Why Aren’t You Telling Your Boss What to Do?




  • September 6, 2015

    Mad boss yelling at employee on megaphone


    I have been my own boss for seven years starting this week, but before that I had a lot of great bosses. But one thing that I realized my bosses needed from me, no matter how good they were, was for me to tell them what to do.


    Now, I know that sounds wrong. Your boss is supposed to order you around, not the other way. But that isn’t how successful organizations work. In fact, the more you do what your boss wants, the less necessary you are. It’s only if you can redirect your boss that you’re actually needed.


    This really hit home for me recently when I was cleaning out some old files. I came across the package that I submitted to become a Distinguished Engineer at IBM. Making DE was a big thing for me–it’s an executive position at IBM–and that package was my attempt to really show my value to IBM. As I leafed through it one last time before tossing it into the downsizing bin, I was struck as I read this glowing list of accomplishments–none of these things were actually my job when I did them.


    That’s not to say that I did not do the things that were considered my job. It’s just to point out that what made the biggest difference was all of the times that I told my boss what to do. (And, luckily for me, they listened.)


    I am of the firm belief that there is no field where this is more true today than in marketing.


    Marketers must tell their bosses what to do. The reason for that is simple. Marketing is becoming more and more data-driven, which means it isn’t about opinions or experience or the way we have always done things. It’s about data–data that your boss doesn’t have.


    You must be unearthing every insight, calculating every edge, segmenting every group–teasing apart the data–so that you can advise your boss as to what the best approach is in every situation.


    Tell your boss what to do and you’ll be appreciated for it.

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