Supervisory Leadership

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How can I do a better job of dealing with my boss?

Your relationship with your boss is the relationship that will have the biggest impact on your productivity and morale. Here are some tips to make dealing with your boss more effective and productive.

Your job is to help the boss succeed. Figure out what that means. Listen to what your boss says, but pay more attention to behavior.

One of my clients had a boss who constantly talked about thinking out of the box and encouraged subordinates to bring innovative ideas to him. He shot almost all of them down but my client noted that the ones he would try were ones that had worked elsewhere. The boss wanted to do new things, but only if they were "proven."

Your boss has a preferred pace. Some people make decisions fast. Others make them more slowly. Figure out how it is for your boss and cater to it.

A good friend of mine named Bill is one of those people who make decisions very fast. Alas, he worked for a boss who liked to take his time. Bill learned that when his boss gave him an assignment, the best thing Bill could say was, "Let me think about that."

Bill might have instantly known how he was going to handle the assignment, but he waited a couple of days before coming back to his boss and starting with these words, "I've been thinking about that assignment and here's how I think we should handle it."

Bosses have different tolerance for small talk. Two of my bosses in my early career were poles apart. Frank was all business. Small talk made him antsy. Ed, on the other hand, loved small talk. Before getting down to business he wanted to chat about all kinds of things.

Your boss has a preferred briefing style. Some prefer written briefings. Others prefer oral briefings. Give your boss information in the way that he or she prefers.

Your boss has a preferred "touch frequency." Some bosses want frequent updates on projects. Others don't want you to bother them unless they've asked for an update or unless there's an actual or potential problem. Every time you get an assignment, find out how and when your boss wants updates.

Your boss is probably really good at something that it would help you to know. Ask him or her for help learning.

At the end of the day, if you help your boss succeed and make it easy and comfortable for him or her, you're on your way to your own success.


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