“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever” - Chinese Proverb
Right now, there are about seven eligible applicants per job opening,* which means you really can’t afford to do anything but your best work. If that means asking for more direction from your boss, don’t be shy -- or else you might just shy away from having a job!
Whether you have an absentee, extremely busy or simply a horrible boss, there are a few tactful ways to yank a little more guidance from your hands-off manager.
But first, be realistic: Chances are your boss doesn’t have time to make you his protégée, offering step-by-step guidance throughout your tasks.
Find a balance that works for both you and your boss. For every inch that your boss gives you, stretch your own skills as a self-starter to be as efficient of a professional as possible. Consider these tips to adapt to a laissez-faire manager and become a go-getter:
1. Be Mindful of Their Time
You can extract more info from your boss if you pay attention to her schedule. Is there a particular time in the day when she is less busy? Maybe just after lunch or as the day is winding down? If you discuss your project with your boss willy-nilly, you may be interrupting
2. Craft Good Questions
After you’ve delved into the project, write up a list of questions before hand, and then rewrite them in as few words as possible. This way, you’ll be asking questions that really tackle the core of the project as concisely as possible.
You should not be asking for direction without first trying to understand the task at hand yourself.
You’ll go much further if you can discuss the project with the higher ups by asking questions like: “Here’s my understanding of the project, is this what you’re looking for?” versus “What should I do?” or “How should I start?”
3. Practice Self-Starting
Being a “self-starter” is a coveted attribute, especially for those looking to move up to leadership roles. It means that you’re capable of identifying tasks to be completed and seeing them through to produce positive results with minimum cost of management time. So go for it!
4. Don’t Butt Heads
While becoming a self-starter means running with your ideas to complete a task, make sure that your ideas don’t conflict with your boss’ ideas. If they have a different method in mind, then abide by their suggestion to show that you’re a team player. Most of all, aim to stay on the same page.
5. Set Personal Deadlines
Once you have a handle on the project, push yourself by creating short deadlines — especially if you work best under pressure. Often times, allowing ample time leaves too much room for procrastination.
6. Don’t Fear Failure
If you’ve started the project, and upon asking your concise questions you find that you were way off base, then figure out what went wrong and do your best to apply the lesson to all of the projects that you start moving forward.
7. Schedule Performance Reviews
After you’ve completed a few projects, take the initiative to schedule a meeting with your boss to ask for feedback on how you’ve been doing. This is the only sure-fire way knowing where you stand in the office. Ask them how you could have improved the last project? Remember, in the office, no news is NOT good news, so prepare for your performance review.
*Source: Gluskin Sheff & Associates research, 2011.