What your boss wants
Believe it or not, your boss probably cares about you quite a bit. Not only about your work output, but about you as a person. Many of them are not very good at showing it, but speaking to managers on a daily basis, I’m constantly reminded that managers generally want their staff to be happy and healthy, do a great job, enjoy what they are doing and be recognised for their contribution. When meeting with managers in my role as a recruitment and consulting professional, I often find managers singing the praises of their team members… however I often ask if they have expressed the same sentiments to them directly and often the answer is “well, kind of”, “not really” or “I think I have”.
Of course there are some managers who are only in it for themselves and they take advantage of their employees for their personal gain. But I genuinely believe these managers are in the minority and they don’t usually last very long because they quickly become ineffective.
Why your boss loses sleep
Having been in a management/leadership role for many years I can tell you first hand, that I lose sleep on a regular basis over how things could be or should be. How can I improve the experience of everyone in my team? How can I encourage the team to support each other? How can I get everyone performing at a high level consistently? How can I remove obstacles that get in the way of my staff so they can do a great job and be proud of what they achieve? How can I help an individual who is struggling? The questions go on.
I once learned that management is measured by efficiency in achieving results, and leadership is measured by morale of the group who deliver the results. They are not mutually exclusive, however executives around the globe spend countless hours (and often huge budgets) with the goal of tying the two together. If they are able to do so and sustain this over a long period then they’ve reached the nirvana of organisational life in my opinion. But few do. Often because there is a disconnect between what employees actually do on a day-to-day basis and what the organisation requires them to do to meet its objectives.
Flip the thinking
“And so, my fellow Americans – ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. This famous quote from former U.S. President John F Kennedy in his 1961 inaugural address was a brilliant line and is often repeated to this day. It was a powerful line because it flipped the thinking of the average citizen from what’s in it for me mindset to one of what can I do to help. If we took the same approach to the workplace every day with the thought of what can I do to help my boss/team/department/company achieve its goals, our focus and delivery would most likely increase dramatically… and with it our sense of value and work satisfaction (what’s in it for me bit).
A key requirement of this is for the organisation to communicate what it is aiming to achieve and for employees to proactively take steps to clarify and understand how their role fits in to the equation. Goal alignment allows an organisation to harness the collective talents of its employees to focus on the delivery of its output.
Stephen Covey in his highly regarded book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” talks about the habit, Synergize. The idea being that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Through trust and communication with other people, you can achieve much more by working together than you can alone. He talks of synergistic communication and openness whereby “… high trust produces solutions better than any originally proposed, and all parties know it”.
It can be really difficult to understand what your boss wants and expects from you because it may shift from time to time as the priorities and pressures of the business change. Hence the need for regular communication both ways to keep an alignment of focus on the things that really matter and the things that bring value. I believe there is an onus on both parties to proactively communicate to ensure expectations are clear and there are few surprises. It is extremely frustrating for a manager to have a team member who ‘swimming against the tide’ and performing work that makes no contribution to the goals of the organisation. Equally it is confusing and demotivating for an employee to try to guess what their boss wants them to do and fumble along without any direction.
If this sounds all too hard, maybe it’s time to look for a new role or to go and set up your own Sole Trader operation. That may sound harsh, but I’m of the belief that if you ‘sign up’ to work in a job you should put in your best effort. Likewise, if you are hiring others to work in your team, you should communicate regularly and manage the performance of your team so everyone wins.
Are you aligned with your boss?
Ben Walsh – General Manager; Recruitment