GETTING TO KNOW YOUR BOSS
Obviously, you know your Boss, because you most likely were interviewed for the Exec job. However, in reality, at the outset you know very little about your Boss’ true expectations. To really meet your objectives of removing obstacles from his/her path and staying ahead, you must get to know your Boss on a deeper, more characteristic level. I strongly encourage you read this guide, then meet with your Boss at the earliest opportunity to ask and answer some important questions. This will not only start you off on the right foot by showing initiative, but if your Boss has never had an Exec before, it will give you both an opportunity to establish the ground rules at the beginning of the game. If you don’t take this step, you run the risk of falling into some very deep, and in some cases unrecoverable, traps and habits. The pace will very quickly become fast. If you know the Boss’ desires going in, you’ll have a better chance at staying ahead. To stay ahead, you must be able to anticipate what he/she wants and needs. To anticipate, you must know your Boss on a characteristic level.
Here are some questions to ask (Note: This is not an all inclusive list. You may determine other questions as you go through the guide and get to know your Boss better. Also, keep this list handy in case your Boss answers some of the questions before you ask them. You don’t want to make the Boss repeat himself/herself.):
What time of the day do you prefer minimum interruptions so you can optimize your daily activities such as planning and related topics — morning or afternoon?
What hours do you like to work?
Do you have a preference on my duty hours?
Do you expect me to be here when you are here?
How do you want me to work visitors through your office? Should they all be scheduled or do you prefer I allow walk-ins? Is it OK with you if I approve visitors to your office based on your guidance? That way, I’ll know who is coming to see you and will take care of making sure you are prepared.
I realize you have an open door policy, but I plan to control your schedule in order to keep you on track and prepared. Therefore, most visitors will come through the secretary and me. However, are there certain key staff members you will want to have direct access to you, either in person or by phone, i.e., vice, deputy, squadron section commander, etc.?
Are there times of the day you do not want to have appointments scheduled, i.e., nothing before 0800, nothing in the 1100-1300 time period, or nothing after 1600?
How do you want me to handle keeping you on schedule? If you want my assistance, should I politely pass you a note or interrupt when your meetings are running long? When you are out of the office, should I contact you by cellular phone or land mobile radio (LMR) to remind you that your next scheduled appointment is in 20 minutes? What is your preference on how and when to call?
How would you like your desk arranged each morning when you arrive? Do you prefer to use traditional In/Out boxes or your desk drawers for correspondence? (There is a sample arrangement at Figure 1.)
Do you have special pens or pencils with which you like to write?
Do you like to do your own writing, or do you like to dictate?
Do you like to write personal notes of congratulation or would you prefer the Exec write personal letters for your signature, i.e., promotions, PME graduates, award winners, letters of appreciation, distinguished visitors, etc.? (Note: Most Bosses prefer to write personal notes—it means more to the recipient.)
Do you like your office door open or shut during the day, and are you sensitive to noise?
How do you want to control your E-mail, i.e., do you want to process it all directly, or do you prefer that I filter it for you? Do you want me to set up and maintain your personal E-mail folders?
Do you want me to accompany you to meetings, i.e., to take notes, action items, follow-up, etc.?
Do you have a time limit for meetings, i.e., staff meetings, briefings, office visits, etc.? For example, no meeting will go longer than 60 minutes.
Who do you prefer to drive the staff car when I accompany you to meetings?
How often do you want to hold staff meetings and how do you want them structured? For example, do you want to go around the table, the room or follow a 24-hour pre-established agenda?
What kinds of refreshments do you like, i.e., coffee (how do you take it), soft drinks, snacks, etc.? When do you like them, i.e., morning, after lunch, 1500, etc.?
What do you drink at social functions, i.e., what type of soft drink, juice, etc.?
What does your spouse like to drink when accompanying you to special events?
How do you like to be introduced? How does your spouse like to be introduced? (For example, there was a Brigadier General Frederick A. Scott, III who did not like to be called Fred. Instead, to his peers and superiors he was known as Rick. Therefore, he preferred to be introduced as Brigadier General Rick Scott; and his wife preferred Kathy).
Do you like to arrive early for social events or right on time?
Who do you consider to be Distinguished Visitors (DVs) when they visit your office? Typically, DVs are members of Congress or the Senate, general officers and civilian equivalents, wing commanders or equivalents, some colonels, presidents or CEOs of commercial companies, certain media representatives, etc. Then use this information to propose and establish visitor procedures!
What time of the day (morning, midday, evening) do you prefer to depart?
How do you like to travel, i.e., military air or commercial air? Do you prefer window or aisle seating? Do you prefer to be in the front or middle of the aircraft?
Do you want me to travel with you? Do you want me to take you to the air terminal and pick you up upon arrival? Do you prefer to use DV transportation service?
Do you prefer billeting reservations on base whenever possible?
Do you mind driving on short trips, i.e., less than 4 hours driving time?
On short trips (1 or 2 days), do you want me to arrange an escort/driver or do you want to use a base motor pool vehicle?
Do you prefer to conduct business during your short/long flights? If so, what do you prefer (hard copies, laptop, or combination)?
Suspense Tracking and Following Up:
When you ask a routine question or send a note asking a routine question of someone in the organization, how many days do you allow for a response?
When responding to a tasking from a higher authority, how soon do you want to reply if no suspense is indicated?
Do you want to see incoming correspondence first, or would you prefer I get it in the hands of those needing to work it? (Note: it works well if the Exec suspenses the staff and gives the Boss a copy of the suspense or spread sheet suspense listing to keep him/her informed that an issue is being worked. This keeps things moving and saves the Boss having to direct traffic).
For outgoing correspondence, I intend to make it final before coming to you. Do you have any sample correspondence I can use to get to know your writing style, i.e., OPRs/EPRs, awards and decorations, personal letters, formal letters, etc.?
I plan to prepare a daily READ FILE—what would you like me to include? (Suggest daily message traffic and correspondence signed out by other senior staff members. If the volume of information is too much, then use a six-part folder; and label the sections, i.e., incoming messages, outgoing messages, meeting minutes, etc.)
I have a time management system I’d like to show you that will help both of us stay on track—is that OK? (Show the Boss how the folder system works—see Time Management.)
What is your philosophy on approving awards and decorations?
Do you have leadership philosophies and policies of which I need to be aware? Is it possible to get these in writing for the unit and myself? For example, leave policy, smoking policy, staff meeting times and duration, office visits, who signs what correspondence, etc.? (If he/she has written policies, keep them in your Continuity Book—you’ll need them.)
How do you like to do ceremonies, i.e., retirements, awards and decorations, promotion pin-ons, promotion list announcements, etc.? Do you have a sample script of one you’ve done so I can use it as a guide?
What are the roles, responsibilities and relationship between your secretary and me (the Exec)? For example, the Exec could be in charge of visitors, meetings, etc. The Boss may want the secretary responsible for proofreading and other related activities. The Boss needs to set a clear line on such important issues. His/her decisions will foster the relationship between the Exec and secretary--the two must work closely and effectively together.
Do you want me to screen your calls or just allow anyone in? With diplomacy, I can determine what the caller wants and perhaps answer the question without disturbing you. If talking to you directly is necessary, then I can ensure you have the most current information on the given issue.
Do you want your home number given to people who claim to be personal acquaintances? Do you have a list of family members and personal friends I should know in case they call?
If Your Boss is a Commander: (Note: Some of these questions may apply even if the Boss is not a commander. For example, you might not have a commander’s call, but you might have a director’s call. Use your judgment.)
How do you want to manage and how involved do you want me to be in quality force issues, i.e., reviewing separation packages, Article 15 appeals, OSI investigations, etc.?
What is the relationship between the senior enlisted manager, you and me, i.e., how do you plan to use us? For example, some commanders make the senior enlisted manager responsible for reviewing and recommending on all EPRs, enlisted awards and decorations rather than the Exec.
How often do you want to hold commander’s call? Who do you want to be responsible for setting it up, i.e., the Exec or the Squadron Section Commander? Appendix A contains a sample Commander’s Call Action Plan.
Do you like awards and decorations to be part of commander’s call or as a separate ceremony? (Note: if the Boss has no preference, suggest Commander’s Call—it allows others to see and learn about the caliber of individuals in the organization. If your organization is large, please avoid adding another 30 minutes to a long event).
How does the Boss want to handle promotion results/announcements and WAPS testing results? Does he/she review the test scores in private with the individual or simply forward them in a sealed envelope to the addressee?
Handling of Classified Material:
How the Boss wants you to handle classified material needs be at the top of your list. Keep your procedures short and within Air Force instructions. Review your procedures with the security monitor to ensure compliance.