More than one boss? Serving Multiple Masters


tug-of-war rope pull

Managing unreasonable expectations

“How should I deal with having more than just one boss, when all of them have unreasonable expectations? I serve multiple masters and they all act like their work is the only thing that I should be working on.”

This question comes up a lot in my Forward Program for professional development, so I thought I would answer it here on the blog.

Most of us at some point are working for more than one over-demanding stakeholder, so it’s important to have a strategy for when this happens.

When I have multiple bosses or stakeholders, here is how I manage it:

1. Share Context
2. Share the Problem
3. Share Expectations

1. Share the context

The first thing that you need to do is to make each of your bosses or stakeholders aware that theirs is not the only work on your plate.

I would do this by simply creating a one page communication document which has a column for each of your stakeholders. In each column you list the work that each of them is expecting you to do.

Whenever you meet with or communicate with your any one of your bosses/stakeholders, use this page so that they can see their work in the context of ALL the work that is on your plate.

Even if you don’t talk about it directly, this view of your whole workload will go a long way to making them realize that their work is not the only work you have.

2. Share the Problem

While you don’t want to say, “I have too much work to do and I can’t help you”, what you can say is:

“You can see that I have these 4 different areas of work from these 4 different executives.

I have done my best to prioritize among these things, but there is still a conflict because 3 of you are asking me to finish something that takes a week, in one week.

Do you have any ideas for how I might accomplish the best outcome given that these work streams are in direct conflict?”

At this point it will be much harder for any one of them to say, “Only my thing is important, forget about those other things”.

Although they may want to say that, you typically get an answer that is more like, “This one part is very urgent, and I think would only take a day or less. Is there any way you can do that right away for me, and then deliver the rest in the next 3 weeks?”

If you have this same converation with all 4 of your stakeholders in this manner, you are sharing the problem amongst the stakeholders instead of dealing with an impossible situation on your own.

If the situation is indeed impossible, and all 3 are saying, “You must do a full week of work for me right now”, this approach has let you lay the foundation to say, “I think it is important that the 3 of you talk about this so that we can agree on a path forward”.

If you don’t share the problem, you run the risk of being the sole owner for an impossible workload, which will not have a good outcome.

3. Share expectations

Once I’ve gone through the steps of sharing the context and sharing the problem, I create a high level communication document that shows the status of my work for all of the bosses/stakeholders. And then they all get the same high-level update.

It’s important to continue to share the full context when you set expectations because after you complete steps 1 and 2, there will be a amnesia that sets in. The tendency is for your stakeholders to forget that they are not the only one you work for.

By sharing ongoing communications that include the full context, you keep expectations set appropriately and you leave the door open to go back to step 2 when you need to.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.

Was this useful?

If you found this article useful, please help me share it with others and encourage them to subscribe to this Blog for free.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download

Getting from Too-busy to Important


busy to important

Busy is a choice

Through my work, I talk to many people (exeucitves, mid-level managers, and individuals) at many different companies, and the one issue that seems epidemic is that people are all too busy.

I’ve done webinars on Negotiating your Workload, and Ruthless Priorities & Guilt to help people take more control over their time, but today I want to talk about how to change your mindset around how you choose to use your time.

It’s important to remember that we are each the source of our own time.
Our time is completely defined by what we say yes to, and what we say no to.

I see three underlying issues that cause people to make themselves too busy.

1. Mis-reading expectations from above

It’s interesting to me that when I talk to executives in companies, they never ask me to help them get people to work longer hours.

They DO often ask me to help them to get their people to think and work more strategically.

It’s annoying to top executives when people complain about being over-worked, yet make no suggestions of their own for how to work differently.

The executives don’t need you to be busier, they need you to help them make decisions about what is most important.

When your boss assigns you a task, the worst thing you can do is to just start doing it.

What you first need to do is to clarify the expectations, the scope, the audience, and the expected time frame that the executive wants you to invest in completing this task.

Then you need to go back and gauge the importance of this task against all the other things you have been asked to do.

Then you can go back to your boss and say, “here is my recommendation…if I understand the business priorities correctly, it’s more important for me to first finish these other two things, then I will start on this new thing. Do you agree?

I can tell you as a busy, C-level executive myself, the high performers were the people who thoughtfully assessed their workload, and then came back to me with a doable recommendation.

The low performers were the ones who just said yes to everything and then failed to get it all done, or died trying. That does not help.

You need to recognize that your manager is not just delegating the work — but the thinking about the work.

It’s impossible for your boss to do the high quality thinking about all the work they assign to everyone that reports to them. They need each person to be smartly making decisions and judgements and recommending the way forward. That’s part of your job.

2. Social/Competitive Pressure

I see many environments where there is just a culture or an expectation that everyone works really long hours.

People are loathe to go home on time because they see this as a high risk move. They work long hours to create this image of a highly committed, competitive, top performer who comes in early and is the last one to leave.

I have hired many executives in my career and never once was the discussion of the interview team, “who works the longest hours?” — Not once.

In many environments the executives have nothing to do with this arms war of who can work the latest. In fact they ask for my help to try to break this habit, because they don’t want their team burning out.

Throughout my career, I never was the one to work the longest hours. I didn’t work weekends. I needed rest.

Then when I got back to work, I got bigger, better stuff done. I got promoted because I could show more compelling results.

Of course there are deadlines, launches, or releases, that will have you working 24×7 for awhile. We all need to do this sometimes.

But if you find yourself equating value or status with long hours, you are not doing the math the same way hiring executives do it.

They want to see what you have achieved. They want to see how you have created efficiencies, so people don’t have to work so long and hard to accomplish the same thing. They want to see how you have created leverage by building strong teams, and working with and through others.

3. Ego

Another reason I see that people keep themselves too busy is that it makes them feel important.

“I am so busy because I am the only one who can do these things and that makes me important.”

Again, this is not how executives do the counting.

One time when I had my first executive role, I was totally over-busy. It was a turn-around situation and my schedule was booked solid every single day from 7am to 7pm and people were upset with me that I was not willing to have 5am phone calls or dinner meetings every night.

I was working with an executive coach at the time telling her that I was feeling out of control and very tired, and that I needed time to think. She said, “then schedule it”. I said, “I can’t, there are too many people who need to have meetings with me”.

She then said to me, “Patty, you are not THAT important”.

It was just the thing I needed to hear!

From that moment, I started carving out 2 hour per week for myself to think and work on my strategic planning. I hid from the world from those two hours, and it really allowed me to make the move from busy to important.

The work I was able to get done, and the strategic thinking I was able to do during those 2 hours per week, helped me to actually be even less busy over time. Doing this gave me the chance to step back, assess, combine, align, delete, delegate… instead of just trying to do everything.

It’s interesting to note that when I look on my kindle for the most Popular Highlights and Marks in my book RISE, the most highlighted phrase by readers all over the world is:

“Figure out a way to DEAL WITH all the work vs. DO all the work and you’ll be on the right track”.

Giving yourself time to think and scheduling it is the single most important thing you can do in your quest to move from busy to important.

How you invest your time is your choice. You may need to negotation with your boss or your family to carve out time that you need, but you do need it, and it’s your choice and your responsibility to do it.

And your company is not waiting for you to work more hours. They are waiting for you to add more value.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my Facebook page.

Was this useful?

If you found this article useful, please help me share it with others and encourage them to subscribe to this Blog for free.

ABOUT PATTY:

patty blog image
Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor.
She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download

Using time better



This month’s webinar was on the topic of Using Time Better

If you missed it, you can download the recording.

Using Time Better

How well do you use time?

It’s easy to blame others for making us too busy, but the first step is to face up to the fact that we alone, are the resource of our own time. What we choose to say yes to, decides how much time we have.

And how we choose invest the time we do have, also makes a big difference in the kinds of things we are able to get done.

If you’d like to get more, better stuff done, and have more fun in your life, consider taking more control of your time.

This is a very useful webinar to download if you:

  • Feel that you don’t always use time as effectively as you should
  • Want to feel less busy and overwhelmed
  • Have trouble carving out time for yourself
  • Want to keep focused on achieving a long term goal
  • Need a way to prioritize things that are most important to you
  • Want more time for yourself, your family, and for having fun

In this webinar: Using time better I share the ideas and techniques I have learned and practiced over the years to take more control of my time.

Members of Azzarello group can download this webinar for free.

If you are not a member, you can learn about membership or Join Now.

Join Now

What the webinar covered:

1. Happiness and Time Management

If you want to have fun and good things in your life, put them on your schedule.

It may sound like scheduling ruins the spontaneity in life, but the reality is that the busy-ness, responsibilities and crap in life all assert themselves to take your time, while the things that make you happy do not. They remain patiently waiting in the background for you do do something.

If you have a busy life and you don’t schedule time to do good things, they don’t happen.

2. Assessment, Planning and Measures

In the webinar I shared several tools to assess how you spend your time, and how to determine how you would like to spend your time ideally.

It’s also important to set the right measures and goals for yourself along the way. Having a goal and an outcome defined does not help motivate you every single day.

You need to set up the right reminders and support structure for yourself every single day if you want to make long term goals truly happen, in your work and in your life.

We talked about how to stay focused and determine the “every single day” activities that are required.

3. Negative triggers and time sinks

We all have some bad habits, and as well as annoying people who throw us off our game.
It’s important to see time sinks before the happen, and have a plan to defend against them.

We are all human and no one, including me, has a perfect record of being super-productive all the time.

But when you have common triggers that always throw you off your good intentions and your plan, it’s worth learning about them.

It’s important to do things on purpose to recognize your negative triggers and create new habits to support new goals.

In this webinar, we also talked about several techniques to deal with people in your life who are annoying time wasters.

The more you become aware of the peoeple who give you energy or drain your energy, the more power you have to tune how you spend your time. I thought I’d include one of my favorite internet quotes here!

life

4. Optimizing Time

Even with limited time, there are things you can do to maximize the use of the small amount of time you do have.

There are things that we can do increase our focus and effectiveness, and things we do that distract us. We all have behaviors that we can slip into, that result in our squandering time.

I outlined some specific, practical ideas to use your time and energy to get the best outcome.

5. Indulge sometimes

We are humans. We can’t be perfect.

Sometimes indulging in being lazy and wasting some time is exactly what you need to recover your energy for your next sprint or marathon.

It’s important to indulge yourself sometimes, and give yourself a break! Yes, set a high bar for yourself and how you use your time, but if you need to take some time off, it’s OK. Really.

Be aware, and choose

The more you can be aware of what you are doing and how you are using your time, the more power you will have to schedule time that is highly purposeful and intentional, and well spent, but also make room in your life for relaxing sometimes too.

This level of awareness and purposeful scheduling may seem like no fun, but in my book it’s better than actually having no fun!

To learn the specific ideas and techniques, we talked about, and get the worksheets to help you, download the webinar: Using Time Better, now.

Members: Download the webinar for free.
Non Members: You can purchase this individual webinar or podcast (links below).

Here are some additional, useful webinars related to this topic

Members get these additional webinars for free:

So you might as well join and get them all for free!

Let me be your mentor

Members of Azzarello Group basically get me as their mentor.

Every month you get new insights and tools in the form of these webinars, as well as the chance to call into a monthly members-only coaching hour where you can get direct personal coaching from me.

People tell me that membership gives them a totally new way of thinking about their career, getting promotions, solving difficult problems with bosses, peers, employees, and other annoying people, communicating better, being more influential, becoming a stronger leader, and enjoying their work more. I love to hear this, and I love to help!

If you join now, you’ll not only get this webinar, but all the other webinars in the Member Library.

AND you’ll get the opportunity to participate in monthly Coaching Hour conference calls with me.
Check out what we talk about.

AND as a member you’ll get to download your copy of the Career Year of action Guide (a $30 value) for free.

Membership is a great resource (and a steal at $179 for a whole year) to help you advance your career.

Join Now

Other Options:

Purchase just this webinar ($19.99)
Purchase just this podcast ($9.99)


ABOUT PATTY:

patty blog image
Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor.
She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download

Why you need to draw your 1-person org chart


What is an org chart for?

This was a lesson I learned in my corporate career, and have carried through to my entrepreneurial career.

When you think of an org chart, people usually think about it as a way to visually organize people.

To me this misses the value of the org chart entirely.

What an org chart should convey are groupings of actions, work and desired outcomes. — The fact that there are people in the boxes is secondary.

Any business has a task-outcome oriented org chart that is a tuned version of this.

task org chart

When I started my business, even though I was only one person at the time, my business still had all of these required activities and outcomes.

So I drew an org chart that looked very much like the one above. Under each one of these I listed the outcomes that my business had to deliver in the next year.

It just so happned that my name was in all of the boxes!

Remember an org chart is not about the people. It’s about what needs to get done.

(see also: The ideal, blank-sheet org chart)

Planning time and resources

Then when I planned my time, I could make sure that I was spending some time in all of the necessary roles ranging across: creative genius, sales person, and IT guy. It gave me a clear view of what work I could do myself and where I needed to find help.

A Small Business MUST

This is a must exercise for a small business or partnership.

One of the biggest problems small businesses face is vague expectations and understanding about who is doing what at any point in time, and which things are left uncovered. Drawing it out and agreeing on who is on the hook for each work area and which outcomes, solves the problem.

The corporate manager version

But let’s get back to corporate.

Every corporate management job has multiple roles and necessary outcomes associated with the job.

So it’s important to draw a 1-person org-chart for your job, that shows all the stuff you’re on the hook for.

Here’s an example:

manager org chart

Prioritize Better

The value of doing this is that you can begin to prioritize and budget your time across these categories on purpose. You can make sure that you are not getting too stuck on one area and missing another critical area entirely.

Negotiate Better

The other benefit of having this is that it is a great way to negotiate your work with your manager and your team and your peers. You can be really clear about what outcomes you are personally driving and why.

It also makes a great visual tool for either offense or defense, when dealing with an unreasonable workload.

An example: You are not getting a TBH approved

If you have TBH, which is not approved, and you as the manager, are the one currently doing the work, the most dangerous thing you can do is to just do the work.

If you are covering the work personally, and working evenings and weekends to do so, it’s important to realize that you are only proving that you don’t really need that hire – the work is getting done. No one cares that you are killing yourself. Your company can absorb an unlimited amount of work from you.

Don’t get stuck

The other thing that is dangerous about this (other than dying from it) is that others begin to see you in that job. The lower level job. Forever after. They expect you to keep doing that job.

The trick here is to make sure that your team overall is delivering results, but not to get stuck personally with that workload permanently.

And to do that, while you might need to temporarly cover for work that you should be delegating because there is no one to do it, you can’t let it stick to you.

This “draw your org chart” approach can come to the rescue.

You draw the org chart for your role at the top level, showing all the important managerial work you need to be doing. And then you create another one for all the work that the missing person needs to do.

Show your job (1) and the extra work (2) as 2 separate jobs

Once you draw your org chart for your job and your draw a differnt org chart for the extra work, you clearly define them as two different jobs.

Then you can start saying things like, “In addition to all the things I am doing in my real job, I have been trying my best to cover the most important 25% of the things in the missing person’s job. But it’s not all getting done, and it is not sustainable for me to keep doing this. We need to hire the person for this second job.”

Saying NO, and gaining credibility

By creating an org chart based on tasks and outcomes, you give yourself a lot of power to work in a way that is more reasonable. I always say that it is much more impressive to talk about what you ARE doing, not what you are NOT doing.

Just saying, “No, I can’t do that” is not very impressive! But if you can pull out your org-chart description of your job, you can say, “look at all the stuff I AM doing”, and people can better appreciate the importance of your contribution.

Create positive visibility

Communicating in this way is also a very good way to make your work visible without being annoying.

By sharing the complete context of your role when you talk with others, they will be able to see all the things you are doing behind the scenes which are building capacity and reducing risk, and adding value — which might not be otherwise obvious from their infrequent interactions with you.

What’s the different between this approach and a job description?

In my experience, job descriptions tend to list theoretical responsibilites. They tend to be long and have a lot of text.

The 1-person org chart has the benefit of being simple and graphical. It’s more concrete. It’s easier to understand quickly, and therefore it is a much better communication tool.

And if it is task-outcome oriented, it becomes a good sales tool for getting resources to get the things done that are in the boxes.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.

Was this useful?

If you found this article useful, please help me share it with others and encourage them to subscribe to this Blog for free.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook.

And make sure to read her book
RISE…
3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

The answers to your career struggles and your next promotion are in it!

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download
Buy

Happiness & Time Management


happiness time 2

Schedule what is important to you

In getting ready for this month’s webinar on Managing Your Own Performance, I recalled a small epiphany I had many years ago: Time management is the key to happiness.

What I mean by this is simply that:

I have way more fun, when I make time on purpose to have fun.

The on-purpose part is important because the annoying things and the non-optional responsibilities in life have a way using up all your time if you don’t fight back.

The big aha is this: The annoying stuff and the responsibilities assert themselves. They demand to be done — The things that make you happy do not — they sit back and wait for you to do something.

So if you want more happy time in your life — schedule it.

Happiness & long term accomplishments

The same thing is true for long-term accomplishments. The urgent, busy stuff always asserts itself. The long term, life-improving stuff does not — it also sits back waits patiently for you to do something.

There are many long term accomplishments that can impact your happiness. You probably have a few of these things on your mind already. Being more fit and healtly, improving your career, learning a new craft/skill/sport/language, contributing something to the community…

These kinds of accomplishments can create a big boost in your ongoing happiness. But if you want to spend time on a long term effort that will improve your life, you need to schedule stuff, consistenly, every day, week or month.

If it’s on your schedule, you have a much better chance of actually doing it.

Scheduling Happiness

OK, for some of us, working off a list or a schedule is a perfectly fine way to live.

I known there are others out there who hate lists and scheduling, and the thought of scheduling happy time sounds overly organizied, OCD, and totally distasteful.

But here is my point.

If you say that the only way you can have fun is to do something spontaneous, my question to you is: how is that working for you? Are you having enough fun?

I don’t disagree that when spontaneous things come up, they can be super-fun, and the element of surprise and newness is part of the magic.

I’m just suggesting that I think it’s risky to count only on spontaneity, to make enough happiness in your life.

When the pressures and responsibilities of work and life pile up, spontaneous opportunties tend to disappear. They don’t assert themselves.

So why not schedule something as a back-up?

You could say “Twice a month I am going to schedule time to do something fun with a friend”.

Once it’s on your schedule you have a better chance to protect that time and acutally do it. You don’t need plan every minute of what you will do, so there is still an opportunity for something spontaneous to happen within your scheduled time.

But at least the scheduling will make you available, and present for something different (and potentially great) than would ordinarily happen.

For me putting some effort into being aware of the kinds of things that make me feel good and happy, and scheduling time to make sure I do them, is a huge factor in my happiness.

Sometimes it’s spending time with people on purpose, sometimes it’s spending time alone on purpose. Regularly it’s about being fit, sometimes it’s about art, regularly it’s about learning something new, or helping others. Sometimes it’s about nature, or a physical challenge, and often it’s about making sure I laugh.

But I make sure to think about what makes me happy, and then I schedule time to do it on purpose.

That’s what I mean by, “the key to happiness is time management”.

Impossible! I’m too busy for this…

If you are reading this thinking, “Well that sounds great, I just don’t have the luxury of scheduling time for myself”, I would encourage you to think twice.

It’s not a sustainable way to live.

And you more than ever, need to think about doing something on purpose to claim a sliver of time for yourself. Reclaiming some time for you will make you better at your family and at your work. That’s just the way it works.

I recently had a lovely conversation with a busy executive who told me” “My family does not expect to have me at all during the week, but I try really hard not to work on the weekends, that is their time. But my wife recently said to me, but when is your time just for you?”

My advice to him was to thank your wife for being wonderful, and to schedule time once or twice a month, for a few hours, that is just for you.

It feels absolutly awful to walk through life for months and years at a time feeling like you have no time for anything that is important just for you. So don’t do that!

On purpose

Even if you start with 30 minutes per month. Find something that makes you happy and schedule and protect the time to do it.

Just remember, it’s not easy for anyone to do, but we are all the funding source of our own time. You get to choose how you invest.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.

Was this useful?

If you found this article useful, please help me share it with others and encourage them to subscribe to this Blog for free.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

Rise_CVR_3D_300

Free eBook Download