A family friend who worked at the White House said that one of the biggest challenges is deciding what to tell and what not to tell the president.
There aren’t enough hours in the day to brief the boss on everything. You have to figure out what’s important and what’s not. Get it wrong and you may have a war on your hands.
Thankfully for most of us, the stakes aren’t quite as high. But good boss management is still a crucial part of anyone’s job. My father once said, “It doesn’t matter where you work, your job is to make your boss successful.”
Here are four tips for good boss management:
1. Don’t tell your boss everything.
A boss may not be the leader of the free world, but they still have a lot on their plate. Just because you can cc her on everything doesn’t mean that you should. Before you share information with your boss ask:
• Will his or her help significantly improve this?
The operative word here is significantly, if the boss’ input only adds a 10 percent improvement to a noncritical issue, his or her time is better spent elsewhere.
• Is this information that would help my boss in other areas?
If you had a big win or a big problem, share the information with an eye to helping your boss leverage the information in his or her other areas of responsibilities.
• Will my boss get blindsided by this later?
If you know about a situation that may blow up later, keep your boss in the loop so that he or she doesn’t have a big surprise later.
2. Talk about the future not just the past.
Managers tell you what happened in the past. Leaders tell you what it means for the future.
A client of mine was preparing to share the details of a big win with his CEO. After a coaching session, we took it to the next level. Not only did he describe the win, he also outlined how they could duplicate it in other markets. The same strategy applies to problems, don’t just tell the boss what happened, tell him what it means for the organization.
3. Provide context before details.
Your boss is dealing with a million issues. Your area of responsibility is just one of them. Don’t assume your boss knows, or remembers the specifics. Before you launch into your subject, provide some context. For example, “Last week we talked about the issues with X, as you recall the main challenge was Y. I’ve got an update for you.”
4. Present plans, not problems.
Dumping problems on the boss’ desk is the fast track to a demotion. It dooms you to mediocrity, because it lets the boss know that you’re reactive instead of proactive. You don’t have to figure everything out, but before you present your boss with a problem, brainstorm a few potential solutions so you can give him or her some options.
This technique works in personal situations as well. One of the things I love about my husband is that when he discovers a problem, he thinks about how we might solve it before he shares it. It reaffirms that he’s on my side.
The boss wants what we all want: support, respect and someone to say, “I’ve got your back buddy.”