Three people at a table meeting at work with their Microsoft laptop

It’s natural to assume that C-suite executives are well-versed in holding productive check-in meetings with their employees. However, if that is your assumption, you may be mistaken.

During a recent coaching session, a client expressed disappointment that his C-level boss never expresses her expectations for his performance or even inquires about how — or whether — he is progressing toward his annual objectives.

Instead, the C-level executive is more likely to use one-on-ones to discuss current, short-term issues, almost as if my client’s check-ins are an opportunity for his boss to resolve some of her own work challenges, without actually providing any significant guidance or mentoring aside from tacit moral support. That makes it difficult for my client to know where he stands, whether his supervisor believes he’s generating results or if he’s completely off track.

If your supervisor is unsure how to provide you with what you require or what you should require, I advocate modeling how to work with your boss rather than waiting for them to figure it out. Otherwise, you risk never getting as far in your profession or realizing your full potential as you think is attainable.

Bring your own schedule

I suggested to my client that he start keeping an informal agenda for one-on-one meetings with his boss, with three discussion topics ready at all times, whether or not he utilizes them all. Bosses who want to talk about current issues may be irritated if you don’t provide them the updates they want, so make sure you give them some.

However, don’t let these updates consume more than a third of the meeting, and frame your discussion so that you may benefit from it as well.

Stick to only a handful of the pressing issues you’re dealing with in your briefing, explain what you and your team are doing about them, and ask, “What am I missing?” This question provides an opportunity for the supervisor to provide instruction — not as criticism, but as a point of view.

“What else do I need to see from a company-wide or leadership perspective that would help my team do better in accomplishing our goals/serving the company?” you might ask. This question allows you to discuss your team’s work, possibilities, and ambitions while also ensuring that the leadership or firm has not gone in a path that would undermine any of your team’s good efforts.

Inquire about early warnings

Ask your employer on their satisfaction with the success of your team’s projects or your own personal goals in the second half of your meeting — not every week, but possibly every month or six weeks. This document shows your progress and asks for your boss’s feedback and assistance in order to continue or increase your achievements.

It’s much preferable to give — and get — advance notice so that you may correct course or request additional resources while there’s still time to fix things.

Inquiring about your boss’s contentment can help you gain a better understanding of what’s going on in your organization. It may also prompt ideas about how to reinforce initiatives or how to sequence or prioritize activities for maximum success — again, revealing something you would not have noticed or recognized on your own.

As you learn about new parts of the business, repeat the lesson to show your manager that you are paying attention and learning.

It’s all about their and your expectations

“Do you have any new expectations of me?” is a third item to bring up every quarter or so. And how am I doing with the old acquaintances?” Leaders constantly establish fresh expectations of team members.

However, if your supervisor has unspoken expectations, it will be impossible for them not to judge you for, say, a lack of performance, even though their expectations were never articulated.

By asking these questions, you can find out if your supervisor is coming up with new ideas for things you should be doing or if there are other ways they would prefer you to deliver or act. Occasionally, these queries will bring up past assumptions that you were previously unaware of.

Whatever your boss’s responses are, repeat what you hear back to them, and then ask for the help you need to do those tasks or learn those behaviors: “Are you suggesting that we get more involved in the Schnickelfritz project?”

I see how that would benefit A, B, and C. Let me come back to you with some ideas on how we could do it next time, because I believe we’ll need more people, equipment, access, and so on to manage it successfully.” “I’d like to work on that,” for example. Is there someone who can help me transition from the way we’re doing things now to the new approach?”

Ask good leading questions — about how they would handle situations or how well you’re meeting expectations — whenever you don’t feel like you’re getting enough guidance from your boss. This will help you elicit opinions and advice that will help you meet their work goals and meet their expectations about how things should be done.

And that will be beneficial to both you and them.

Thanks to Liz Kislik at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.