One of the most important skills to develop is the art of keeping your boss happy. It does not matter how good you are at what you do, if your boss is not happy with you, life at work will be an uphill battle.

This does not necessarily mean kissing up, buying gifts, selling out other people or any other actions that might undermine your professionalism. What it does mean is understanding what is important to your boss and making sure he/she gets it.

Why? Because the benefits of a happy boss can range from an advocate when you want a raise or promotion, to someone who just leaves you alone to do your thing. Whatever it is you are looking for from your boss, the way to get it is to first understand what he/she wants.

My boss is an idiot.

Many troubled employees I have coached to get back on track are challenged because they think they are smarter than their bosses and could absolutely do their boss's job better. Interestingly, many of the progressive leaders I work with who are really strong managers want people on their team who are smarter than them.

So good bosses want team members who are smarter than them, and employees are unhappy when they are smarter than their boss — that could be a problem.

The disconnect is in the communication of value. Most employees who think their bosses are idiots are under that impression because the boss has not recognized them for the contributions they make. On the flip side, bosses do recognize employees who give them what they want. So consider aligning what you are doing with what your boss actually wants.

How did that idiot get promoted?

There are plenty of examples in the movies and in real life of people who are seemingly incompetent being rewarded for their incompetence. What do you do? Curse the system? Whine to a colleague?

Complaining is not going to change the fact that they are getting rewarded and you are not. But changing your perspective might. Take that same judgmental lens, adjust it a little and point it at your boss.

Make it your priority to discover what is most important to your boss. Does she need her TPS reports every week? Does he like to talk about his kids' soccer? Does she hate to be surprised at her weekly executive meeting? What are the things that are most important to him? Figure it out and write it down.

Next — and just as important — you have to figure out what you want from your boss and whether she can give it to you. In other words, is she a micromanager but you like to be left alone? Does he like to leave you alone but you long for a mentor? The answers to those questions will help you manage your own expectations.

Take action.

So, you know what your boss wants, what you want from her and whether it is realistic to expect it. Now what do you do? Give her what she wants and then be realistic in your expectations of what she gives you back.

It sounds ridiculous, but the simple solution is often the most elegant and the most challenging. In this case, if he wants to talk about his kids, avoid surprises and get his reports on time, then ask about his kids, tap your grapevine so he has the inside scoop and get him the report early. Those are your priorities. Don’t do anything else until those tasks are complete. Period.

Remember, you can be a genius and your work could be amazing, but if the person right above you — the one who decides what meetings you attend, what work you get, what raises and promotions you receive and how your daily work life generally progresses — is not happy, it does not matter.

Managing your boss is a critical part of your job. If you don't figure out how to do that, you will always have an issue.