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What To Do When Your Boss Has Multiple Directions

You went into your one-on-one this week thinking you had clarity on your current priorities. But then as you left, you began to ponder how in the world you are going squeeze in the most recent "five greatest ideas" your boss just dreamt up. So here is what to do if your boss gives you several different directions.

Understand The Visionary Boss

Visionary leaders can often see what no one else sees, finding potential and opportunity in a time of change or even company conflict. They know what's not there — or what's not there yet.

Visionary bosses can be exciting, fun, and innovative. But they can also feel overwhelming when there's no way that you can keep up with all of their creative ideas.

So what can you do?

Ask for More Direction

This new idea didn't just show up out of nowhere. First, find out where the spark came from and how your boss envisions it for the company. Then get clarity on your direction.

Without leaders having a clear direction for the company, organizations may struggle to act cohesively, which hinders success. While this is often considered widely known, according to a Gallup survey, "only 22% of employees strongly believe that the leaders in their organization have a clear direction for their company."

In some cases, if you're a very action-driven sales leader, you may automatically assume that when your boss shares an idea, they expect you to do something about it. But, fortunately, that's not always the case. Individuals with creative minds can think up ten new ideas, directions, or thoughts at the drop of a hat.

So ask your boss if this is the new direction they want to go or if they just adding it to your "parking garage" of ideas. Perhaps reexamine the concept if your boss brings it up a few more times.

Stay Aligned

When it comes to staying aligned on direction, you'll need to communicate what is essential to leadership in a timely, efficient manner to make sound business decisions with the most accurate and up-to-date data.

When your sales team is misaligned with the direction, it can cause the following:

  • Ample opportunities but low win rates
  • Resources used on the wrong opportunities
  • Not enough new customers
  • Underserved territories or accounts
  • Inconsistent behavior across the sales team

The CEO wants to be in alignment with you. So, explain what your priorities are, what adjustments you'd have to make, where your focus is, etc. Aligning this current information will help them understand where they can better serve you with resources or time.

Saying No the Right Way

One of the hardest things to do is say no to your boss. In most cases, you are expected to say yes to whatever you are asked to do. However, occasionally it is okay to say "no" or "not at this time." Sometimes it is a very good idea to hold off.

Here's how to say "no" the respectful way:

  • Give them a valid reason, not just "I don't want to."
  • Always offer an alternative solution – another qualified employee, perhaps.
  • Explain your existing workload to your boss – what can they help take off your plate?
  • Even when you say no, you should thank your boss just for considering you to take on more work.
  • Remember to acknowledge the importance of your boss' request before denying it.
  • Explain that you're on a tight deadline.
  • Don't make it personal – all too often, people take things personally when it doesn't have to be.

Learning to assess whether you should say yes, and how to say no graciously, is an important skill in work and in life in general.

In The End

When you have a boss who likes to pull you in several different directions, the best thing you can do is to get more direction. Then get better aligned on what the top priorities, goals, and plans are, and based on that insight, you may even have to say, "not right now."

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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