I’ve been in positions where I report to people and I’ve been in positions where people report to me. I’ve been an employee and now I’m an employer. I believe one of the most important skill that people need to learn is to manage your boss.
Surprisingly, I have observed that this skill does not come naturally to many people, resulting in mismatch in expectation and workplace tension with the boss thinking the staff is incompetent and the staff thinking the boss is unreasonable.
On an academic point of view, I recommend young executives to read Peter Drucker’s Managing Oneself. Even better, read the HBR 10 Must Read The Essentials. On a practical point of view, with specific examples, you basically need to know what your reporting superior values. A good manager should communicate his expectation to his subordinate. Regardless, a good subordinate should always clarify expectations with his manager (this is where you can exceed expectations). Does your manager value punctuality, timely updates immediately after meetings via Whatsapp, or does he value innovative ideas in making operations more efficient.
Some may think that a good manager would expect all this of a subordinate but in actual fact, some are valued more above others. For example, if you have a boss that doesn’t really care what time you come in to work but expects you to update him or the team via Whatsapp after every meeting on the outcome, should you come in at 8am every day but do not update him or your team chat group, there is a high probability that he thinks you are incompetent. Another example would be if your manager (and the management) are in process of limiting capital expenditure until profitability rises, should you continuously give ideas that additional purchases would make operations better, there is a high probability that your manager thinks you are yapping and detrimental to the team. Instead, you should focus on asset efficiency and communicate to your boss how assets can be made more efficient.
It is your job to find out what your manager values and if it’s not made explicit, go ask him.