What Your Boss Really Wants From You

28 September, 2016


“YOU’RE SUCH AN IDIOT!!” My boss raged at a colleague who ordered 500,000 of the wrong size tubes from China. He ranted with high-pitched voice and bulging eyes, while the rest of us took cover behind our computers.

This was one of the most stressful times in my career. From one moment to the next, I never knew what mood my boss would be in, or if I would be the victim of his next fiery missive. Even though he was the king of malapropisms (for example, regularly confusing inconsistency with incontinence) the rebukes were far from funny.

And so, having learnt from an early age how to read a room and then behave in a way that put me in a positive light, I deciphered his code. I started to understand the motivation behind his behaviour, which helped me give him what he really wanted. And so avoid tongue-lashings and spittle.

My boss was not alone. Digging into this a bit I found that although management styles differ, bosses all over the world want similar things from the people who work for them.

Here’s my list. Your boss wants you to be:

Relentlessly focused on the money. Every mistake you make – whether it’s missing a deadline, going over budget, or not double-checking the order for China – costs him money or reputation.

Communicative. If you can see things are falling short, your boss wants you to be his early warning system. Bosses hate surprises.

Solution oriented. Solve the problem and then present the solution. Help your boss’s decision-making by offering recommendations. You were employed for your expertise.

Knowledgeable about the business. Where is the company going, what are the stress points and why? Ask thoughtful questions and you’ll be seen as a crucial contributor to the team.

Acknowledging of him. When your boss asks you to do something or suggests a way you can improve your work, let him know you heard.

Optimistic. As positive attitude demonstrates strength of character, winning you not only the support of your boss but your colleagues as well.

Forward-thinking. Staying ahead of the latest developments in your industry helps you become a more efficient employee.

Appropriately networked. How can you leverage your network to the greater good of your organisation? For example, do you have media contacts, know a good IT guy, or can you introduce your boss to someone who’ll help him advance his career?

Effective. Don’t confuse working through lunch or until midnight as making a contribution. It’s about impact, not hours.

You can use this list in two ways. Most obviously, ensuring you give your boss (or your client) what he or she wants. Alternatively, you can use the list to find a way to differentiate yourself professionally from everybody else.

Over to you.

Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.