Share the pain

How do you express to your boss that a situation is dire? That you and your team are running yourself ragged and may not last the week? Or, as someone in our POC YOUniversity Hot Seat Coaching Call said, “how do you tell them that ‘shit’s on fire!’?

I’ve heard this from so many people recently… talented, well-intentioned leaders are doing their best to keep as many fingers in the damn as possible. The problem, however, is that you do that SO well that your leaders and managers don’t see that there is something wrong.

Because you want to do your job well, and because you don’t want to let anyone down, you shield them from the pain – which is the natural human tendency.

However, if you are going to get their support, they need to feel the pain. Your pain.

Your boss needs to understand your struggle and the toll this situation is taking on you and your team. They need to understand that while the duck (you) may look calm above the surface, it’s paddling for it’s life below the surface.

But how do you tell them that without looking weak, or that you can’t do your job? Let’s start with this…

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

Say it with me: asking for help is not a sign of weakness!

One more time for the folks in the back: ASKING FOR HELP IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS!!!!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, how do we ask for help? I’m glad you asked (for help!):

  • Tell the story that moves your boss. Some people like numbers, others like anecdotes, others respond to employee feedback. Whatever language speaks to your boss, frame your question and/or request in a way that draws them in and makes your point.
  • Have a plan. How many times have you gone to your boss with a problem and they said, “what do you think we should do about it?” What DO you think we should do about the current issues? Develop a thoughtful, cohesive plan (that speaks your boss’ language). Show that you have thought this through and it’s not just an emotional outburst.
  • Make sure you have their attention. Your boss is busy, and there is a good chance that you are not the only one making theses requests. This should not be an “oh, by-the-way, if you have time, could you maybe think about how to fix this mess, if it’s not too much trouble” conversation. Set a time on the calendar, get your paddling ducks in a row and make your case.
  • Help your boss make a case to their boss. Maybe your boss agrees with you but they won’t be making the final decision. Help them develop the story and plan to present to their boss.
  • Don’t give up! Be respectful, but keep after it. Remember, lots of people are counting on you – not just to get the job done, but to be their advocate. Giving up is really not an option.

So that was a few more bullet points than usual, but desperate times… amiright? Even with all that extra typing, it’s not an easy conversation to navigate. I’m happy to chat with you about your specific situation. All you have to do is ask (this one is super easy!).

Thanks for reading!



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