Help! I don't get enough direction from my boss

By Ritika Trikha,

Right now, every job opening gets about seven eligible applicants*, which means you can't afford to do anything but your best work. If that means asking for more direction from your boss, don't be shy, or you might just shy away from having a job.

Whether you have an absentee, extremely busy or downright horrible boss, there are a few tactful ways to get more guidance from your hands-off manager.

First, be realistic. Chances are your boss doesn't have time to make you his protégé, offering step-by-step guidance on your tasks. Find a balance that works for both you and your boss. For every inch that your boss gives you, stretch your own skills as a self-starter to be as efficient as possible. Consider these seven tips to adapt to a laissez-faire manager and become a go-getter:

1. Be mindful of her time. You can extract more information from your boss if you pay attention to her schedule. Is there a particular time in the day when she is less busy, maybe just after lunch or as the day is winding down? If you discuss your project with your boss willy-nilly, you may be interrupting.

2. Craft good questions. After you've delved into the project, write up a list of questions and then rewrite them in as few words as possible. This way, you'll ask questions that tackle the core of the project as concisely as possible.
You should not ask for direction without first trying to understand the task at hand. You'll go much further if you can discuss the project with the higher-ups by asking questions like, "Here's my understanding of the project; is this what you're looking for?" versus, "What should I do?" or, "How should I start?"

3. Practice self-starting. Being a self-starter is a coveted attribute, especially for those looking to attain leadership roles. It means that you're capable of identifying tasks to be completed and seeing them through to produce positive results with minimum cost of management time.

4. Don't butt heads. While becoming a self-starter means running with your ideas to complete a task, make sure that your ideas don't conflict with your boss's ideas. If he has a different method in mind, abide by his suggestion, to show that you're a team player. Most of all, aim to stay on the same page.

5. Set personal deadlines. Once you have a handle on the project, push yourself by creating short deadlines -- especially if you work best under pressure. Allowing ample time may leave too much room for procrastination.

6. Don't fear failure. If you find yourself way off base during a project, figure out what went wrong and do your best to apply the lesson to projects in the future.

7. Schedule performance reviews. After you've completed a few projects, schedule a meeting with your boss to ask for feedback on how you've been doing. This is the only way to know where you stand. Remember: In the office, no news is not good news, so prepare for your performance review.

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