PROBLEM #1: I’m coordinating a project that requires the involvement of a senior executive. This executive is routinely impossible to get a hold of—he doesn’t return calls or e-mail and I usually have to corner him in a hallway to get him to agree to a meeting. Then he always shows up late and has to be “brought up to speed.” This person is obviously not interested in this project but he is senior to me and I’m worried about “making waves” by going over his head and complaining. What should I do?
In this case I would want to ask the senior executive what’s important for him when he think of this project. Convey to the senior executive what your expectations are of him; whether it is attending the meeting to make a final decision, approve the budget or the final product. And ask him what he expects from you in this project, so it is clear to both of you. The executive may only want to be involved in the bottom line and has the confidence in you to complete the project successfully and is confused as to why you are calling and emailing him about the details of the project. If it is important that the executive be drawn into the project then inquiry when would be a convenient time for him to attend the meetings or be briefed on the development of the project.
Perhaps he may want to have the information provided in writing prior to the meeting – you may also want to provide him with a specific time that it is vital for him to attend the meeting and its expected duration. I might suggest giving him a specific time, say 20 minutes and then he could leave, either at the beginning or the end of the meeting.
By sharing your expectations, roles and responsibilities up front with each other you will have a better understand of what is expected of you. If not, then the executive may just leave you alone to do your job and will not be aware that they are causing you this problem.
It’s the lack of open communication which many times leaves us feeling that we are making waves when actually the waters are calm from the other person’s perspective.
PROBLEM #2: I keep feeling that my immediate supervisor is shutting me out on major decisions. He always apologizes afterwards and claims there were scheduling conflicts, but I’m starting to feel like more of a grunt worker and less of a part of the strategic decision-making process. How do I make sure I’m not just being paranoid, and if I’m not, how do I try to make sure I’m consulted earlier on when decisions are getting made?
Before you decide that you are totally paranoid I think it would be wise to clear the air with your immediate supervisor about what is taking place in your area. We have a tendency to create doubt in our minds about our capabilities if we do not fully understand what is happening. For instance, there may have been a time when you attended a meeting and your supervisor did not feel you were contributing to the decision-making or that you were critical of the suggestions. You need to determine what is the root cause of your not being invited to these meetings. Once you understand the reason then it will be easier for you to set forth your strategy.
It may be advantageous for you to check with your peers to see if you are the only one being shut out or does it happen to the whole team. If it’s the whole team you may want to approach the supervisor as a group and let him now how you feel as a group. This will allow him the opportunity to explain the reason for the shut out so you can work out a new procedure together.
On the other hand, it may the style of your supervisor and that he feels he is the one who can make major decisions, while your job is to implement these decisions. It may be important for him to know that you have the knowledge and the resources regarding these projects and you would be a valuable asset to the decision making process if given the chance. Your supervisor may just not know what you have to offer.
If an opportunity should present itself where you have advance knowledge of a project and are able to provide sound, concrete information that can be used in the decision making process, this might enable you to demonstrate to your supervisor that it would be an asset to invite you these meetings in the future.
You just don’t know what you don’t know, so it important to be clear on what the problem is before you begin to solve it. So you have the right solution.
PROBLEM #3: Every time we have to present a proposal to a senior executive he sends us back to the drawing board until we come up with something that was basically his idea in the first place. Some staff have gone so far as to pitch one or two bad ideas they know he will reject, but I don’t feel I should have to play reverse psychology. What should I do?
For some people being in charge of all the decisions and proposals that are made in an organization are important and necessary. If the senior executive you are working with is like this then it is wise to invite them to share their ideas at the onset, so they are left with the feeling that are in charge –of the project and workplace. This in the long run will save everyone time.
For some people it takes several times, or a period of time before they are convinced that their staff have demonstrated competency in their job. While others are never convinced and the staff need to prove themselves each time. This may be frustrating for some staff, but once you know what is important for the senior executive then it is easier to work with his style then against it.
In order to create an approachable work place you need to know your own outcome, remain flexible, be perceptive and take action immediately. Being open will allow you to reach your goal rather than have to play the game you do not wish to play. As an excellent communicator you will be able to sell your ideas to the executive and be able to move projects forward, for quicker approval.
Always remembering the ego of the senior executive. It may be very important to him and to your future with the company.