We all have bosses. For many employees, that means one deceivingly simple question generates a great deal of thought: what is my boss thinking?
After a high-energy lunchtime session, Next Generation of Government participants attending one of the breakout sessions had the opportunity to tackle this question and learn how its answer can help guide your actions at work.
Following a dynamic conversation with the panelists, attendees were left with six takeaways providing insight into the mind of a boss.
1. See things how your boss sees them
Dave Uejio, president of Young Government Leaders and lead for talent acquisition at the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, offered the analogy of a Google Map as a tool to understand the perspective of your boss. You can see a lot of detail on the ground using street view, but as you rise higher and higher in the office, you can pull back and see the whole city. If you can understand where your boss is coming from, you can understand what he or she needs from you on the ground as part of the bigger picture.
2. Be creative
Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said understanding the vision is the first step to allowing for creativity on the job. An ideal employee is one who can clearly understand the mission of his or her position and the organization as a whole and doesn’t simply follow the mission blindly but instead lives up to it by adding his or her own creativity and thoughts.
3. Communication is key
Barbara Pabotoy, associate chief of human capital officer at the Department of the Treasury, said your boss needs to hear your concerns about the job in order to assist you in fulfilling your piece of the mission. Pabotoy acknowledged that passion for the mission doesn’t necessarily mean clarity about the mission. Help your boss bridge this gap by making your own ambiguity about the job and your own barriers to job success clear so you can work together to fulfill the mission.
4. Be passionate
Fauci said as a boss he is looking for people who have a desire to get the job done, not necessarily to get promoted. Fauci said promotion is a result of an effort to and a passion for getting the job done well. Melanie Stinnett, deputy chief counsel at ATF, echoed Fauci’s point, saying that passionate employees willing to take initiative are the people who catch her eye. Be passionate about your job performance, not about using the job as a stepping stone.
5. Do your research before disagreeing
Make sure you understand your boss’ position before disagreeing with him or her. Don’t communicate your feelings in a disgruntled manner, and choose your venue for the conversation carefully. Language is powerful, Pabototy said – be respectful. Fauci said if you are prepared with a reason why you disagree and offer an alternative approach, the conversation will have a greater chance of being beneficial for both parties.
6. Listen to your gut
Pabotoy and Fauci addressed the question of when to move on from a specific position by encouraging attendees to listen to their own thoughts and emotions. If a position is not for you, you’ll know. If your gut is telling you to move on, don’t overlook lateral opportunities elsewhere. Uejio said it is beneficial at times to step away from the pursuit of climbing the career ladder and instead look to move laterally. Stinnett said in order to make a move successfully, you need to know your abilities and look for where those abilities will be a good fit.