When you want to talk with your boss about something that is important to you, do you sometimes get the feeling that they just wish you’d stop talking?! Sure you’ve gotten on their calendar and are eager to have a challenging exchange on a topic that is important to you, it doesn’t seem like it’s all that interesting to your boss.
It’s downright depressing.
Add to that the distractions of texts messages, calls, emails, and the little ‘dings’ that go off when another message is delivered to their in-box, and it’s amazing that they are able to focus at all. Bosses are people too and just as susceptible to inefficient multi-tasking as everyone else. They might have a tough enough time paying attention to their issues let alone yours.
But you can do something about this.
With adult attention-spans becoming shorter than a toddlers, the same techniques that work with a 3 year old who becomes overwhelmed and inattentive can work with your boss. Humans can be stressed out no matter their age – so keep these strategies in mind the next time you want to get the boss’s attention:
Location Matters – You have less control if you are in the boss’s office. Meet in your office or a conference room. You’ll have more room and it’s less likely you’ll be interrupted.
No Surprise – Mom’s don’t like it when the school calls in the middle of the day unexpectedly and bosses don’t like to be the recipient of impulsive conversations by others. Request a meeting. Wait for a regularly scheduled meeting. Give them a heads-up that you want to discuss something. It shows you respect their time. If there is an agenda, add your topic to it. If there is material you want them to review, send it ahead of time AND bring a copy along with you.
Short & Sweet – Keep it simple. If your topic has a lot of details, have bullet points in a logical sequence. Provide an overview of the issue first, and then provide details and examples. If your boss takes the conversation to a different focus, bring it back by commenting that ‘that is interesting’ and then bring up something relevant about the topic you want to focus on.
Timing Counts – Reschedule if the timing of your conversation is poor. Try to avoid first thing Monday morning or last thing on a Friday afternoon. After a layoff, firing, accident, or dip in stock price are also poor times to get someone’s attention.
Hook Their Interest – an engaging speaker keeps an audience’s attention longer so do something that grabs their interest. A great visual or a startling statistic be interesting. Practice your opening so that it’s strong.
Self-Interest/Their Interest – Most people are motivated to listen if there is something in the message for them specifically. Don’t answer the question “why should I care?” Answer the question ‘why DO I Care?”
After the meeting, make sure you follow up. Some conversations require time for reflection. If it’s important enough for you to make time to talk about, it’s important enough to follow up. Don’t expect an immediate response or decision. Your goal is to get the topic on the table, get the boss’s focus, and keep the conversation moving forward.
Don’t lose YOUR focus!