To manage your manager’s expectations, you must first know precisely what is expected of you.
The very first step has a job description that covers all of the skills and tasks your boss requires of you. This, unfortunately, is very, very rare! Assistant job descriptions are sketchy at best and often have phrases such as ‘and anything else that might be needed’ or ‘ad hoc duties’.
This will work in your favour if you have a detailed job spec. If not, it is worth asking your manager if you can flesh out a few more specific tasks. Do this tomorrow, don’t wait for your next performance review.
Communication will always be key!
As I’ve always said, communicating with your manager is key to EVERYTHING!
It is essential when it comes to managing expectations. You must have regular and face-to-face contact with your manager. If you do not, it will jeopardise your working relationship because how will you know what your boss is thinking and what is expected of you?
A continual dialogue is so meaningful
Don’t misunderstand that you and your manager are on the same page! It’s hard enough being on the same page with your friends and family, let alone your work colleagues!
The only way to ensure you understand what your Executive wants is to continuously communicate with them and have an open and honest dialogue. Understanding their priorities and aligning your goals with theirs is in your best interest.
What are the specifics?
So your manager has given you a project, and you will need to know the specifics to deliver what is expected. Make sure you ask them the following:
- What are the objectives of this project?
- Is it an ongoing project, or is there a deadline for success?
- If you have a deadline, is it realistic?
- What are you being judged on here?
Don’t let your manager get away with vague instructions.
This is so important because it is so easy for them to do. You are there to support them, so they may spend less time explaining what they need from you than they would with your colleagues.
Always define the specifics to your manager (either with a follow-up email or during the initial project conversation).
With long-term tasks, such as scheduling or email management, do the same thing, define exactly how they want you to manage their correspondence and calendar.
Again have this conversation immediately if you haven’t already – how else do you know if you are meeting their expectations? If you have been working with your manager for a while, it is always worth having a review meeting to suggest new ways of working and any best practices you have picked up from colleagues or previous roles you’ve been in.
Suggest this to your manager and work in ways to ask precisely what their expectations are!
Evaluate and Re-evaluate!
Keeping your manager in the loop during your working day is always worthwhile. Let them know if you have hit any obstacles, what you are doing to overcome them and any progress you have made. Adjust what is required of you depending on the feedback you receive from your manager.
Don’t always seek approval but do evaluate their expectations based on the everyday conversations that you have.
Invest in your relationship
Again this is something I’ve mentioned in previous posts. It is the case that the better your relationship, the easier it is to manage your boss’s expectations.
Invest time getting to know each other, go out for the occasional coffee, and ask about their life outside of work. Also, appreciate their sense of humour and laugh at the occasional joke (even if you have to force yourself!)
Are the expectations realistic?
This is when having a good relationship with your manager comes into its own because it can be hard to speak up when expectations of you are unrealistic. You must stand up for yourself. It might feel uncomfortable, to begin with, but it will ultimately help.
You don’t want to fail in meeting their expectations because you haven’t been honest with them. If you have concerns about not meeting deadlines, plan an alternative approach and discuss that with your manager. Don’t bury your head in the sand; hope to get through everything.
Also, think about the best time to raise your concerns. Knowing their moods throughout the day will help you pick a good point to discuss any issues with them.
Have a contingency plan
I know this can be difficult with all of the work that most of us have to get through in a day, but I think having a little contingency time in place every day to manage any urgent requests from your boss is worth it.
If you can drop everything and help them immediately, you will exceed their expectations. If that contingency time isn’t used, you have extra time to play with daily. Yay!
Proactivity will always be a central skill for assistants, and again it is imperative when you want to exceed expectations. Do be self-motivated and go the extra mile for your manager.
Be helpful and easy to work with.
One little tip is always to ask your manager if there is anything more you can do for them before you go home at the end of a working day.
It is an excellent way of showing that you think of them when considering going home. If there is anything they need you to do, they have delegated it, and you can deal with the request first thing in the morning. Do you think, ‘what can I do today to make my boss’s job easier?
You want your boss to have high expectations!
Nothing is worse than having a manager who doesn’t expect much from their Assistant. Trust me; convincing them you can do more is like an uphill battle. Having a boss who expects great things from you means you can perform at a higher level and excel.