You come out of a meeting with your boss. You’re thinking “What the hell. He didn’t ask for that. He needs changes by 9 a.m. tomorrow? Seriously?” You worked hours on this, and you need to leave on time today. Your response is understandable. So what happened? Is it your fault? Or his for not being more clear about expectations? Does it matter? Yes, it matters, but only in terms of what you do differently going forward so it doesn't happen again.
As much as you rely on your manager or anyone for that matter to clearly communicate and explain what they want, it doesn’t always happen that way. To assume otherwise is risky. So you have to step up and take responsibility for getting the details. Rarely is the other person going to assume they were unclear; that they haven’t shared everything you need to complete a task or project successfully.
Think back over the last couple of months. Are there times when you thought you had it and didn’t? Are you starting over, spending time doing re-work? Does this scenario sound all too familiar? In working with young professionals, I find the answer to be yes, more often than not. If that's also your experience, these steps can help, because let's be honest, ain't nobody got time for that.
1. Don't talk sh*t
The next time it happens, be careful about your reaction. How you handle it is important. And don’t talk sh*t about anyone. Important career advice: once words leave your cake hole, or your Outbox you never know where they’re going to end up. So, don’t say anything to anybody that you wouldn’t say directly to your boss. Of course, you can say the meeting didn't go well, or that you're upset with yourself, but don’t be playing the blame game. You’re likely to lose that one. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but it will catch up to you. It's best not to be playing it.
2. Don’t make assumptions
With every new assignment don’t make assumptions. Don’t accept things on face value alone. Make this a standard part of any new task whether it’s coming to you verbally, via email, chat or text. Also consider the source. Does your boss have a history of making changes or being dissatisfied with your end result? Managers don’t always know exactly what the hell they want. And, yeah I know how messed up that sounds. But they start out thinking they want one thing, only to change their mind after giving it more thought or after seeing what they initially requested. And I know it makes people who do the work a little cray. So, that's why you have to step in, or is it step up?
3. Take the initiative
Sometimes you don’t need to clarify anything, but if you do, take the initiative. Schedule a short meeting, pick up the phone, or touch base via chat. I strongly suggest a little chit chat (i.e., meeting). From what you understand after the preliminary request, map out what you know, don’t know, or might need to know. This conversation can help your manager formulate what he or she needs more fully. As the expert in what you do, you can help figure out what their needs by talking through the options. If it’s particularly complex, suggest that you review it and send a couple of ideas for review before moving ahead. This is also a good strategy for any boss who has a tendency of changing their mind - show options or outlines for review before you get too deep into it.
4. Add value
An added benefit of clarifying expectations is that you may be able to exceed them. The more info you have going in, the better the end result. You’re closer to the request, you're the expert, and you’re doing the work. Think about how you may blow past the original request. Your boss may have asked for X, but knowing what you know and what's going on, being in on the grapevine, and your wicked skill set you may be able to provide valuable intel that exceeds expectations. Just sayin'. This is how you get noticed and get ahead in your career. And you'll have more time to kick ass when you aren't wasting your valuable time on unnecessary re-work. Then, you can spend your nights out celebrating instead of lamenting about work.
What have you experienced at work, or during your career? How do you exceed expectations? Share your tips, please! And, for some more tips read Know your ABCs to stay on track and avoid distractions!