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Paul’s stressed out, busy boss has the attention span of a flea. When she’s not darting between meetings, she’s having on-the-fly conversations in the hall. When Paul talks to her, he has the impression that she tunes out his words within 15 seconds, having mentally moved on to the next thing.

How can he be assured of enough face time with his boss to ask questions, convey critical information and dazzle her with his smarts—without coming across as a time drain?

The key, advises author and workplace columnist Anita Bruzzese (www.45things.com), is to be aware of what your boss wants and when and how she wants it.

She recommends these tactics for getting the attention of a “five-minute boss”:

1. Know her busiest times.
Avoid Monday mornings (when she’s probably swamped) and Friday afternoons (when she’s trying to clear her desk). Does she have a standing deliverable Wednesday afternoon? Don’t approach her during that time.

2. Pinpoint what you need and what you’re offering. Example: “I need 10 minutes of your time to review the XYZ project. The project manager would like to make some changes to the timeline for the coming weeks.” Then stick to that specific agenda; don’t squander time or try to squeeze in something else.

Tip: If the meeting starts to run long, Bruzzese suggests saying, “I see we’ve gone over the time. Would you like to schedule another meeting, or have me put the rest in an e-mail?” She’ll come away feeling positive about the interaction.

3. Time your talking points. Do you know how long it takes to say what you need to say? Rehearse, time yourself or simply strip down your thoughts to the most essential sentences. As Bruzzese points out, you don’t want to just begin reaching the critical points and hear your boss say, “Sorry. I can’t give you any more time.”

4. Envision the burning house.
You don’t call the fire department and start describing the neighborhood. You immediately tell them the location of the fire.

“Same thing when you’re talking to the boss,” says Bruzzese. “Get to the most important details first.”

Tip:
Send her an agenda before your meeting, or start your session with: “I’ve got five issues I need to talk to you about, but I’d like to start with two that I believe to be the most important.”

5. Make sure you have her full attention by making the meeting interactive.
Ask a question like, “What is your biggest concern?” or “Can you think of anything I’ve left out?”

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