whether to change yours or to confirm which of your priorities you should put more energy around.