"You're a boss but you have a boss too, and sometimes they're indecisive. This is a common challenge for managers at all levels. When it happens, you have to manage their attention and make the decisions easier for them to make. We call this 'managing-up'.
There are a few things I want you to keep in mind -
- Your boss makes a lot of decisions, and many of them have nothing to do with you.
- It's human nature to worry about making the wrong decision, and it's easy to avoid decisions for as long as possible.
- Your boss may not have as much authority as you think, and they need approval too.
So what do you do?
Focus on the decisions you need and be clear about the consequences of indecision. That's a good way to get their attention, and it's going to give them a reason to shift their decision-making focus to you. Once you have their attention, focus on their worry. Ask them what information they still need, and they'll tend to tell you what their concerns are. Then share how you intend to manage that risk.
If your boss knows that you're worried about the same things as they are, and that you have a plan, they'll tend to be more confident in their decision. You want them to worry more about indecision than a bad decision, so be specific about your contingency plans. If you see the decision isn't working out, what are you going to do then?
Many decisions aren't final. You can begin down a path and adjust as needed. Once you start, some of the concerns go away because you can see how things are going and adjust accordingly.
One final thought. If you're endorsing a decision, you have to own it, and the best way to own it is to commit to timely progress reports. If you're asking your boss to approve a decision that you endorse, you owe them timely updates. The more they can see your decisions play out in real time, the easier it's going to be for them to approve decisions in the future."
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