Five Questions No One Thinks to Ask Themselves About Their Boss

Steve Arneson Posted by Steve Arneson, Leadership Consultant, Arneson Leadership Consulting.

Steve Arneson is a nationally recognized speaker, executive coach, and leadership consultant. He founded Arneson Leadership Consulting in 2007 to provide practical solutions for individuals and companies looking to enhance their leadership impact.


Five Questions No One Thinks to Ask Themselves About Their Boss

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In his latest book, Steve Arneson provides a guide to getting into your boss's mind to see what his or her motivations and goals are and he does this by asking you to explore and answer fifteen crucial questions.

Some of these questions are very sensible and practical whereas some are ones that seem so obvious that you'll wonder why you never thought of asking yourself these before. Here are just five questions that no one thinks to ask themselves to really understand their boss(but really should):

1. What is my boss worried about?

Bosses often have to project a level of confidence and authority that reflects a very optimistic and worry-free persona, and many employees are often inclined to believe that is really how their boss is. But like all of us, bosses have worries and concerns. Recognizing those worries is a crucial first step to understanding your boss's motivations and goals.

2. What is my boss's preferred management style?

Management trends come and go and many bosses at all levels are often expected to follow a particular style or technique or feel that they should. The problem is that if a particular style is not natural to him or her, it's as taxing for the boss as it is for the employee to work using it. By figuring out your boss's preferred management style, you make it easier for him or her to work with you by meeting them on their turf. And what's easier for them is by default easier for you.

3. What is my boss's relationship like with his or her boss?

It's a question that's rarely asked. We all have bosses, and though the chain of command only goes up a level at a time, your boss is just as accountable to a higher-level boss as you are to him or her. Studying the relationship between your boss and your boss's boss gives you insight into how they see themselves and how they relate to others whom they are accountable to, thereby providing you with a blueprint for your own relationship.

4. What behaviors does my boss reward?

This is yet another way to verify your boss's preferences and management style. Whether they are aware of it or not (and often they are not), bosses will positively reinforce and reward those behaviors they like. People generalize a boss's behavior with what he or she most wants from others, but this is not always so. A very mild-mannered boss may reward aggressive go-getters, while brusque and curt bosses may think highly of personable and relatable individuals. Find out what your boss rewards and  you'll know what he or she wants from you.

5. How does your boss represent you to others?

How your boss talks to you may not be how he or she talks about you to others, and this can be a good or bad thing depending on your boss's motivations and relationship style. We've all encountered situations where we found out that our boss was praising us to his other colleagues and were surprised because we weren't even sure that the boss liked us. In more unfortunate circumstances, the opposite can also be true. Whether intentional or not, how your boss interacts with you may not always be an accurate indicator of what he or she thinks of your abilities, but how your boss speaks about you to others is very much so.