An Automation Engineer and I were having breakfast not long ago when he mentioned that his department had gotten a new boss.
And later that morning he was going to have his first one-on-one meeting with the new boss.
Then he asked, “What do you think I should ask him?”
This was an interesting question.
What should every report know from their boss?
Here’s what I suggested he ask…
“Ask him three questions. But ask them in this order.” I replied.
Q1: What results do you expect from me?
Too often I’ve seen reports afraid to insist on clarity about what is expected of them.
When you don’t know what is expected of you, you’re left to act on your “best guess”. Only for you to discover later that you’ve been focusing on the wrong priorities.
If you want to know how to prioritize your work, ask the “Results” question!
*Bonus Points if you can identify specific metrics to guide your priorities.
Q2: How does my contribution help us achieve our department’s goals?
As an individual contributor, you’re in the weeds doing your work every day and can forget what you’re working towards as a team.
Gaining perspective on your team or department’s goals helps you better understand your boss’ priorities.
So the answer to this question tells you the results your boss is being measured against. That’s right, your boss has a boss too.
If you want to demystify your boss’ actions, ask the “Department Goals” question.
Q3: How do our department goals fulfill the company’s plan for the year?
Many employees don’t care about hitting yearly targets or fulfilling mission because they think it doesn’t affect them.
But you start caring when the organization falters and you’re uncertain how long you’ll have a job.
The answer to this question tells you what it takes for your company to fulfill its mission… and stay in business.
To understand what your senior leaders are focused on, ask the “Company Plan” question.
Do you feel connected?
After suggesting the Engineer ask his new boss these three questions, he tells me, “I think I’ve had over 20 different leaders in my career and only one has ever volunteered an answer these three questions. And it’s the organization I felt most connected in.”
Unfortunately, this is all too common inside organizations today. We expect employees to connect the dots themselves between their work, their teammates, and the organization’s mission.
But it’s each individual leader’s responsibility to make explicitly clear the answer to each of these questions.
Because knowing the answers to these three questions makes you feel connected to your work, your team, and your organization.