I’m conducting interviews to add a person to our team as Client Care Manager and one of the screening questions I ask is, “Explain how you maintain communication with your boss to keep her informed of issues that require her attention.”
This is an interesting question, and I’m going to share my own response with you, but first I thought I would tell you what most people say. Most people will tell me that they email their boss or tell their boss directly when an issue like this arises. And then that’s it.
But that can’t be all there is. You see, communication is a two-way street. And that means the best answer is more in-depth than that.
Here’s how I would respond:
First, I would make sure that the issue truly does require his attention. Often people think they need the boss’s input when really it’s just that they lack clarity about what the real issue is. If I can clear things up for them without involving the boss, then I’ve saved my boss time.
Second, if the issue truly does require my boss’s attention, and I know he’s available to me, I’ll go into his office, present the issue along with my resolution and see what he has to say. Often, getting the boss’s blessing to solve the problem myself is all that’s needed.
Third, if the issue is ongoing, I will let my boss know that I’ll circle back to him by the end of the day about the end results either in person or by email. I never want to leave an open loop with my boss. Once I open the loop by asking him to get involved, I must close the loop by letting him know the final outcome and by giving him a date and time in which I expect that final outcome. What I don’t want to happen is to have my boss stop by my office and ask, “Hey whatever happened to xyz thing?” Because that means he’s been thinking about it. And of all the things he needs to think about, keeping track of my own problems or tasks shouldn’t be one of them.
The vehicle I use for communication (text, email, phone, in person) matters less than how I communicate. I communicate by knowing the exact problem, presenting possible solutions, and closing the communication loop with a final outcome by a deadline.
I also keep track of what needs to happen next in a simple spiral notebook with a line drawn down the middle of the page. On the left side is my To Do list and on the right side is my Waiting For list. I can see at a glance who I’m still waiting to hear from and this prevents me from forgetting to follow up with people.
You probably do the same things; you just haven’t looked at communication quite like this. Compare your communication style with mine. Are you missing any of the steps? What do you need to start doing?