Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What do you NEED to know about your boss?

Some will say you don't NEED to know anything - just do your job and that'll be enough. I believe that to be a career-limiting approach to your work because if you don't have the active -and consistent - support of your boss, chances are good that you won't get that plum assignment you were hoping for, you won't get those extra bonus dollars you were counting on, and you won't get that added respect and regard that's needed to make doing your job that much easier. So what DO you need to know about your boss? Well here's a start:
  • What does s/he listen for? Examples: If s/he listens for problems to solve, there's not much sense in talking about a great opportunity you see in the marketplace. Conversely, if s/he listens for opportunities, then framing an issue as a problem-to-be-solved will likely yield little traction.
  • How does s/he like to be updated? Examples: Some bosses like the in-person update. Others, though, are so busy that they prefer updates by email or voicemail. Some prefer the Blackberry or Nextel update; others hate it. The key is to know how to get the info over to your boss before your boss comes-a-lookin' for you.
  • How much information does s/he want? I've already written about mysteries or headlines, but let's take it farther. Examples: Does s/he want only problems with solutions in tow, or is s/he willing to engage in some brainstorming with you? Does s/he want line-and-verse of a situation, or just enough to know if things are under control or not?
  • What's the ideal frequency of updates? Examples: Something every day or once/week? Something as soon as it happens, or presented in batch-mode with other items of note? How often is too often? How often is not often enough?
  • What are his/her hot-buttons? What topics/issues will elicit a greater response (positive OR negative) than others?
  • What does s/he look for in a go-to person? Do you truly know what value-added means to him/her?Are you that type of person consistently enough?
  • Does s/he prefer that you ask for permission or beg for forgiveness? Example: Does your boss want to refer your plans before you get started on them, or have you run solo until you run into problems?

The more you know about how your boss likes to operate, the better you can tune your performance to provide exactly that. Note that this isn't about the ethics of work; it's about work style and preferences. And the better you can tune your performance to provide exactly what your boss is looking for, the greater freedom, flexibility, recognition, and reward you'll probably be given.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I have learned to cope with my boss of 21 years, I worry about our support staff. He is consistently negative, a blamer, a liar, and you can do everything he asks and still be wrong. They write down everything he says for them to do so he can't deny that he said it (he still does) and have made every effort to cover their butts. They basically like their jobs and the rest of the staff but how can I help them cope with this boss "style"?

Thursday, December 8, 2005 7:34:00 AM CST  
Blogger Barry Zweibel said...

The easiest answer to your question is to tell them they should just get over it. Of course any time a 'should' or a 'just' is included in someone's advice, my advice is to run the other way as fast as you can. If it was 'just' that easy, don't you think they would've just done it that way already?! So while this might be the easiest thing to say, it's probably the least effective.

One level up, would be to suggest they consider whether their jobs "as a whole" are good enough for them. In other words, if they 'basically like their jobs' then the coping strategy is to help them keep things in perspective. Ever been to a restaurant where you like the food, but don't care much for the wait-staff? Often times you go back there anyway because even with the lousy waiters, the food makes it worth your while. That's the idea here, as well.

The hardest thing to do - but probably most effective - is for you to have a one-on-one with the boss and ask, "Do you realize how abusive you were today with the support staff?" He'll probably either say that he didn't realize he was doing that or that he does and just doesn't care. (There's that 'just' word again.) Either way, it's an opportunity to engage him in a meaningful conversation about him taking greater responsibility for his impact on people.

Friday, December 9, 2005 2:22:00 PM CST  

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