Responsibilities of the boss

How much do you know about your boss's world? You may spend your working day organising it, but how much do you think about his responsibilities and how they fit into the organisation and its mission? Why does your boss sometimes look so stressed and harassed? Don't forget - it may not just be work that's causing him worries, things could be happening at home, too. He is only human, after all.

By – Sally Longson

Whether you work for a huge global organisation or a small company with a few people, get a clearer picture of your boss's role by finding out:

  • What does his job description look like? What are his responsibilities? Has he ever sat down and told you about them? How are they changing, and what effect will that have on you? What career opportunities will that create for you?

  • What other responsibilities does your boss take on over and above his job description? He may sit on different committees across the organisation to contribute overall to its vision and the portrayal of its image. He may be involved in reviewing global performance, giving feedback on a new product the IT section are trying out; organising a conference for clients to update them on what the company is doing. (No doubt, much of that will fall on your shoulders.)

  • In "You Plc: You Hold Everything Together" we look at the structure of your organisation and the career implications it has for you. Now look at that structure again and where your boss fits in with it. Who does he report to? Who is he responsible to, immediately (i.e. his boss) and ultimately (for example, shareholders, the Board). Using a current organisational chart (there is usually one on the staff Intranet or in any 'welcome to new staff' induction packs), see how your section fits in relation to others. Study how the company has changed its structure since you've been there. What effect has that had on your work-load and that of your boss? Who does your boss work most closely with? Look to see who your boss considers his allies and trusted friends; and what relationship does he have with the key decision-makers in the business. How could that change in the future and what opportunities could that create for you?

  • Study your company's vision. What strategies does it have to achieve it, and where do your section and your boss's responsibilities fit into making sure that happens? What targets does he have to meet? Who comes up with those? What happens if he exceeds them? What happens if he doesn't? What might stop him achieving them? What difference does his work make to the organisation's profits; the shareholders; the customers, his managers; those who are accountable to him?

  • How much effort does he make to keep abreast with what's happening in the world? What does he focus on? What does he read and what are his other sources of information? He could for example read the relevant professional publications and magazines and daily newspapers (perhaps the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal). He may also get a lot of his information by checking news agencies on the Internet and studying the stock market on his computer. Find out what you can do to help him in his research: for example, if he's off to see a new client, why not do as much research as you can on the Internet and presenting it to him a day or two before the meeting, so that he has a chance to read it? Put the name of the company inthe Internet and visit not only its web site, but check any other references to it on your search engine. It's good to know who you'll be dealing with when the client calls up.

  • Find out whether your boss has to do any continuing professional development to maintain any memberships he has of professional bodies. Does he have to do a specific number of hours studying a year, or regular exams in order to keep his status as a professional? Find out, and make a note of what he has to do and when; where he can do this study and how; and schedule in time when he can do it in his day.

Understand the process of what your boss does. There may be an annual pattern to his job description, with particular events needing to happen at specific times of the year. For example, he may get heavily involved in recruiting graduates for a training programme to help human resources out during one month in every year. There may be a process he has to follow when bringing in a new client and securing their business: your boss may need to pitch for that business and compete for it; contracts may need to be exchanged outlining the terms of business; he may need to make sure that by taking on his client he won't conflict with any other clients the firm already has. Much depends on what your company offers in terms of products and services, but make sure you know what the process is in terms of how those are delivered to the client and what makes them happen; who is responsible for each stage and how far does your boss go into the detail, as opposed to giving it to others work out.

Remember, you have your own view of what is right and important in the world.
Your boss has his.
Respect each others.

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