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I need to preface this article with a disclaimer. The title, Ignore Your Boss, is intentionally provocative. While thinking about this concept three words came to me which describe the extreme I am espousing. The ideas were partially inspired while listening to Mitch Joel’s interview of Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of a new book called The Coaching Habit.
What I am espousing is a decision making habit that allows you to prioritize your work and spend time doing some of the things that you are most passionate about. This habit, which your employer expects, will increase your engagement in and enjoyment of work.
So, what am I talking about? I’m talking about the ability to evaluate the importance of areas of focus and prioritize them appropriately. You and your manager both have priorities. Your manager has a list of projects, tasks, and initiatives for you, and you have a similar list that you are passionate about and want to focus on. The challenge we face is getting time to spend on the things we are passionate about when much of our time is dictated by our boss’s list. How do we find the time?
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First, let me speak to managers. You want your team members to do what I am espousing. It is an indication of their ability to think independently and their aspiration to be more. These are the kind of leaders you want. When you allow your people to ignore you and prioritize their areas of focus, you give them a sense of ownership and autonomy that generates engagement with the organization. They will do more for you, because they are fulfilled and energized.
Now, back to the habit of ignoring your boss. In that long list of projects, tasks, and initiatives there are things that are not really important to either of you. Others are important to your boss but not you. Others are important to you but not your boss, and others are important to both of you. Stanier suggests drawing a quadrant and putting everything in one of those four areas.
- Things not important to either of you go in the lower left corner as those things that you ignore or set aside.
- Things important to both of you go in the upper right hand corner as those things you prioritize and spend most of your time working on. Because they are important to you, you will find satisfaction in working on them. Because they are important to your boss, you will please your boss by working on them.
- The lower right hand corner, the things important to you but not your boss, and the upper left hand corner, the things important to your boss but not to you, should be pursued in balance with each other. They form the greatest opportunity to balance your time and energy while making sure you don’t get fired.
Be careful when you put things in that upper left hand quadrant. Be sure you are comfortable saying, “this thing that is important to my boss isn’t important to me.” You should stop and ask yourself, why is it important to my boss. Answering that question may change your mind. Nevertheless, one of the things bosses depend on their teams to do is to help them prioritize things. They have a lot of areas of focus and need others to help them make sure the most important things get done.
There is an art to forming this habit, but it is worth developing. Just remember, you may prioritize wrong, so be prepared to explain your decision and readjust quickly.
Do you have an examples of a time where you ignored your boss and it proved beneficial to both of you? Share them in the comments section below.
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