You want to be successful in your career, and a big part of that success depends on building a solid relationship with your boss…someone whose presence is often fleeting.
You need to get his approval on something, make sure he understands what you’re working on, or to clarify a piece of information. Problem is, you can’t seem to get his attention. Emails and calls go unanswered. If you do get a response, it may not be the one you hoped for.
When you look at the bigger picture, all of this is completely understandable – your boss is a busy person. And you’re just trying to do a good job.
- Play detective. Get to know how your boss communicates. Is he numbers-orientated? Visual? Long-winded? To the point? Play a little game of detective here – you can even enlist someone close to him such as an assistant to find out what his communication style is. Find out if he prefers email to phone, or vice versa. Doing this will prime you for the next strategy, which is…
- Prepare ahead of time. Your communication should come from a need-to-know standpoint. In other words, what is absolutely critical for your boss to know? That’s what you want to focus on. How does your concern impact the organization positively or negatively? Write it down if you have to or type it out so you’ll know exactly what you want to say. As you’re preparing, remember the next strategy…
- Be concise – keep it brief. Do you want that email you send to get stacked with all the others – or do you actually want it to get read? If the latter is what you’re striving for, keep your communication as concise as possible. Before you hit that send button, consider reviewing the content and trimming down as much as possible. Be matter-of-fact – your boss has no time for TMI.
- Examine your emotions. Before initiating any communication – whether it’s a simple email, a meeting in the boardroom or a one-on-one conversation, ask yourself what mood or emotion will best serve you. This is particularly important if the circumstance is challenging. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, now is not the best time. Practice self-awareness to get to know yourself better – and ultimately, better engage in meaningful, effective communication.
- Let your self-confidence shine. Did you know that nonverbal cues make up 93% of our communication to others? As far back as 1872 (with the publication of Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals), research has been taking place on all our unspoken communications and behaviors. Radiate calm-confidence: breath evenly, maintain eye contact, keep your voice even. If you’re standing, keep your legs shoulder-width apart and hold your shoulders back and down. Watch out for nervous habits like twirling hair or stroking your clothes. You may not even be aware that you’re doing it, but little habits like that speak volumes – no pun intended.
- Practice! Yes, I’m talking about a little role-playing here – even if it happens in front of your bathroom mirror. Put all the pieces above together and role-play either alone or with a trusted acquaintance. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it will help you hone your communication skills. You can also use your real-life, everyday communications with your boss as “practice” – try different communication techniques to see what gets good results.
- Don’t take things too personally. When you’re trying to give it your best, but calls and emails go unanswered, it can be tricky not to take things personally. It can be hard not to feel intimidated by someone you perceive as “higher up”. Women in particular sometimes wonder “Am I doing something wrong?” Recognize that your boss doesn’t necessarily dislike or disapprove of you – how he communicates may simply be different from the way you do.
Almost anyone who has ever tried communicating with a high-level leader will tell you it can be challenging. If you see the challenge as an opportunity, I guarantee you’ll expand your knowledge and self-awareness – while developing your leadership and communication skills.
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Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Colleen Slaughter, Proud Executive Coach to the UN World Food Program, the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
As an Executive Coach for Women in Leadership and Transformational Facilitator, my intention is to help leaders in positions of high influence to understand their worth at a profound level.
Supporting women leaders to truly thrive and step into their greatness, while succeeding in male-dominated industries and spaces is my native genius.
My technique and approach show you how to achieve incredible career success without compromising any part of who you are and what makes you magnificent.