What Your Boss Really Wants From You

15 Insights to Improve Your Relationship

Steve Arneson (Author)

Publication date: 05/05/2014

What Your Boss Really Wants From You

Uses fifteen straightforward questions to help you uncover what drives your boss and use what you've learned to take charge of the relationship.

* Offers a concise, practical guide to improving your most important work relationship

* Uses fifteen straightforward questions to help you uncover what drives your boss and use what you've learned to take charge of the relationship

* Features real-world examples of people who have used these techniques to improve their relationship with even the most difficult bosses

Whether you're an entry-level employee, a middle manager, or a high level executive, your most important work relationship is the one you have with your boss. If you're connecting well, everything's great; but if you're not getting along, it can be a nerve-wracking and frustrating experience. It's why executive coach Steve Arneson is so often asked: what does my boss want from me? In this book he offers a powerful set of questions to help you get the answer.

But first, Arneson warns you to give up any thoughts of trying to manage or "improve," your boss. It's true, sometimes bosses can be hard to read. They're not always clear about their expectations, act in seemingly inexplicable ways, and can have hidden motives that have nothing to do with helping you achieve your career goals Still, they're not going to change for you-the solution lies in figuring out what makes them tick and adapting your own work style to make the relationship work more effectively.

In this pragmatic and accessible guide, Arneson shows you how to find the answers to fifteen essential questions that will help you understand your boss's motives. The first section, Study Your Boss, features ten questions that will help you figure out your boss's leadership style, goals, work relationships, and other factors that drive his or her behavior. Given that understanding, you'll move on to five questions that reveal How Your Boss Sees You. Finally, you'll bring it all together and develop a plan to Take Responsibility for the Relationship. Vivid real-world examples demonstrate Arneson's advice in action and show clearly how this process can be used to gain a more meaningful, productive, and enjoyable work life.

You can improve your relationship with the boss, but it takes insight, and the right attitude. Following Steve Arneson's straightforward, step-by-step method will help you reduce your stress, advance your career, and make things more pleasant for both of you.

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Overview

Uses fifteen straightforward questions to help you uncover what drives your boss and use what you've learned to take charge of the relationship.

* Offers a concise, practical guide to improving your most important work relationship

* Uses fifteen straightforward questions to help you uncover what drives your boss and use what you've learned to take charge of the relationship

* Features real-world examples of people who have used these techniques to improve their relationship with even the most difficult bosses

Whether you're an entry-level employee, a middle manager, or a high level executive, your most important work relationship is the one you have with your boss. If you're connecting well, everything's great; but if you're not getting along, it can be a nerve-wracking and frustrating experience. It's why executive coach Steve Arneson is so often asked: what does my boss want from me? In this book he offers a powerful set of questions to help you get the answer.

But first, Arneson warns you to give up any thoughts of trying to manage or "improve," your boss. It's true, sometimes bosses can be hard to read. They're not always clear about their expectations, act in seemingly inexplicable ways, and can have hidden motives that have nothing to do with helping you achieve your career goals Still, they're not going to change for you-the solution lies in figuring out what makes them tick and adapting your own work style to make the relationship work more effectively.

In this pragmatic and accessible guide, Arneson shows you how to find the answers to fifteen essential questions that will help you understand your boss's motives. The first section, Study Your Boss, features ten questions that will help you figure out your boss's leadership style, goals, work relationships, and other factors that drive his or her behavior. Given that understanding, you'll move on to five questions that reveal How Your Boss Sees You. Finally, you'll bring it all together and develop a plan to Take Responsibility for the Relationship. Vivid real-world examples demonstrate Arneson's advice in action and show clearly how this process can be used to gain a more meaningful, productive, and enjoyable work life.

You can improve your relationship with the boss, but it takes insight, and the right attitude. Following Steve Arneson's straightforward, step-by-step method will help you reduce your stress, advance your career, and make things more pleasant for both of you.

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - Steve Arneson

Steve Arneson is a nationally recognized speaker, executive coach, and leadership consultant. He founded Arneson Leadership Consulting in 2007 to provide practical solutions for individuals and companies looking to enhance their leadership impact. Prior to that, Steve served as the head of leadership development and talent management at divisions of PepsiCo and Yum Brands, and later at AOL, Time Warner Cable, and Capital One.

Steve has been named one of America’s “Top 100 Thought Leaders on Leadership” and one of the country’s “Top 10 Leadership Consultants” by Leadership Excellence magazine. As a speaker and seminar leader, Steve has inspired thousands of leaders worldwide to take charge of their own development, working with the principles in his first book, Bootstrap Leadership. Steve holds a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Kansas, a Ph.D in industrial/organizational psychology from the University of Tulsa, and a leadership coaching certificate from Georgetown University. Steve lives with his family in Boulder, Colorado, and can be reached at [email protected]

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Table of Contents

Introduction

STEP 1 Study Your Boss

When and how is he most approachable?

What is his preferred management style?

What behaviors does he reward?

What is he trying to accomplish in this role?

What is he worried about?

What is his reputation in the company?

Whom does he respect?

Where does he have influence?

What is his relationship like with his boss?

What is his primary motivation?

STEP 2 Consider How Your Boss Sees You

What does she value about you?

How vital are you to her mission?

What does she think you need to improve?

How does she represent you to others?

What is her history with you?

STEP 3 Take Responsibility for the Relationship

It Starts with Attitude

Modify Your Story

Communicate Your New Story

Change Your Behaviors

Write a Development Pla

Common Boss/Motive Scenarios

Afterword

Resources

The 15 Insight Questions

The Reflective Exercises

Acknowledgments

Index

About the Author

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Excerpt

What Your Boss Really Wants from You

image When and how is he most approachable?

This seems like a simple question, doesn’t it? Yet there is a great deal of insight to be gained by studying when and how to approach your boss. Like all managers, he has a particular style of interacting with his team. Some bosses are informal; you can talk to them anytime, anywhere. Others are more rigid and process oriented. The key is to figure out his preferred interaction style. For instance, can you knock on the door and get a minute of his time? Has he declared his preference about the office popin? If not, ask him directly: Are you open to me coming by your office with a quick question, and if so, when is the best time during the day? If that doesn’t work, ask one of your peers or just pay attention to the pattern of when you’ve been most successful. I once worked for a boss who literally wouldn’t allow the “do you have a minute” request—you had to set up an appointment to ask a simple question. Believe me, I wasted a lot of time and energy before I figured this out, and was getting worried that he didn’t like me. But it really had nothing to do with me. It turned out he preferred to read and prepare for any discussion and didn’t feel equipped to make decisions in informal conversations (this single insight explained a lot about this boss, by the way).

In today’s world, understanding his approachability means knowing when to call, text, or instant message, too. The same principles apply—when is he most approachable, and what are his preferences? Some bosses prefer e-mail over phone calls; others want to talk directly if possible. Some bosses text; others won’t. Some bosses are accessible when they are out of the office and others aren’t. You get the idea. It’s about knowing when and how. But it’s also about knowing why.

Understanding why is what helps you make sense of his behavior. I recently coached Tanya, who was experiencing a huge disconnect with her boss. She kept trying to call him directly, and the boss always refused to take her call; the boss’s assistant would just say, “Send him an e-mail.” And of course, whenever Tanya did that, she received a prompt, thoughtful reply. Strange, I know. Wouldn’t it be quicker to just talk on the phone? Of course, the boss never explained his motive, which drove Tanya crazy; she was convinced the boss thought she was a poor performer. Now, as it happens, in my feedback process, I learned the boss wanted a written record of every interaction. He didn’t like the phone for even the shortest conversations because it didn’t allow for a trail of detail or evidence. Was the boss anti-social? Almost certainly. But the real motive behind his interaction style had nothing to do with that; rather, it was based in a more practical (some would say paranoid) reason. This is a perfect example of the value of digging deep to gain an understanding of the core motives behind your boss’s behavior. The “why” isn’t always what it seems to be, and much of the time, it isn’t about you at all.

The second thing you need to study is his mood pattern. What puts him in a good mood, or conversely, a bad frame of mind? What day of the week is he most approachable? When should you leave him alone? Is he stressed right before a meeting with his boss? Do certain events or deadlines impact his approachability? Try this exercise: For a month, make a daily diary of his moods. Name the mood (angry, happy, sad, etc.) and note how approachable he was each day. Then, study the diary to learn your boss’s patterns and work around them to your advantage.

Third, how much can you challenge your boss in group settings? What style of interaction works best? Is he open to rigorous debate? Most managers hold staff meetings with their direct reports, and there are unwritten rules about challenging the boss’s ideas, how long to debate an issue in front of the team, etc. Do you know where this line is with your boss? Have you ever crossed it?

A lot of bosses are resistant to anyone disagreeing with them in public, and it can take a while to learn that. One of my clients, Craig, was getting frustrated with his boss’s staff meetings because no one would challenge the boss’s ideas. As Craig tried repeatedly to push back on his boss (with respect), he made things worse for himself because the boss didn’t tolerate or appreciate this interaction style. Craig learned to discuss these issues outside of the meeting format, but it took some reflection about the boss’s motives to recognize and make this shift in his approach. The trick is to pay attention to the small signs if you find yourself in a non-productive public conversation with your boss. How is he reacting to you? Study his body language and tone of voice. If you’re pushing his buttons, find a gracious exit to the discussion.

Finally, you have to know what subjects are either allowed or out-of-bounds for your boss. What are the topics or questions you can raise, and what are the sacred cows? Where can you probe, and what should you leave alone? There are some issues you shouldn’t approach him about; and if you do, he won’t talk about them anyway. For years, I tried to get a boss to talk about his life outside of work. He wouldn’t do it. I’m an open person, so I thought that was odd—why wouldn’t he share what he did on the weekend? It was really bugging me. He would talk about sports and current events, but not about his hobbies or family. Finally, I realized I wasn’t going to break through that wall between work and home, and stopped asking him. I accepted that I wasn’t going to change him. If he wanted to keep certain things private, that was his choice; he didn’t have to be just like me. And you know what? Once I stopped worrying about it, our relationship improved.

The bottom line is that you need to be thoughtful about approaching your boss. He wants you to fit his interaction practices, not create new ones. Every time you push him out of his comfort zone, you risk annoying him. How many minor irritations are you willing to add to your ledger? The easier path is to adapt to his style by learning exactly when and how he is most approachable. Then, work out the rationale for his preferences so you understand where he’s coming from; there might be an underlying (albeit quirky) reason that has nothing to do with you. You may not like it, but at least you’ll understand it.

image INSIGHTS

Approachability

Recognize when and how he is most approachable.

Determine how to interact with him in a group setting.

Know what he will and won’t discuss with you.

Combine all of this knowledge to choose the best interaction plan.

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Endorsements

“This book is a must-read for both employees and bosses—filled with practical exercises that will make you, your boss, and your company more successful.”
—Helmuth Ludwig, CEO, Siemens Industry Sector

“Steve Arneson understands that while the boss is the team's quar- terback, it is teamwork—built on high-caliber interpersonal relation- ships—that leads to business excellence.”
—Steve Swad, CEO, Rosetta Stone

“Steve Arneson reveals a window into your manager's true motives— just what you need to build a successful partnership with your boss.”
—Marc Effron, author of One Page Talent Management and President, The Talent Strategy Group

“In this fascinating book, Steve Arneson offers a practical road map for understanding and adapting to your boss's motives and style. If you want to improve your relationship with the boss, read this book.”
—Bridgette Weitzel, Chief Talent Officer, BAE Systems

“Getting along with your boss is the key to a long, successful, and fulfilling career. In this smart book, Steve Arneson shares his secrets for improving your most critical work relationship.”
—Bill Allen, Chief Human Resources Officer, Macy's, Inc.

“This book is an invaluable resource for employees and a smart read for all managers who want to be more open about their style, mo- tives, and values.”
—Linda Simon, Senior Vice President, Leadership and Organization Development, DIRECTV

“Managing the relationship with your boss is indispensable for career success; in clear, direct, and punchy prose, Steve Arneson provides explicit and essential advice.”
—Robert Hogan, PhD, President, Hogan Assessment Systems

“Steve Arneson takes years of observation and distills it into a simple guide on how to improve your most important work relationship.”
—Fred Knowles, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Under Armour

“Steve Arneson delivers an insightful and practical playbook about the ever-challenging employee-boss relationship with this clever follow- up to Bootstrap Leadership.”
—David DeFilippo, Chief Learning Officer, BNY Mellon

“Steve Arneson has captured the insights and practical advice needed to build and sustain a powerful relationship with your boss.”
—Scott E. Nelson, CEO, MDA Leadership Consulting

“Steve Arneson asks all the right questions to help us understand the boss and motivates us to adapt and take responsibility for the relationship.”
—Jane Sommers-Kelly, Managing Director, Duke Corporate Education

“Steve Arneson's book is a must-read for bosses and subordinates who are interested in building more effective professional relation- ships with each other.”
—Boris Groysberg, Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

“This book offers a fresh approach to navigating the relationship with your boss. The process and insight Steve Arneson shares can help you get this critical relationship right.”
—Jeff Smith, Global Head of Human Resources, BlackRock

“We've all had at least one challenging boss in our careers, and this book shows you practical ways to take ownership of that relationship to realize your full potential.”
—Doug Rose, Chief Human Resources Officer, Discover Financial

“Steve Arneson once again delivers with provocative questions and in- sights. He provides practical tips for taking accountability and maxi- mizing your most important professional relationship.”
—Tim Tobin, Vice President, Global Learning and Leadership Development, Marriott International

“This book is for all those who have ever gotten a knot in their stom- ach when they get an email or voice mail from their boss. Steve Arneson gives you an effective strategy for the relationship so you'll never feel that anxiety again.”
—Jim Norton, Head of Global Media Sales, AOL

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