!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Tuning in to What the Boss Likes

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tuning in to What the Boss Likes

Several years ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article by Joann Lublin that introduced me to the idea of encouraging managers to spell out in writing their likes and dislikes for how they work with employees.

The aim was to make very clear for employees how best to communicate, how to build a good working relationship, and how to carry out their job responsibilities in a way that would maintain the boss's confidence.

I incorporated this recommendation1 in a workshop on leadership that I developed for a client, and got a strongly positive reaction from participants. Specifically, prior to the workshop session, I asked each participant to draw up a one-page memo for their direct reports. The guidelines for the memo were simple:
  • Do a self-assessment (strengths, weaknesses, personal style) and get feedback from your own manager and from employees who know you. Cover these issues:

    – What you like

    – How to work productively with you

    – What you don't like
        (perhaps due to shortcomings of your own)

  • Share a draft of your memo with colleagues, and improve it in light of any additional input they offer.

  • Once you have the final version, share it with your employees and refer to it regularly yourself.
More recently, I came upon the second edition of Jill Geisler's book (pdf), News Leadership at the Head of the Class: The Journalist’s Guide to Teaching Leadership and Management Skills and Values, which includes in its appendix a list of items employees should make sure they know about their bosses.2 If the boss does not provide a helpful memo, and observation does not cover all the needed insights, the employee should not be shy about inquiring in order to fill any gaps.

Slightly edited, Geisler's list calls for knowing the boss's:
  • preferred method of giving information to employees

  • preferred method of getting information from employees

  • biggest current pressure

  • primary values

  • biggest hot button

  • passion outside of work

  • areas of strong expertise

  • areas of limited expertise

  • vision for the organization
Also, employees should be able to complete the following statements. My boss:
  • would be really hurt if someone ...

  • thinks [name] was his/her best boss because ...

  • expects me to handle a small problem by ...

  • expects me to handle a big problem by ...

  • will not compromise when it comes to ...

  • considers a great day at work to be ...

  • handles pressure by ...

  • is respected by her/his bosses for ...

  • respects others for ...

  • has a blind spot about ...

  • thinks I’m great at...
Whether the boss takes the initiative, or it's the employee who seeks guidance, the outcome of learning the boss's values, goals, and preferences is a healthier and more productive working relationship.

1 As reported by Lublin, the recommendation comes from Laurence Stybel, Ed.D.

2 Jill Geisler is Group Leader for Leadership and Management Programs at the Poynter Institute.


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