Your boss may give you a list of tasks to accomplish, or a due date for a project. She may tell you what meetings to attend or where she needs you to represent the organization. There may be reports to complete or courses to attend. Often, there are conflicting deadlines or priorities.
As a long-time people manager, I can tell you that although all of those things are necessary parts of the job, they’re not what your boss REALLY wants from you. There’s a whole other layer of expectations that are usually left unsaid. However, left undone, they can unravel a career.
Yes, you need to complete the tasks required of you—that’s a given. But what your boss wants from you goes beyond that.
She wants to know she can count on you. This means that you will do what you say you will, when you say you will have it done. You won’t agree to commitments then just not come through.
She wants to know when things are going off track. Good managers want to know when issues arise, long before the whole project goes south. They want a heads up that there’s an issue that might impact quality, delivery, or customer satisfaction.
She wants solutions, not just problems. Whenever possible, come to a manager with a proposed solution (or multiple solutions), rather than just raising an issue. You may need your boss to make an executive decision on how to proceed, but give her some options to choose from.
She want you to manage her. This may sound counterintuitive, but a good boss expects you to know how to work with her to get what you need. If your boss is very visual, that might mean showing her in writing how something will work. If she’s oral, don’t send long documents. Have a discussion where you get to the point. Understand how your boss works and play to her strengths.
She wants to feel she can trust you. This means more than just delivering on tasks. It means you are honest and have integrity. It also means you have good business judgment and can be trusted to act in an appropriate manner to represent your organization, both within the company and externally.
She wants you to know she’s human. That means she’s prone to mistakes, just like you and I are. She’ll have off days or times when she’s distracted by a personal issue. She’d appreciate being given the benefit of the doubt in these situations, just like you’d want her to do for you.
Give your boss what she really needs and you may find you’re getting more of what you need from your work relationships in return.
-Linda Popky, President, Leverage2Market Associates