Andrew Hubbard, internal communications manager at Network Rail, asks: “Are we tough enough to challenge the boss?”
“This is signed off so it’s good to go.”
Oh, that’s all fine then. We’ll put that into the machine. Wait a minute… Who wrote this? Who signed it off? And what even is it?
We’ve all been there. Some copy is handed to us for an email, intranet news item or magazine feature and we’re told it’s ready for the masses. But is it?
When it comes to the game of ‘the boss wants it done’, I think all of us have been guilty of going into delivery mode. I know I have. But do we challenge our business leaders enough? After all, we’re paid to do be trusted advisors.
If a colleague from any other area of the business came and said: “Hey, I have an email that needs to go out to everyone in the business right away from the head of procurement. She’s signed it off so it’s good to go.” The first thing we would do is ask what they were trying to get people to do and work with them to achieve just that.
The end result would likely be a different message altogether, delivered in an alternative format or channel.
Do we always do the same when the boss comes with and wants something delivered? And even if we do push back, do they always listen? The boss-knows-best mentality seldom leads to effective communications. It’s on us as communicators to stand firm, advise, provide alternatives and help leaders see that a different way of delivering their all-important messages will pay dividends.
Andrew says: when challenging the boss…
- Start with why: Why are we looking to say this? Why now? Why this audience? These questions can often lead to the boss rethinking things themselves.
- Metrics always win: Data beats ideas. Help them see your way of thinking with numbers. It’s difficult to argue with facts and figures. As American engineer W. Edwards Deming once said: “Without data you’re just another person with an opinion.”
- Provide alternatives: Nobody likes to be told “no”, not least the boss. Have examples of the other options available to them and turn the “no” into a “yes, but what about doing it this way?” Chances are they will like your idea better anyway.