Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Taking it Off-Line

Scenario: You're attending a staff meeting, tensions are high, pressure is rising, and your boss turns to you and asks a very pointed, but tangential, question that the answer to which is likely to drag things (and possibly you) down further. You try to take it off-line, that is, suggest you talk about it later, but the boss says "No. We're talking about it now."

What to do?~

Talk about it now, responding as quickly, crisply, and in as a respectful, non-defensive manner, as possible, pushing back when necessary, but doing so because it's called-for, not just because you feel like it or don't know what else to do. And hope that it doesn't turn into an inquisition, of sorts.

That said, what can you do to increase the probability that your next 'off-line' request will be agreed to and accepted ? Here are some ideas:
  1. Stay calm and composed - Nothing encourages a boss to go on the offense more than someone's defensiveness. Practice poise under pressure. It will serve you well.
  2. Frame your rationale - There's a huge difference in wanting to talk about something later because it makes more sense to, and wanting to do so because you're trying to avoid even having the conversation. Clearly frame your reasons accordingly, citing one of two compelling reasons why a different time and/or different setting for the discussion would better serve to boss and be advantageous to everyone else.
  3. Leverage your reputation - If your boss already knows you as a trusted advisor, this whole process becomes much more simple. Showing you're not afraid to 'dig in', 'hit things head on', and 'make the tough choices' - on a daily basis - will go a long way in times like these. Building a reputation that says 'credibility' gives you a foundation to stand on in such circumstances.

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Anonymous jen_chan, writer said...

Will it help if you say that there are more important matters that need more attention? I guess the reaction will depend on how your boss sees you. I think the third tip is probably the most important of all. If the boss doesn't even see you as a trusted advisor, acting calm and composed might trigger the danger lock in the situation.

Thursday, October 25, 2007 10:12:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Barry Zweibel said...

Hi, Jen. Thanks for your comment.

The thing to remember about bosses - especially the 'lesser' ones - is that they don't like to be made wrong. So I might apply your approach in this way:

"I thought that was the real issue, too, boss - at first, anyway. But upon closer inspection, I came to realize that it was really more about ..."

By providing this little bit of "new information" - that you initially thought the same thing as the boss did, but in taking a closer look found something of even greater import - you allow the boss save face and actually listen to what you have to say, rather than discounting your views to re-assert his/her "right-ness."

Hope that helps.

Friday, October 26, 2007 7:44:00 AM CDT  

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