In the words of Christina Aguilera “Whatever makes you happy sets me free.” It may sound simple, but finding out what’s important to your boss really can be the key to having it all at work.
I’ve been a manager and I’ve supported managers so I can verify this from both sides of the fence.
When I was a manager, I lead a team of three recruiters. The business in question was a high street recruitment agency so needless to say the identity of these three recruiters would change on a reasonably regular basis. Despite this our small team managed to run a profitable, ethical franchise and we were often praised for creating a positive and uplifting working environment. The reason for our success was quite simple. My team were loyal, hard-working and they were able to pinpoint and deliver upon all the things I really wanted.
These things (I felt) were simple. I wanted them to turn up on time looking smart. I wanted them to have a positive outlook and a can-do attitude . Most of all I wanted to them to be surgically attached to their phones for as much of the day as possible after all, success in high street recruitment was (and probably still is) measured by the number of calls you manage to make, regardless of their quality. Luckily my team understood this and aside from the pre-requisite tea and biscuit breaks they duly stayed attached to their handsets. On the rare occasion that a new recruit did not embody this behavior it literally used to keep me up at night. How could I get them to understand that I didnít care if the bin was emptied, the back yard swept or the stationary cupboard re-organized. I would quite happily have had an overflowing bin and a cupboard that resembled an explosion in a paper factory if it meant I could persuade them to make more phone calls. No wonder we all moved on eventually. The point is, if my team managed to tick my short list of must-haves then I felt quite able to trust them to get on with their work. More importantly I would also give them my unconditional support in the face of any eventuality and it all made for a very agreeable working environment.
I am now in a position where I support not one, not two but four senior colleagues. Itís not as bad as it sounds. We are in fact a very close-knit team and we donít operate within a deliberately hierarchical culture. The emphasis is very much on our collective output and we all value each-others skills and listen to each-others views. That said, my mind is constantly occupied with trying to second guess what everyone wants and trying to prioritise a list of tasks that all seem to be just important as each other. This is mainly my own fault as I am a natural people pleaser which I counteract with an annoying ability to occasionally throw all caution to the wind and do my own thing (which never ends well).
The team I support are very understanding but the difference between when I get it right and when I get it wrong is palpable. To put it into context, I now work for a team of specialist recruiters who operate within the senior procurement market. They are busy individuals juggling multiple projects and managing challenging situations. My role couldnít be more different. I am responsible for the integrity of our database, our creative marketing and our social media presence, work that requires me to concentrate, go into my deep thinking space and to all intents and purposes, zone out so that I can focus on the job at hand. This is fine most of the time but there are occasions where quick thinking and nimble mindedness are called for and I struggle to escape from my bubble. I’ll just finish this paragraphî I think, ìthen Iíll update the database with that missing bit of candidate documentationî. Three days later I get asked why the vital bit of info is still missing and my boss is left with a bemused expression on his face thinking, but I asked her to do that last week!î
On the flip side when I get things right or dare I say it add some extra valueí not only are the team happier ñ I am too. They feel confident that I have a complete handle on things and I feel valued and trusted; both of which are really important to my personal fulfillment at work.
Whilst I appreciate that the kind of challenges others face within their roles will be very different, the principle remains the same. Find out whatís important to the person you report to and do everything you can to deliver this to them. I’m not saying you should be in any way sycophantic, just aware of the impact you can have by supporting your superiors in the things they most desire.