I used to work for a CEO who would give his considered feedback thus, ‘So Paul, just a few thoughts…’

I’ve expressed my dislike of the word ‘just’ before, but in this case it is well used. Coming from your CEO, ‘just a few thoughts’ could be translated into one of two ways. First, it’s ‘here are a few things you need to do to this version before I’m happy with it.’ The second is ‘here’s my feedback, your call on what you do to improve the document.’

How you interpret those few thoughts depends, of course, on you, your boss, and your working relationship. Do you have genuine autonomy, and work for someone who’s leadership style is the right blend of genuine delegation and guidance? Or do you work for someone who prefers to sign everything off and in effect has a more micro-managing style? If either is the case, what do you need to stop doing, start doing or continue doing to progress?

Over time we learn the style of the people we report into it and we become finely attuned to how they operate, what their values are, and what’s important to them. When we work successfully with them we’re effectively selling to them. I used to work with another CEO who would repeatedly say ‘yes’ at breaks in the flow while I was pitching an idea or a project to him. I used to call it the ‘yes that means no’. I knew that he was not with me and I needed to re-approach differently or pick another battle.

When you ask your CEO for feedback on a second version, and you get the ‘just a few more thoughts,’ well, then you’re probably running out of time…

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