Search the site

Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


In Case You Wonder What Your Boss is Thinking

Most everyone who reads my blogs is a leader. Almost all of you, however, are also under an authority too. While you’re a leader, you may not be the top leader in your organization. In case you’re wondering why a top leader does and says what he (or she) does, let me explain something to you.

Last week I had a nervous moment with two of my team members. Growing Leaders is building a new website and I began to “wax eloquent” with my thoughts on why this issue is so important and what I felt we should do with the new site. To lighten things up a bit, I closed my comments with a joke about how one of the downsides of their job is they must listen to me drone on and on like this.

I could tell by their nervous laughter that they were glad I was finished…and that they both wondered why I felt I needed to review what they felt they already knew. Why does their “boss” feel he needs to go on and on about this topic?

When top-level leaders review something you already know—and you begin to wonder why they feel the need to do this, they’re generally feeling something at the “soul” level. It’s something team members who’ve never had the pressure of a top- level position may not understand.

It’s the feeling a landlord has when talking to a tenant in an apartment complex. While the renter does reside in the apartment, they don’t “own” it. The landlord feels apprehensive about the renter—they may not treat it the same as they would.

It’s the feeling a car rental agency feels when leasing a car to someone. That car belongs to them, and they fear the renter won’t treat it the same way they would their own car. And…they’re probably right. So they put all kinds of clauses in the contract to protect them from harm and irresponsibility.

Five Steps to Take

Let me suggest a few things you can do to assure your leader you’re responsible:

  1. Once you’re given a task, respond immediately letting her know you’re on it.
  2. Ask questions during the task’s implementation that show attention to detail.
  3. When unsure, check back with your leader what priority is most important.
  4. Show tangible demonstrations that you’re executing exactly what they want.
  5. Along the way, give progress reports on steps you’re taking. Over-communicate.

Have you been in a similar situation? How did you handle it?



  1. Rob T on July 18, 2012 at 8:12 am

    yes, great points. a practical step would be writing it down in their presence. sounds obvious, but it seems that most people do not take this step anymore. this will also help you remember later the priority of the task. thanks Tim.

    • Tim Elmore on July 18, 2012 at 10:43 am

      Great point! That is a crucial step.

  2. Ashley on July 18, 2012 at 8:15 am

    I have been in a situation where I couldn’t understand why the Boss was laboring a point that I felt was understood. It started to create a tension and distrust from the boss in my work though I was new to a certain position. I hated it. I loved working there, but the boss laboring and laboring caused me to feel micromanaged. I did over-communicate, but was told to stop doing that. That’s icky. In the end, it led to my parting from that company. Ultimately, my lesson learned was to have at least 3 points of contact about an issue/task. (accept the task, update on the task, finished the task). Questions are great, but must not a “butt covering” act. If you feel like you are asking questions to cover your butt, it’s time to re-evaluate your situation.

  3. Sarah on July 18, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    I learned the importance of doing these things while I was working in the public schools. Now that I’m back in a full-time ministry position, I continued to practice these. However, the reaction from my boss has not been positive. By boss has responded to my attempts to understand and communicate that I understand by shutting down and withdrawing from any interaction. My first reaction was to ask teammates how they heard and interpreted my comments, to ensure that my communication style hasn’t come across harsh or attacking. They assured me that is not the case. I’m lost at what to do from here. Any thoughts on how to handle the situation?

    • Tim Elmore on July 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      That’s a difficult situation. However, I want to encourage you to continue exercising your interpersonal skills. I think you are definitely doing the right thing by getting your teammates perspective on your communication style.

Leave a Comment

In Case You Wonder What Your Boss is Thinking