While guidance on developing as a leader is plentiful…perhaps in over abundance, there’s relatively little in the daily flow of business and management writing devoted to developing as an effective employee.
For just a few minutes, let’s turn the world of leadership and management advice upside down and take on the perspective of the boss and what she’s looking for from you as a member of her team.
10 Things the Boss is Looking for From Effective Employees:
1. Your Presence AND Engagement. We all know that you’ve got to be present to play…that’s table stakes. What the boss really wants beyond your physical presence is active involvement and full attention from the gray matter between your ears. For that period of time when you’re supposed to be on, the focus must be on your work, on collaborating with others to solve problems and on finding a way to meet the challenges in front of you and in front of your team or function. Leave the kids, the dogs, the dentist and the divorce outside of the office.
2. Some Excitement for Your Work. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable it is to engage with, support, develop and promote people who are passionate about their work. It’s amazing how hard most bosses will go to avoid or remove those who are phoning it in every day.
3. Solutions. Some employees are experts at describing problems, but forget to offer ideas and solutions. Spend too much time talking about problems and all that the boss hears is whine, whine, whine. No boss promotes a whiner. Never frame up a problem without offering ideas, and be sure to include yourself as a volunteer to help implement the solutions.
4. Creativity. Working with and managing creative problem solvers is one of the true highlights of almost every boss’s job. Real creativity…different ways of sizing situations or considering solutions and developing new approaches to exploit opportunities, are all priceless to the boss.
5. Speed. Remember that old ad with a headline of “The Boss is On His Way” and employees were shown moving through the office with flames coming out of their rear ends? Well if not, imagine it. Yes, speed and urgency are of the essence. Get it in gear! Don’t let those programs, commitments and follow-up items linger. Nothing annoys a boss more than an employee who says he’ll do something and then it moves at pre-global warming glacial pace.
6. Just the Right Level of Communication. I’m always amazed at employees who don’t take the time to figure out and deliver on the boss’s preferred communication style. If your boss is an active communicator, then don’t distance yourself and make him or her chase you for updates. If your boss is one of those “don’t bug me unless the world is ending and you can’t fix it on your own” types, the frequent updates will just annoy her. Frequency, subjects and level of detail are all important issues you for you to figure out and tailor to meet the boss’s communication needs.
7. Interest in Your Own Development. We’re suckers for people who want to improve their performance and improve their positions and careers. Tell the boss you are interested in developing. Come to the discussion with ideas on where you want to go. Show that you’ve been doing your homework. Show that you are spending your own time improving yourself and then open the door to working together to help you achieve your goals. We melt when approached by people who care enough to push themselves and most of us will move mountains to support those individuals.
8. Your Feedback. Yes, we all need feedback, even bosses. Sadly, as people climb the ladder in the world of bossdom, the flow of incoming feedback tends to slow to an occasional drop of good insight. All good bosses are striving to improve. Find a delicate but clear way to help the boss improve around a specific issue. If he bites your head off, that may not be a good boss. The rest however will be grateful for any useful performance input.
9. Your Thoughtful Opinions and Occasional Polite Dissension. Believe it or not, many bosses truly value employees who share their ideas and offer different perspectives. They value complete thinkers who are confident enough not to just nod their heads. Of course, they also value employees who embrace a decision and act upon it, even if the decision goes against the employee’s recommendations.
10. Your Avoidance of the Office Boss-Bashing Olympics. Bashing the boss ranks up there as one of the world’s oldest full contact sports. It’s tempting to be one of the gang, but that’s a gang you want to avoid. Out of respect for yourself and your situation, skip the boss bashing…regardless of your own opinions. And for a good boss driving controversial change, the bashing will be plentiful and she’ll value your support more than you can imagine.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
You own your career…you own your performance and whether or not you like it, we all report to someone. As Jeffrey Pfeffer offers in his book, Power, someone must choose us to be successful. Instead of being a pain in the boss’s neck, try putting some time and energy into the ten items above. You’ll find work that much more enjoyable, and it doesn’t suck to be on the winning side of promotions and career growth.
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