When your team asks you want you want, here's what you tell them.
My recent column, 8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses, drew a flood of responses. But there's one thing I didn't mention: An extraordinary boss communicates his expectations clearly to his team. That way, everyone understands what it will take to make your company succeed.
With that in mind: If you are the boss, you'll want to share this column with your team, because it will make your job a heck of a lot easier. And if by chance you're not the boss, memorize this column–because it contains the key to long-term success.
Here are the rules for keeping your boss happy:
1. Be true to your word.
Your boss wants to trust you. Really. Therefore, whenever you accept an assignment, follow through religiously, even fanatically. Do what you say you're going to do. Never overcommit, and avoid hedging your bets with vague statements like "I'll try" and "maybe." Instead, make your word carry real weight.
2. No surprises, ever.
The secret fear of every boss is that employees are screwing up but are not saying anything about it. So even if you're afraid some bad news might upset your boss, make sure he's informed. Note: If your boss consistently "shoots the messenger," you can ignore this rule–because his behavior shows he doesn't really want to be in the know.
3. Be prepared on the details.
Your boss wants to believe you're competent and on top of things. That's why she sometimes picks an aspect of your job and begins randomly asking penetrating questions. Therefore, whenever you're meeting with the boss, have the details ready so you can answer these queries with grace and aplomb.
4. Take your job seriously.
Bosses appreciate individuals who truly care about what they do and willing to take the time to achieve a deep understanding of their craft. Bosses need people who have unique expertise. You don't have to be a pro at everything, but you should definitely have a specific area of knowledge that your boss values.
5. Have your boss's back.
When you see your boss about to make a foolish decision, it's your responsibility to attempt to convince him to make a different one. Make your best case, and express yourself clearly. However, once the decision is actually made, do your best to make it work–regardless of whether you think it was the right one.
6. Provide solutions, not complaints.
Complainers are the bane of your boss's existence. Nothing is more irritating or more boring than listening to somebody kvetch about things that they're not willing to change. So never bring up a problem unless you've got a solution to propose–or are willing to take the advice the boss gives you.
7. Communicate in plain language.
Bosses are busy people and have neither the time nor the inclination to wade through piles of biz-blab, jargon and weasel words. When dealing with your boss, speak and write in short sentences, use the fewest words possible to make a point, and make that point clear and easily understandable.
8. Know your real job.
Regardless of what it says on your job description, your real job is to make your boss successful. There are no exceptions to this rule. None.
And, by the way: Your boss's real job is to make you more successful. The reversal of these priorities is the source of almost all organizational problems.