One of the best ways to forge a strong relationship with your boss is to ask the right questions, including: "What can I be doing that's most helpful to you right now?"; "When is it due?"; and "How should I prioritize these tasks?" Knowing the answer to t
- One of the great underappreciated skills in the workplace is the ability to ask the right questions. Here's one of them. When I was working as the New Hampshire communications director on a presidential campaign, I had a staffer named Kumar, who was the best person who ever worked for me. Part of the reason was a question he asked. What can I be doing that's most helpful to you right now? Now I had been an employee before and I'd never asked my boss that question. I had a clear idea in my head about what my job was and I was gonna do that.
What I didn't realize, and Kumar did, was that you can make yourself uniquely valuable and appreciated if you show that you're not just willing to do the tasks you think you were hired to do. Instead, if you're willing to do anything to be helpful to your boss, they will love you. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, they're not gonna exploit you and say go get my laundry. But knowing that your priority is taking things off their plate and helping them, gives them existential peace that will keep them loyal.
Another great question to ask is how should I prioritize that? We talked a little bit about this in another video on managing expectations, but it bears repeating. If you don't know how your boss is ranking different projects, you're flying blind. You have no idea if you're working on the most important task, or the twentieth most important task. Even if you're working hard, your effectiveness could be nil, if you're not working on the right things. So be sure to ask up front and often to see what your boss cares about.
Then do that. Another killer question to ask is do you see anything I'm missing? Here's why. Most bosses, except for the pathological micro managers, don't want you bothering them all the time, asking them how to do something. They want you to figure it out. They want to give high level instructions and then you go develop a plan and execute it. They simply don't have time to plan it all out for you. So asking them to do so is counterproductive. However, it's always a good idea to get your boss's feedback and input before you're too far down the road.
A great compromise then is to come up with a written plan or a PowerPoint deck, if that's a relevant option, explaining how you plan to approach a given problem or a project you're working on. Then, you can run it by them early on and ask do you see anything I'm missing? You're not making them do your job for you. You've come up with a plan. But you're also being inclusive and benefiting from their wisdom because they may indeed see some gaps that hadn't occurred to you. You get their buy in and the idea improves too.
Often in the workplace, we think the key is having the right answers and looking smart. But the truth is we can often get further by asking the right questions in the first place.
- Communicating with your colleagues
- When to use the phone or send an email
- Interpreting nonverbal cues
- Asking your boss the right questions
- Knowing when to listen and when to speak
- Communicating in tricky situations
- Handling an interruption
- Responding to critical feedback
- How to communicate as an introvert