Great bosses are a pleasure to work with as an employee. There isn’t much management by intimidation or fear, but instead a collaborative and focused push to reach the business goals. Great bosses are also different from ones that aren’t so great. Lousy bosses blame employees, don’t want to hear bad news and don’t want to be bothered by all those pesky details.
Try these phrases with your boss. If you get a great response, consider yourself lucky. If you don’t, be wary.
1. I’ve done one section of this work, can we take a look at it?
No one gets how something should be done because the person asking for it usually has a bunch of unrealized requirements in their head about the output of your work. So waiting until the very last day to turn in your entirely spiffy new whiz presentation because your poor boss says it is okay is simply asking for disaster.
Great bosses want to look at a prototype of your work. They know they don’t have all the answers and when you show a completed portion of the output to them, it is a chance for you and your manager to make the final product better. Plus uncover most of those hidden requirements you never knew (oh…I wanted this in Word, not PowerPoint; it is part of a document dump. Oops…).
Poor bosses wait until the end. Like when I worked for a week on a team to create a presentation for the President of our division. The leader of the team, scared of the President, proudly presented our completed presentation the day before it was to be given only to be told by the President that it was all wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Need to change this and this and this. A great all-night party that one was. Not. Prototype your work. Please.
2. Here’s a heads-up
You know heads-up stuff right? The kind where you let your boss know that there is a potential issue the boss will get called upon to discuss with those higher up managers or customers so they can prepare.
Great bosses love hearing about possible problems, even if they don’t happen or happen in a different way then you presented to them. It lets them know that you care enough about the team and, frankly, the boss, that there was some confrontation coming. Your boss can be ready. Thank you.
Unlike poor managers who take the heads up and blame the messenger. Like my manager’s boss I had who I gave a heads up to about a CIO coming to discuss an issue with him and I got blamed for bringing it up to him (the problem was brought up in a meeting by someone else in a different department; I just reported).
I was apparently all “negative” about the department, my direct manager was told, because I brought up something to his manager that could be bad. Hey, buddy, it wasn’t my ass I was trying to help; it was yours. You don’t think I ever gave him another heads-up again, do you? Naw, I just let him swing in the wind. Darn.
3. We could attack this three different ways
Problems are problems. Great bosses want to hear the problems, but they also want to hear potential solutions. Even better would be a comparative analysis of the solutions so the boss knows you know your stuff. Great managers know they don’t have all the answers. They know they have part of the answer, but pay their team for their business judgment and expertise to fill in the rest.
Unlike the poor manager I had who said he wanted answers to the problems walking in the door, but then criticized me for “having all the answers with no input from me” during my performance review. Next time there was a problem, I went in and said that I had been thinking and thinking of what to do about this problem, but just couldn’t come up with a solution — could he help?
You’d have thought the world had finally exploded with joy, he was so happy to pontificate various solutions and debate himself to the right one. You know…the one I already knew was the answer coming into the office but didn’t offer. Needless to say, my reviews began to reflect what a great employee I was and how I listened so well. Of course, he lost all of my thoughts, missed out on the pitfalls and several ways to make a solution better, but, hey, I followed his directions well.
It’s not what managers say, it is what they do
Great managers are different then poor managers and it isn’t just about their personalities clicking with ours. Good managers dig up their own mud. They work on problems before they become big problems. They work with their employees to make good stuff better.
Managers have a choice about how they manage, of course. But ask these three questions and watch what your manager does. Great? Or not?