Do You Know What Your Boss Wants?

Accountability Contribution Organizational leadership


Key Point: Hopefully you can currently write or type out, in less than two minutes, what your boss wants from you as a direct report. The following eight points reflect a summary by Robert Galford in the recent Harvard Business Review blog, What Your Boss Really Wants from You. It’s pretty good. I’ve added two additional points I believe are also vital.

Your boss wants you to be:

1. Relentlessly focused on making your numbers and completing projects or initiatives in a timely, responsible fashion. And if things are regrettably falling short, your boss is expecting some sort of early warning heads-up.

2. Well aware of the particular numbers or initiatives that are of critical importance to him or her. Are you fluent in those numbers? And do you keep your boss apprised of where they are trending? You should be. Also, if these numbers or projects are veering off course, your boss wants you to come to him or her with the problem early on (and armed with a few well-thought-out possible solutions).

3. On top of the pulse of your organization, (department or area) and of your customer and client base. You should know where the stress points are and what’s being done about them.

4. Clear on where the business is going in the broader sense and in the longer term. You should have a respectable point of view on where the company should be going and why.

5. Knowledgeable about your people and their people — their strengths, weaknesses, and potential. How do their jobs help the company meet its goals? How are their jobs tied to your organization’s strategy?

6. Building a following of competent people who trust you, trust each other, keep you in the loop, and feel as if you are there to help and guide without getting in the way. Think of the last five direct reports who came into your office. What did they want? What does that tell you about the relationship you have with them?

7. Capable of identifying problems on the horizon, analyzing them, and problem-solving effectively — either alone or in collaboration with colleagues — on a timely basis.

8. Able to play well with others consistently. That is, confident enough to say what you think and also confident enough to hear, respect, and possibly integrate others’ views into your own perspective.

9. Able to highly engage and align the head, hearts, and hands of your team and to connect their contributions to the strategic intent of the company.

10. Competent in having crucial conversations with your boss and others, based on advanced self-awareness in leading yourself as a foundation for leading others. This includes having a high Emotional Quotient, Spiritual Quotient, and Positive Intelligence Quotient.

I know this sounds like a big list. However, it is not about perfection. It is about having a framework of clarifying what’s expected from your boss and working hard to be on the positive side of all 10 areas.

Character Moves:

  1. Rate yourself from one (lousy) to 10 (super good) on each of the 10 items above. (You may want to get feedback directly from your boss)? Just ask!
  2. Build an action plan to get better on your weakest area.
  3. Be proactive. Do not avoid painful areas or difficult decisions. Be very self-accountable. Don’t wait for your boss to tell you where you’re missing. Often bosses are not very good at it. Most actually avoid constructive conflict. Ask, clarify and then execute to get better.
  4. Apply the Character Triangle with total passion and commitment. It fuels positive results on all 10 above.

Know your numbers, optimize the contribution of people and execute to get great results. Straight forward and yet complex; the beauty of a paradox.

Know what your boss wants in The Triangle,