Determine how to best serve your boss
Managing your boss requires a good understanding of that person and their context as well as your own situation and needs. You need to understand your boss’s goals and pressures, strengths and weaknesses, pressures from their own boss, and preferred style of working.
For a start, you could try to obtain a copy of their CV. You might say it would be helpful for doing a write-up on them in the staff newsletter or a media release to announce their appointment. These documents give good insight into their experience and strengths. Most bosses would feel a bit flattered to be asked for their CV.
Understand what they need
You will start to get a feel for how secure your boss is. Some bosses, especially when they are new, feel rather threatened by a subordinate doing great things, so never show them up in front of others. And if an appropriate opportunity arises, give them public credit for some of your ideas can help to cement your relationship with them.
If you have a new boss, you can find out useful information about your boss’s preferences from colleagues or from people who used to work for them, especially if your boss has come from within your own organization. It is remarkable how obliging people are when you seek their advice in a tactful way. They feel helpful and important and are very likely to give you a detailed account about your new boss, which will equip you with the information to kick-start a positive relationship.
Being sensitive to a boss’s work style can be crucial. Some bosses like to receive reports in great detail, others like just ‘the big picture’, some like to receive verbal briefings for information while others prefer to read reports. Some like short progress reports at appropriate milestones in projects; others like to receive regular reporting in verbal batches, say at the beginning or the end of the day. What are your boss’s preferences?
Document decisions reached with your boss
Getting a vague boss to express their expectations can be difficult, especially if you would like to get their expectations of you in writing, but you can overcome this. One way is to initiate a regular detailed progress report of your completed work and your planned activities for the next week or month, and then give it to your boss for consideration. You can indicate that you expect them to use this as an agenda paper for a follow-up, face-to-face meeting in which they review the relevant items with you. Some items won’t need discussion – the written summary will be a sufficient report in itself. This process usually reveals all significant expectations.
The written summary is also important as a record of the work you have undertaken in your job. If you don’t pause to summarize your work activities regularly and progressively, you will forget to mention some of your important achievements during performance and salary reviews. A written summary of achievements – showing measurable outcomes that benefited the employer – can even help to justify your job during tough times.