In 2010 Annual Conference, 2010 Conference - Monday


Debbie Mason, APR, Fellow PRSA has worked with many non-profit and corporate clients over the last 25 years and has earned numerous honors and awards  including a 2003 silver anvil from PRSA. She led a session discussing what qualities bosses look for in outstanding employees as well as some of the most common pitfalls employees face. In “The Big Picture,” positioning yourself as a valued employee is one of the most important things to consider.


  1. Problem Solver – They really want you to be both aware and proactive. A PR professional’s role is to find options when there’s a problem. Be pragmatic yet creative, resourceful, responsible and reliable. Be realistic within your business’ limitations while thinking outside the box. What will fill our needs?
  2. Results-Oriented – Bosses don’t want to know how busy you are, they want to hear what your results are. Most bosses became bosses because they are results-oriented. Don’t bog your boss down with the process before you tell them the intended results. Tell them the end of the story before the plot.  Be focused, disciplined, outcome-driven, a team leader, and most of all, give NO EXCUSES.  Your boss is looking for your ability to see the big picture and be able to help other people understand. A lot of our role in PR is being an interpreter – telling our story to the media and helping create that team environment through your boss’ goals.
  3. Team Leader – the one to lead the others to success. They want you to set the tone for being the most professional person in the building. You want to be the go-to person for your boss at the end of the day. You want to earn the respect of your co-workers and become a team leader.
  4. Candid – Best things to ask in an interview: “Is it important for me to speak candidly? And what happened to the last person who disagreed with you?” Mason told us about an interview where she was so candid she didn’t think she would get the job. She got it because the CEO immediately knew she understood the situation. Be open, honest and direct. Don’t be a “yes” person! It really resonates with CEOs when you have the courage of your conviction. However, you need to be gracious as well.
  5. Calm – The MVP of every team. This type of person is able to go through the process of evaluation under stress. This is especially apparent during a crisis. People who can be logical instead of emotional under crisis will really progress in their career. Your job is to have both the factual and the feeling filters.
  6. Crystal Ball – What all CEOs wish you had. Once you get to know your boss, you should be able to anticipate how they would approach a situation. Everything from what they need in a meeting to how they would make a decision is important. One of our most important skills as an employee is our ability to observe and apply what we learn over time. Understanding how your boss thinks will enable you to be more prepared every time you get to spend time with him or her. And never forget how much help the administrative assistant can be! You need to be the filter so that they can understand what the landscape is going to be in any situation. Begin to understand what needs to go up and what needs to go out.
  7. Humble – Share the credit, accept the credit and celebrate your team’s success. Always make sure everyone who helped gets the credit and feedback – it’s very important. Make sure your boss knows who else helped and make sure to go back to your team and share the feedback.
  8. Big Picture – Focus on the organization’s needs, not just those of your own department. Learn the business side of your organization so you can better serve the whole organization. Rather than focusing on the great PR you got for an event, make sure you understand how that drove business and talk about that.
  9. Service – Understand internal and external customers and their needs. Servant Leadership was founded by an AT&T engineer. This theory says, “I am a vehicle for the organization’s objective. It’s not what I need, but what the CEO/organzation needs. We need to understand that we’re here to serve – clients, fellow employees, people who report to us, bosses, etc.” Be thoughtful: How am I approaching those around me? Above anything else, we need to be thoughtful in all aspects of how we make decisions in our business lives. This theory goes well with the humble – be “heart-centered but rational mind-focused.”
  10. Business Savvy – Your boss want to know that you understand how your organization fits in with the rest of the market and how your finances work with everything you do.  You don’t need to be an accountant, but you need to understand what you’re looking at.
  11. The Confidant – Your boss must be able to trust you with whatever he or she tells you.


  1. The Blame Game – Don’t blame your mistake on other people. Just own it and explain what happened or what they would do better next time. Ask questions when you mess up and ask for feedback. That way you won’t make the same mistake again.
  2. The After Thought – Don’t let the boss be an afterthought – make sure they’re in on the whole process of a project.
  3. The Credit Grabber – Bosses hate when you don’t give credit when and where it’s due.
  4. The Soaker – Soaks up all the energy in the room by always making it about him or her. A soaker brings in negativity while taking up space, rather than bringing the positive energy that will help in meetings.

What a boss is really looking for at the end of the day is a partner. They want someone who adapts over time to anticipate needs and support them as well as the organization while being thoughtful and strategic.


Question and Answer Session

What should we do when we have multiple bosses and they’re not aligned?

Sometimes it’s helpful to carry the message from everyone and put together the puzzle of opinions. Find the commonality in everyone’s approach.

What do you do when the CEO is getting information that is filtered too much and you don’t want to run over the other people in the process?

When you directly question the CEO on what they want to know it makes it easier to say what you know. When it is necessary to sacrifice someone else in the process, it can be helpful to tell them that you did it, tell what you said and be respectful.

How do you deal with two CEOs who don’t align?

You can’t make people do anything, but you can call their attention to it. Show them the advantages of being able to work together and form one unified strategy for the organization. It is important to fill the void to the extent that you can.

How do you express to your boss that you want to grow with the organization and be promoted from within without seeming pushy?

It’s ok to have career conversations with your boss. You need to think it through first and make sure you understand what it means to grow for you. Is it new experiences within the organization or different types of opportunities? Continue to ask for feedback and offer to take on new projects.

How do you transition from the honeymoon phase of a new job into a lasting career as a trusted employee?

Understand the organization within, have a grasp of the business side and learn where your department fits in. What are the strengths, weaknesses and responsibilities of my position/department? By doing a mini audit, you can approach your boss with your findings about what you think is most important and find out what they have as a priority. By being able to fix problems that have existed chronically, you’ll build credibility and become a “solution person.”

Debbie Mason, APR, Fellow PRSA
Strategists, Inc.

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