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111 Key Principles for Success

Principle 1 - Learn Your Boss's Unwritten Rules

This Key Principle for Success is to track and learn your boss's unwritten rules. There are certain norms of behavior that your boss expects. He or she will not tell you until you violate them. Sometimes they won't tell you even then, which is related to the Curse of Knowledge.

Whenever you learn a new rule, write it down. The way you learn these is to listen. Is your boss saying the same things to you? When they ask questions are they the same ones? I'll bet they are. So if you track and prepare for them your boss will think you're a genius.

You can make assumptions on what these are but usually, they're more subtle.

Each boss is different and you need to figure out what their rules are. Most bosses won't tell you their specific rules but some will.

Each email, text, in-person conversation, tone of voice, and even their body language can key you into these Unwritten Rules.

Some general rules:
  • Don't go over the boss's head, which is contacting their manager, unless you have no choice
  • Get to work on time
  • Follow-up
  • Don't interrupt them too much
  • Don't goof off while at work
  • Check and double-check your work
  • Don't make excuses
  • Make sure your co-workers can back you up
  • Be prepared
  • It's about your boss and not about you
  • Produce minutes for all meetings you host and cc your boss

Some rules can be deduced like:
  • Is your boss a clean freak, by the appearance of their desk?
  • Is your boss a morning or evening person?

Some ways to get them:
  • Write down rules from meetings
  • Deduce rules from behaviors
  • How does your boss's boss treat them?
  • Look at emails and texts
  • Practice identifying all people's unwritten rules
  • Know what behaviors bother you as these may also bother your boss
  • Write down any questions your boss asks you as she will ask them again
  • Notice what your boss asks from other co-workers
  • Notice what they complain about

Here are unwritten rules from a boss I had. These are useful to follow under most situations:
  • Don't send out a file that's clearly wrong
  • Don't speculate as to the cause of an error
  • Did you get feedback and follow-up
  • Know what your open tasks are and don't drop the ball
  • Keep her in the loop
  • Always cc boss and team
  • Be email-aware of what I sent boss and what she sent me
  • Be aware of what I'm doing, what I did, next steps, and follow up
  • She would say, "I'm wondering...", I didn't inform her so she shouldn't wonder
  • Pause when talking in case she wants to interrupt
  • Stop talking the moment you're interrupted by your boss

Now I've been talking about bosses but this can also apply to a co-worker, friend, spouse, parent, child, or anyone you have a relationship with.

Now your boss may also have written rules. You must also follow these or especially the ones that affect him or her or are a core principle of theirs.

A core principle is something they feel in their gut and truly believe in. They may have been screwed in the past for not following a rule so now they never want the situation to happen again. Be extra careful when violating these or your job could be in jeopardy.

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