I believe it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re prepared to have effective conversations with your boss when you have access to their time. Whether you’re looking to discuss an issue about one of your staff members, wanting to make a strategic decision on a project or you’re unhappy with the direction of your career, communicating efficiently and effectively with the person who has the final say in these issues can be crucial to getting the results for which you’re striving.
You might even want to address a personal challenge of yours, such as an unrealistic workload or too many work hours that are leading you toward burnout at a rapid speed. Knowing how to get your message and desired outcome across is key to a successful conversation. In my experience, without these skills, you might become stuck unnecessarily and feel a great sense of frustration and resentment. I've found that ineffective communication also leaves room for misinterpretation and a lack of direction when trying to take your next steps. As a leader, you likely work 40 hours (or more) every week. Therefore, learning how to communicate effectively could make a huge difference on how much you enjoy your job and the relationships you have at the office.
The goal of following this framework is to optimize outcomes and ultimately to save time, not only for yourself but also your boss. Here are five effective ways you can begin communicating with superiors:
1. Be intentional.
Be organized and clear about what exactly you want to discuss and the desired outcomes you’re looking to achieve. If you lack clarity and direction during an important conversation with your boss, you could be running the risk of wasting his or her time (and yours), as well as leaving the office more confused than before you ever spoke to them. Don’t leave things to chance when taking your shot at addressing a subject that’s close to your heart. Be intentional about having a productive conversation.
2. Timing counts.
Your boss is likely a busy person. So, schedule a time both of you are free so that you have their full attention. Their time is most valuable and when looking for collaboration with someone more senior than you, always show respect through your behavior. Honoring their schedule will increase your chances of a positive outcome and builds trust.
3. Speak up.
In order to achieve a certain result, take ownership of your needs and make requests that will help move things forward. Rather than complaining about what you wish would change, make a decision to enter a problem-solving mode. I have found that thinking ahead and offering solutions to problems puts you into a position of leadership and demonstrates that you truly care about creating a win-win situation for all parties involved. Make requests, not assumptions. In my experience, this makes everybody’s life easier and takes out the guesswork because let's face it: People can’t read your mind.
4. Actively listen.
I believe there is one element of effective communication that is more important than talking: listening deeply to the other person’s point of view. Make an effort to understand where they are coming from, and acknowledge their perspective. In my experience, how the other person feels can have a huge impact on the trust they feel and their relationship with you. Be an active listener, and remain open to their feedback. Always have the willingness to look at things through different lenses, and, perhaps most importantly, respect their expertise.
5. Wrap up, and move forward.
Acknowledge and validate your boss's perspective during and after the conversation. I have found that when people know you can put yourself in their shoes, they are more likely to cooperate with you and work things out in your favor. Finally, thank them for their time, and be respectful if the conversation needs to be continued at a later date. Establish and agree on what your next steps will be, and if applicable, schedule a follow-up meeting with your boss to discuss future outcomes. Leave them with a sense of clarity and control, and make sure they understand you’re on the same team rather than someone they have to worry about.
Effective communication is possibly one of the most underrated tools not only in the workplace but also in any area of life. It can have monumental effects on your relationships, how much people trust and respect you and saves everybody time. It’s a skill worth mastering and the secret to achieving more of the outcomes you desire in a shorter period of time. Next time you head to your bosses office, follow these five steps closely and watch how powerful the results.