What Your Boss Wants

Master these old-school basics

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
-Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

Congratulations! You got the job! Now what? If you’re just entering the work force, or changing to a new job, you wouldn’t be human if your excitement didn’t also contain a bit of apprehension. This is natural, as starting a new job is one of the top causes of stress. If you’re feeling anxious and wondering what your new boss is expecting from you, here are some tips to help you come through as you were designed to.

9mm, semi-automatic, Springfield, Sportsman,

You’re working by choice — don’t do it like you have a gun to your head!


In a previous post, I explained the importance of delivering results in every circumstance. You landed the job because your employer believes in your ability to produce. The best roles are those that allow you to measure your progress, to see the worth you generate. So your first task is to determine from your boss’s point of view what a great job looks like and deliver that. All day. Every day.

High speed

The workplace is changing and the pace is quicker than ever. Even if your business is to serve other businesses, your clients are consumers in their daily lives, with the same expectations of a predictably enjoyable experience and a quick, trouble-free transaction. Your task is to develop the knowledge and skill to deliver your output quickly and consistently.

Low drag

Management expert Peter Drucker foretold the rise of the knowledge economy — where most workers didn’t make things, they dealt in knowledge and information. Even for those still working in manufacturing, there is a substantial knowledge component that has accounted for unparalleled increases in productivity. No matter what your role, bring your brain to work and use it. Learn the procedures your employer requires and if you see ways to improve them, think through the business case for your proposed changes and present them to your boss.

Low drama

Unless you work for the owner of the company, odds are your boss has a boss. He (or she) has his own set of problems and doesn’t need you creating new ones. In particular your boss doesn’t want to solve problems for you that you could solve yourself. Ditto, refereeing disputes between you and other employees or departments.

You can distinguish yourself by being pleasant, helpful and above office politics. Getting along with your co-workers is important, but getting your work done is more important. Don’t linger at the coffee machine and stay clear of the temptation to enter into other people’s drama.


When you get an assignment, make sure you understand when your boss needs your work. If you get a vague answer, propose a specific date — “Close of business on Friday?” It’s very important to hit these deadlines consistently. See the item above.


If work begins at 8:00, by all means be there at your station at 8:00. This means you are groomed, dressed in proper work attire and ready to produce. Life happens, and you may oversleep or be sick one day. Understand your company’s attendance policy and make sure you notify your boss if you run into trouble. Do right and you have less to worry about.


Unless you’re punching a clock and your boss tells you not to stay past your scheduled work time, you’ll earn credibility by solving problems, and by sticking with the effort until you do.


It will take time, but becoming a consistent performer will create more opportunities for you. Your boss will recommend you for increased (read better-paying) positions in your company. Let me add that you will fail from time to time, but being reliably resilient will also enhance your reputation.


Part of being new in a job is taking in all the specific tasks you have to master while also learning the culture of your company as well as the cultures of the company’s customers and suppliers. Being open to the process, and sure of your ability to grasp all of this will help you succeed. My friends in recovery like to say, “Fake it ’til you make it.” Interestingly, behaving confidently will help you to become more confident — a virtuous circle. Just make sure your confidence rests ultimately on a foundation of achievement.


Confidence and humility are not opposites. You can be confident in your abilities while still humble enough to recognize that you still have a lot to learn. This means that when your boss offers correction or criticism, you ask clarifying questions, but you don’t offer excuses. It’s even better if you can repeat to your boss — in your own words — your understanding of the corrective action you are to take.

Also, it is not necessary to apologize for not knowing something — unless it’s a policy you received on your first day at work. Save apologies for genuine offenses and accept the lessons your boss is offering you.


Working musicians in Nashville don’t necessarily find work according to their musical virtuosity. Above a certain level of talent, it’s very hard to rank one player over another. Instead, the players who get more work are the ones who are known as “a good hang.” This means someone good to be around. Performing is a relatively small fraction of a musician’s time, so being good company makes the work more enjoyable.

Your boss is not looking for a new best friend, but he is looking for a capable associate who is also enjoyable to interact with. Master these tips while you learn the fundamentals of your job and you’ll be in demand over the course of your career.

So how about you? Which of these attributes do you need to work on to excel in your job? What have I missed? Add your comments below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Bring your best manners, please.

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