When was the last time you asked your boss about his or her goals and challenges?
Most of the time, we are very focused on our own goals. We are interested in our boss’s goals to the extent they impact our day to day work. But do we dig very deeply into our boss’s goals and challenges? Typically, no.
Periodically, our boss will tell us about the unit’s goals and how that impacts us. We may ask a few questions, but we don’t tend to try to deeply explore those – we take them as a given. We move directly on to how those goals affect us, without thinking too hard about how they impact the boss. We too quickly accept the answers without probing deeply enough to really understand the underlying issues…or assume we already know what they are.
This is a big mistake. We are too quick to accept what seems obvious, and miss subtleties that can help us take our work to a new level. We also miss a great opportunity to create real influence with our boss.
When you first ask anyone about their goals or challenges, you typically get a fairly superficial answer. It’s important not to leave it there, and take the answer at face value. You need to peel back the onion and dig into what leads to that being so important, what factors get in the way of solving the problem, how much that issue is costing the operation, etc. The deeper you get into it, the more insight you will have into the issues, and the better you will be able to see how you might be able to approach your own work in a way that facilitates solutions.
You always have options in how you go about your day to day work, and how you prioritize your tasks. The more you know about your boss’s challenges and what’s behind those, the better you can organize your own work and approaches to show your alignment with those.
Simply by asking the questions, and focusing on the impact on your boss, you build a much stronger bridge. You distinguish yourself from the ‘average’ employee who takes these issues as a given and doesn’t make the effort to understand these issues at a deeper level.
Think about how much stronger a relationship you could create with your boss if you really understood what keeps him or her up at night, and he or she saw that you attacked your own work in ways that showed you were focused on helping him or her make real progress on those issues!
Try doing this with others with whom you are trying to have a deeper relationship as well. For more on “Digging Into Challenges”, see this article: https://jhacareers.com/articles-challenges/