Regardless of your position in a school district, you will always report to someone.
Teachers report to an administrator.
Administrators report to a superintendent.
Superintendents report to the school board.
And regardless of supervisor, there are always tasks to complete. Whether it’s turning in paperwork, collecting data, or completing trainings, meeting a boss’s demands is a way of life.
When a boss asks you to complete a task, how do you respond?
Does the request become a top priority?
Or, does the request fall through the cracks?
How you respond to your boss's orders is critical. Not only do your actions determine your professional fate, your responsiveness directly impacts happiness in life.
In The Principal, Surviving and Thriving, Andrew Marotta does an excellent job of talking about the importance of meeting a boss's expectations. Consider the following:
Take care of items and issues for your bosses right away. You cannot miss your boss's stuff. Replying to emails, attending meetings, dealing with things. In spite of whatever is flying at you, make sure you see and tend to your bosses' stuff. Put it on your to-do list.… Bosses have a lot going on and a lot on their plate. You do not want to add to that by giving them reason to worry about you. Will you complete the task? If you miss a couple times, they will start to doubt you and lose trust in you.
While meeting a supervisor's expectations seems like a no-brainer, the reality is many school leaders struggle marching their bosses' expectations. Whether it’s a missed deadline, incomplete paperwork, or an unanswered email, school leaders constantly have to be reminded about unfinished work.
“Isn't everything important?" you may be asking. “Should it really matter if it comes from a boss, a peer, or a parent?"
While responding to the request of a peer or parent are important, replying to a supervisor's request is more important. Why? Because your boss is the one individual responsible for measuring job performance. While others' opinions play a role in your success, your boss is the only person with the ability to keep you - or remove you - from your position.
"Ok, I get that." you may be thinking. "But you mentioned happiness. How does meeting my boss's demands make me happier? I hate doing work for my boss!"
In The Originals, Adam Grant discusses the concept of idiosyncrasy credit. Idiosyncrasy credit is a concept in social psychology that "describes an individual's capacity to acceptably deviate from group expectations." Idiosyncrasy credits are earned each time an individual meets the expectations of the boss, and forfeited each time an individual does not.
In simpler terms, when an employee follows through on a commitment, that individual earns a small piece of trust from her boss. Over time - as that employee continually meets her boss's requests - she earns more and more trust, which translates to workplace autonomy. And - as research has proven - autonomy is the secret to being happy at work.
In most organizations, approximately 90 percent of employees regularly meet their bosses' requests. Assuming the boss effectively communicates reasonable expectations, a large majority of employees meet demands without issue.
The more employees meet supervisor expectations, the more trust they earn. As the idiosyncrasy credits pile up, those employees are given more freedom and allowed to take bigger risks. And when mistakes happen, they have accrued enough capital that the error is easily forgiven.
However, let's focus on the other 10 percent of employees. Every school district has individuals who consistently struggle to meet expectations.
Consider your school for a moment. Is there a teacher who can't be trusted to update grades, turn in paperwork, or call back parents? Whether this person lacks organizational skills - or don't think boss's orders are important - this individual cannot be trusted to complete even the simplest of tasks.
But if you think this only pertains to teachers, you are wrong.
Many school leaders struggle meeting supervisor demands. Although we assume administrators should be inherently dependable, some administrators struggle more than teachers. Whether they fail to upload a report, document a conversation, or return a phone call, each school district has leaders who cannot be trusted.
I once supervised a leader who I could not trust to meet deadlines or follow through on commitments. Regardless of the task, I always presumed the task would not be completed.
As a leader who preaches "Assume the positive!" and encourages workplace autonomy, having a weak link on our team was incredibly frustrating. Whereas I could trust other team members to complete tasks without worry, I had to spend considerable time and energy asking for missing work and reinforcing expectations with this particular individual.
Although I did not hire this employee, I could not help but think of the following quote from Jim Collins in Good to Great: "The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you’ve made a hiring mistake.”
Needless to say, this leader did not last long in our organization.
Looking to meet the expectations of your boss? Here are five ideas to consider:
Capture: Employees must have a reliable system to track commitments. Whereas some leaders stubbornly rely on memory to recall responsibilities, efficient leaders develop a system for keeping track of duties. Notecards and electronic documents are great places to start. Personally, I am a big fan of the Moleskine notebook.
Communicate: One of the quickest ways to lose your boss's trust is poor communication. Whether it be email, text, or phone call, employees must respond to their boss in a timely manner. High functioning bosses expect team members to be strong communicators, and become frustrated when they have to routinely ask certain team members "Did you get my email/text/phone call?"
Clarify: Bosses can get very busy, meaning that sometimes they aren’t clear in explaining what they need from direct reports. As we've discussed before, highly effective employees realize it's ok to ask "dumb questions." Rather than wonder what the boss is wanting, take a moment to ask questions to ensure tasks are done correctly.
Control: When your boss isn’t giving new assignments, it is vital that you handle the “other” responsibilities of your position. From a superintendent’s perspective, few things are better than a principal who takes care of the issues in their building. Principals (and other leaders) are wise to focus on "putting our fires" before they reach their supervisor's office.
Check-In: Direct reports should consider setting up up a weekly 1:1 meetings with their supervisor to ensure they are meeting expectations. Employees who initiate alignment conversations with their bosses not only build trust, they place responsibility for clarifying job duties back on the supervisor.
National Bosses Day is celebrated annually on October 16th.
On this day, employees give bosses cards, flowers, and gifts.
While all are nice gestures, most bosses would gladly trade employee donations for employee dependability.
Rather than celebrate bosses day once a year, start treating every day like bosses day.