Your Boss Has Expectations Too

Your success as a manager hinges on your ability to clearly communicate your performance expectations for employees. But what about you? Do you know what your boss expects? Has success been clearly defined for you?

Let’s be honest. Some leaders are not as clear with their expectations as others. With some bosses you have to figure it out through trial and error. With others, the criteria may shift over time. It can be frustrating.

Even if you know your annual goals, you may not always know the full scope of what your boss expects of you.  Regardless of how clear your boss has been, there are some common expectations that likely represent what your boss is thinking:

Focus on the Big Picture. You may be assigned to one particular function or task within the larger organization, but your boss expects that you will see the world from their seat. Look beyond your own job and learn how your efforts support the greater good. When you understand how the entire system works, you will be better able to support your boss and the organization’s success.

Use Conflict Productively. Bosses at every level want people who cooperate. Still, differences crop up in every organization. The true superstars are those who are able to work through conflicts in order to achieve bigger-than-self goals. It’s not just about getting along. Bosses expect that inevitable conflicts will be resolved with solutions that improve the status quo.

Volunteer. Those who step up move up faster. A reluctance to jump on new initiatives or challenging projects sends a message that you are a follower. To be viewed as a leader, take the bull by the horns. When you see a new challenge on the horizon, don’t wait to be asked. Tackle it. Your boss will appreciate it.

Stay Up-to-Date. You will be relied upon if you are current with the latest trends in your particular industry. What are the newest technologies? Who are the leading thinkers? What are your competitors doing? By reading industry journals and blogs, attending professional association meetings, and networking with other professionals, you will be seen as a team member who is connected and current.

Be Transparent and Vulnerable. While every boss wants superstars, no one is truly Superman or Superwoman. When you run into problems, ask your boss for help. When you are struggling, share your feelings. The best way to get through the tough times is to work together, and that’s what your boss is there for. Being honest and asking for help is not a weakness. It’s how you get work done.

Commitment, Not Compliance. Of course your boss wants you to be easy to work with. But more than being compliant, your boss needs your commitment. Knowing what your boss stands for and consistently representing those values will show that you are on the boss’s team. You don’t have to be a “yes man,” but you and your boss need to be on the same bench. If you are working toward different goals, you will both be disappointed. Ask your boss what success looks like and commit to that vision. If you can’t commit to their vision, it may be time to consider your options.

The official term for this skill set is called “managing up” and the Internet is filled with tips on how to do it. A few of my favorites come from Penelope Trunk and Geoffery James. “Managing up” is defined by author Lisa Haneberg as, “caring enough about your work and the success of the organization to do whatever you can to help your boss be most successful.” When your boss is successful, you’ll be successful. So what are your boss’s expectations?

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