Monday, August 31, 2015

3 Tips for Getting Clearer Instructions From the Boss

"You'll figure it out."

These are the words often imparted to an employee as the boss hands off an assignment. If the employee is lucky, then that may truly be the case. But many of us have been in the position of being confused -- and possibly even totally clueless -- about what the boss wants.

What we have are sort of vague instructions that may include "Talk to Heather about it -- I think she's done something similar. I think. Maybe ....,"

The boss doesn't issue clear instructions. You're not clear about what you're supposed to do -- and you're not even sure if Heather can help.

If you're given such a fuzzy assignment by the boss, what's the best alternative to saying, "WTF? Seriously?"

When the boss doesn't give you clear instructions or expectations, here's what you need to do:

  • Follow up. If the boss is pushing you out of her office and makes it clear she doesn't have time for questions, follow up with an email. Whether in person or via email, you need to make sure you understand what the end result of your assignment should look like (cut 5% from the budget, create a new customer presentation, etc.). 
  • Get specifics. Are you expected to contact certain people -- and absolutely NOT contact certain people in gathering information? Are you to use certain vendors in putting together your project? Exactly how does she want you to do this task? While you may be a self-directed and resourceful employee, not meeting the boss's standard is a sure way to fail. Make sure you understand the boss's standards before moving forward.
  • Understand the schedule. Maybe the boss gave you a deadline, maybe she didn't. But you not only need to nail down a deadline, but also have "check-ins" at regular intervals to ensure the boss is aware of your progress and any problems that might crop up. 
Finally, remember to keep notes of all your conversations with the boss. This not only helps you remember key points, but provides a record of what you did and when so that you can ensure you and the boss are always on the same page.

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