This is a post for every employee who is still trying to figure out their boss. I’m speaking from my experiences having been an employee at over 5 organizations before becoming a full-time entrepreneur.
Here’s what your boss really cares about:
1. Raise the alarm bell before there’s a fire
Your boss wants you to notify them when you or your team aren’t able to complete your tasks and meet your responsibilities on time and with a high degree of quality. Knowing that things are going sideways or falling behind earlier is almost always knowing about it after the fact when little can be changed. A good boss never blames the messenger.
2. Bring solutions instead of problems to the table
Great businesses don’t bury their problems. They encourage their employees to bring them forward. When you do, come with a couple of solutions as well to make it easier for your boss to choose, prioritize, and modify the desired solution if necessary. Contrary to popular belief, good bosses have a ton of work on their plate, and they’ll appreciate you immensely for bringing a couple of solutions to choose from rather than dumping problems on them.
3. Get to the point, fast.
Your boss has a limited amount of time to empower you to do your job better. Avoid long-winded explanations and get to the point. Remember, good bosses will appreciate your brevity.
4. Don’t make them repeat themselves
Bring a notepad or a laptop to every meeting. Your boss may talk fast and cover many points. The expectation will almost always be for you or another designated note-taker to record the minutes. It’s not that bosses don’t like repeating themselves, it’s more so that it proves you weren’t paying attention where you should have.
5. Come to meetings prepared with an agenda
Shorter meetings = better meetings, especially when you have an agenda to guide the meeting. If you booked the meeting with your boss, you’re in charge of the agenda.
6. Your agenda needs to have these three things
You must have a meeting owner, a desired outcome from the meeting, and decision-making parameters on how you hope to achieve the outcome.
7. Ask for shorter meetings
Bosses loves short, to-the-point meetings. Booking a 15 minute meeting instead of an hour with a tight agenda is a sure-fire way to delight your boss. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness and the 45 minutes you’ve just given back to them in the day.
8. Go ahead, interrupt them
Good bosses are really good coaches. They don’t mind being interrupted for a mission critical issue or if you have a point that emphasizes the betterment of your team or company than your boss’ plan.
9. Know what type of communication is appropriate
- Email is great for short to mid-form responses.
- In person meetings are great for decision-making and brain-storming
- A phone call or a virtual screen sharing session is the next best thing to an in-person meeting.
- Any responses that need to be synchronous and to the point are best suited to instant messaging or through team-chat applications like Slack (we’re big fans at Powered by Search).
10. Your boss wants updates without being expected reply back
Over the years, I’ve heard many employees think that their bosses are rude because they do not reply back to emails. This is a fallacy. Your boss wants updates where appropriate and email is one medium which is conducive to this. Replying for the sake of replying is an invitation for a seemingly never-ending thread of responses.
11. Don’t make them guess. Clarity is your friend.
In all communication, be explicit about the purpose and context of what you are communicating. There is no place for ambiguity in a business. The little things really count:
- Descriptive subject lines
- Descriptive opening lines in emails
- Describe subjects and objects in sentences instead of using pronous (he, she, they, etc.)
12. Don’t be a yes-man (or woman).
Good bosses want to hear your objective feedback and it is okay to disagree with them. Be mindful of the platform in which you do this, and it’s probably best done in private with them so that the two of you can debate the best solution and get on the same page.
13. Prioritize effectiveness over efficiency
Your boss probably doesn’t care about how ‘busy’ you are. They care about the results you’re driving from being occupied with executing on various activities. Tell your boss what you’re working on, when you’re aiming to finish the task, and what you’re hoping to achieve in terms of outcomes.
14. Trust your recommendations
Your boss wants to trust you and your recommendations. It’s why they hired you and why you continue to be on the team. Be confident in your recommendations and your boss won’t hesitate to let you run with your proposed solution.
15. Become a lynchpin
In most cases, your boss wants you to rise above and beyond the call of duty, solving problems and finding solutions you weren’t asked to find. This type of conscientious deliberation around how you can make your company more valuable in the market is what will make you a lynchpin in your organization.