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Why You Need to Take Notes on Your Boss


Taking Notes in a Different Way

Reporting to your first job is daunting. At least, I imagine for most it’s a bit daunting. For me, reporting to my first job was walking down the pier at Norfolk Naval Station to begin my tour onboard USS PONCE (LPD-15). I was cautiously optimisitc about my ability to be a capable officer and leader in the navy.

I was sweating my ass off walking down the pier, mostly because it was August in Norfolk, but it may have been because I was nervous. Rest assured, all of the lessons I took away from the Naval Academy would surely help me. And they did…kind of.

What really struck me about my days onboard my first ship was tremendous responsibility junior officers are given in the Navy.

Despite having limited technical knowledge about the platform, no clue about the daily operations of shipboard life, and relatively limited real world leadership experience, we are still asked to lead from the front and empower our sailors to feel confident to perform their duties to the utmost of their ability.

A normal leadership learning curve is steep. However, a very solid piece of advice from a fellow JO helped me out tremendously. He taught me a simple tactic to help flatten the curve.

He taught me to take notes on people, not procedures. Taking notes on different leaders in your organization is one of the quickest ways to pick up on leadership tactics you find useful and others you wouldn’t dare use on anyone.

Here are the five key aspects of leadership that are easily identifiable for scribbling in a notebook for easy remembrance.

Does your boss expect what they inspect?

Leaders cannot expect from others what they cannot accomplish themselves. If your boss is hounding others to be on time for meetings and she is constantly late, there’s an issue. If she preaches open communication and rarely answers her phone or email, there’s an issue.

If she mandates people provide open and honest feedback to their team and does not participate herself, there’s an issue. Leaders do not set double standards. Take notes on whether your boss treats her team like she treats herself.

Does your boss arrive early and leave late?

In all fairness, your boss is not always going to the first in and last out. Younger or less experienced members of the team often put in longer hours because of their type of work load. Still your boss does have a responsibility to be ready when the whistle blows at the beginning of the day.

She should be prepared with promulgating the day’s work and actively following up with her staff to ensure the work is tracking.

Taking advantage of her position, barely working Fridays or tasking people late in the day/month/year when a deadline is on the horizon is the result of poor management. Take notes on whether your boss sets the tone for the day and actively manages her team to avoid unnecessary late taskers.

Does your boss stay emotionally stable?

Leaders have a unique responsibility to be the emotional compass of the team. Knowing that it’s never as good as it seems or as bad as it seems, a leader must not get too high or too low.

Times of celebration or lamenting are part of the business ecosystem, however emotional stability is the key to handling those times of overwhelming success or failure.

In other words, are they prone to freaking out? People that cannot process or handle stress will always look for those who can, as it comforts them and makes them feel at ease. Take notes on if your boss displays rational or irrational behavior in emotionally charged situations.

Does your boss defend you?

Your boss, undoubtedly, has more flexibility to accomplish her daily tasks, a bigger or better office, and receives higher compensation. She has earned those luxuries and we are okay with that.

In addition to the added luxury, the good leader knows her team is a direct reflection of her and her leadership.

Crap will eventually hit the fan. And when it does, we expect her to defend us. Policies will inspected and hammered from the C-level, team members will screw up outside the office, and our product will come under fire unexpectedly from our consumers.

She is responsible for the safe work environment, and when it comes under attack we expect her to be the defender. She is entrusted to sacrifice herself before sacrificing any one of her team.

Take notes on whether your boss acts as a shield and protects her team to ensure a flourishing work environment.

Does your boss care about your development?

This is a loaded question, but one that takes more instinct and intuition than the other questions. A good boss wants her people to promote as much as she wants her own personal promotion. The central question you want to be able to answer: Is she training me. solely, for right now or is she training me for the next step in my career?

Yes, you need to have a solid grip on your current job; nevertheless, even when she is training you to fly on your own, she should have an underlying purpose of training you for the next step in your career.

Even if you plan to switch positions inside the firm or careers completely, she should always be preparing you for greater responsibility. Take notes on whether your boss conducts training with you that is both career enhancing and leadership driven.


These notes are a working manuscript that highlight the points in those you want to emulate and the lesser qualities to be avoided.

Review these notes and formulate your own dazzling leadership style or simply tweak what you’re already doing. Remember, you can take away as much from poor leadership as you can great leadership.

About the author, Tim

US Navy Surface Warfare Officer.
Lacrosse Player.

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