Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Documenting issues, part of Managing Your Manager.
The truth is that your boss is a busy person. Sometimes they think they're being clear but they're not. Sometimes they are very clear in the moment but later forget what they said. This is normal and happens all the time, but this doesn't have to cause problems. That's why learning when and how to document certain decisions and interactions is a terribly useful part of managing your boss. You'll find the act of documenting certain things useful for at least three reasons. First, when others who are involved in the task understand that the meeting or the conversation has been documented, well, their commitment tends to increase since documentation tends to function like an informal contract.
Another reason it can be useful is because when others see you documenting something, for example, a meeting, you’re essentially signaling to them what your next move will be. In some ways, you've laid out a script that everyone has agreed to follow. They may or may not follow through but at least you’ve signaled your intention. Finally, documentation can serve as a great way to cover yourself down the line. Staying with the meeting example, should anyone down the line question why you did what you did, you'll have a good document of how the boss or the team made certain decisions and you were simply following through as expected.
Now having said all of that, does that mean that always documenting everything is the best way to manage your boss? No. If you constantly document and reiterate everything that goes on around you, you're very likely to drive people crazy, especially the boss. Your goal is to document only those things that are very important. That's about 20% of the events, exchanges or conversations with which you're involved and the boss is involved. Following these, you'll want to reach out with a type of summary.
That's really what we mean by documentation in this context. And you're smart to mix up your approach. Don't always show up at the boss's office two days later and try to reiterate the four main takeaways from the big meeting. You can do that once in a while but try to mix it up. Sometimes an instant message is fine or a post it note in their mailbox or a simple email. Some way to show them you understand your marching orders and to signal your next move. So that's one perspective. Learning when to identify important things worth documenting and sharing with the boss.
Another approach many people like is to use regularly scheduled pushes for documenting what's been decided and what you're up to. A good rule of thumb would be an e-mail every two to three weeks documenting what you're doing and why based on the directives given to you from your boss along with how much progress you're making. All of this reduces the likelihood that you'll surprise the boss, which is a good thing. Further, when they get that snapshot of your activity, if they realize they might have been unclear, or if they realize they want you to shift how you're using your time, for whatever reason, you've given them the nudge they needed.
That's a great example of managing your manager.
- Explore how self-reflection is a starting point for understanding others.
- Review they ways that social capital (credibility) relate to performance, recognition, and helping others.
- Recall different kinds of communication channels you can establish with your manager.
- Identify the most effective ways to promote your accomplishments.
- Review methods for documenting issues that help you communicate up.
- Explore key strategies for working with a remote manager.
- Examine ways to repair a damaged relationship with your manager.