Q: My boss avoids conflict. He’ll agree with ideas or suggestions in meetings, but then later I learn he implemented the exact opposite or ignored the suggestions. How do I get him to be direct?
Want to get your boss to follow through on his commitments? Take a look at my tips below.
Agree on specific next action steps in meetings.
If you know your boss is prone to going back on his promises, then be very specific in meetings, asking for clear points of actions with agreed dates for implementation. And even if your boss isn’t prone to going back on his promises, it’s a good idea in any case, to get a list of next action steps before you and your colleagues leave the meeting. I’ve been in many meetings where everyone has agreed on the ideas discussed, where there has been enthusiasm and where colleagues feel very clear about the plan. The problem arises when the meeting finishes, people return to their desks, the phone rings, emails get answered and people get distracted and forget the specifics. Fast forward a couple of days, weeks and nothing, or very little, has been done toward meeting the agreed goal. One of the best ways I’ve found of making sure things get done is to go around the table and have people agree on specific next action steps.
Send a follow-up email.
Once the meeting is over, it’s always a good idea, particularly if you’ve hosted the meeting, for you to send a recap of the specific areas discussed, any conclusions made, and more importantly, a list of who has agreed to do what and by what date. Even if your colleagues have written down what they need to do, some people lose their meeting notes, particularly if it was written on a lose sheet of paper or they get busy and forget. If it’s written on an email, with all the attendees of the meeting cc’d, it’s harder for people to wiggle out of it. It’s clear to everyone on who’s doing what and when.
Keep the project top-of-mind; send reminders.
If it’s a project, then don’t hesitate in sending progress reports and reminders of what has been achieved, and what is still outstanding. Keep the project top-of-mind. It’s hard for people to get upset when you are sending helpful reminders and gentle nudges about a group project.
It’s harder to argue with what’s in B&W.
If you’ve followed the steps outlined above, sending emails with specific action points, then it’s harder for your boss to wiggle out of what’s been agreed. And it’s even harder for him to do the complete opposite without giving a reason as to why. Be sure to go the extra step and put meeting notes in black and white; don’t just leave it to a verbal agreement.
Don’t hesitate in speaking to your boss.
If your boss still does the opposite of what’s been agreed, then don’t hesitate to ask him why. You can ask the question in a non-confrontational way—be direct and matter of fact. Once ideas have been discussed in meetings, you’ve sent clear follow up emails outlining any actions points, then I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask the question of why the idea wasn’t implemented. And give your boss the benefit of the doubt. Keep in mind that perhaps some new information has come to light since the meeting. There could be a perfectly good reason—which you’re not aware of—as to why he’s needed to change direction.
Hope this helps.