A “Flawless” Conversation with your Boss
T his is the most important ongoing conversation that you have in your organization. It sets the guidelines for how you and your boss will work together. It is the beginning of a partnership with your boss and a step toward empowerment for you.
Most of us believe that we are already having such conversations. I know I did. Yet when I dig deeper with people, I find that most conversations were as a benevolent parent (boss) to a compliant child (employee), not as partners.
First step: you will have to initiate this meeting. Do not wait for your boss. He or she has a lot going on so such a conversation isn’t on their radar. Prepare for the conversation by getting clear about the situation you are facing and what you want from your boss.
The contracting meeting from Flawless Consulting offers an excellent format with a couple of variations. Here are the key elements of the conversation.
Describe the situation. This is an opportunity to take ownership of your work, projects, etc., and describe how you want to complete the work. It is being proactive. Consider statements like:
Here’s what I see happening…
This is what I am working on…
Here’s what I’m planning to do…
These are the boundaries and constraints as I see them…
This is the priority I see for this work/project…
What information do you have that might change any of this?
Share your wants/offers. “The support, resources, understanding I want from you is… (be specific)”
Ask the boss for his/her wants/offers. “What do you want from me?”
Ask for concerns. “What concerns do you have about how I plan to proceed? What’s at risk for you, Boss?”
Summarize your conversation and offer to send an email outlining what you discussed.
I remember my first conversation like this with my boss. I was a nervous wreck anticipating all kinds of terrible endings, Once we got started, it became surprisingly pleasant… two adults talking as colleagues. Over the next few years, our relationship changed more to a partnership, then to a trusted advisor.
I learned to initiate these conversations in situations, like whenever I…
Had a new assignment
Planned something new
Attended training or development workshops
Learned about something that should be brought to the boss’ attention
Changed job assignments
In the Flawless Consulting Skills workshops, I began to ask participants to schedule a conversation with their bosses to discuss the workshop content and what they wanted to continue their learning.
So, here’s my encouragement to you. Schedule a conversation with your boss over the next five business days about something you’re working on, and go have a talk using the format above. It will take courage and it will change your relationship. Give it a try.
I’d love to hear your stories. Drop me a note. Let me know how it’s going.
Charles L. Fields
Charles L Fields, Senior Consultant at Designed Learning, has traveled the world by car, rail, plane, and ship; watched the sun rise on Croagh Patrick and set on Victoria Peak; weathered a perfect storm in the Pacific; bartered for a darbuka in the Grand Bazaar; prayed at Lord Nelson’s Sarcophagus; eaten lunch in the oldest restaurant in the world; and presented Flawless Consulting and Empowerment workshops in over 25 countries. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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