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Communicating with your busy boss

Use this example as a model to change the way you communicate with your boss.

Mark Mulcahy, Human Resources Team

May 21, 2014

2 Min Read
Communicating with your busy boss

I was recently working with a new produce manager who’s eager to learn, communicates clearly, listens well, has really good ideas, is willing to take chances and has very high social and environmental integrity. We worked together for three days reviewing systems, resetting the department and creating an action plan. At the end of the day I could tell that he still had something on his mind.

“I’m not sure I should take this job,” he said.

I told him we often teach what we need to learn and that I thought he was ready.

“Your boss has agreed to give you the financial training you’ve requested and send you to the next Rising Stars leadership seminar.”

I know, but that's not the problem.

May I ask what is?

My GM is very busy and doesn’t always follow through on the things he’s promised or we’ve agreed too.

Does this happen often?


Does he take notes when you’re creating agreements?


Does it feel like he wants to create solutions with you? Does he listen?

Yes he listens and he means well and has done some great things to move our store forward, but he has a hard time delegating and just has too much on his plate.

So you want to work with him but would like a different outcome from your agreements?


O.K., let’s create a solution. At your next weekly check-in bring up how you’re feeling with a few examples where agreements weren't met on time. Let him know you’d like to be part of a solution for stronger communication.

You can request a system that you both agree to follow. We’ll call it “what by when.” Be very specific about what action will be completed by what date. Be realistic about when the actions completion will be promised. For instance, “I agree to have the final draft of the handbook on your desk for review by July 30.”

Then the GM would give you his “what by when” agreement. For instance, “I will have the financial reports ready for you by the produce team meeting on July 20.”

Ask how he best likes to communicate: face to face, text, email? Let him know how you best communicate and find a common ground on which to move forward. Do most of your communication with him this way.

Because he doesn’t take notes, make sure you do and then tell him you’d like to follow up every conversation with a summary email in which he will confirm your “what by when” agreements.

Lastly ask for “what by when” status at your weekly meetings. Ask “Are we on track? Do we need to make adjustments?”

Having this structure will make a big difference in your communication and will allow you to support your willing, but too busy boss. What do you think?

I like it! I’ll start next week and keep you posted on our progress.

About the Author(s)

Mark Mulcahy

Human Resources Team, CDS Consulting Co-op

Mark Mulcahy is an award-winning retail consultant, educator and organic advocate. He is a member of the CDS Consulting Co-op, which provides consulting for co-ops and independent retailers worldwide. With more than 30 years in the organic produce industry, Mulcahy is well known for his creative merchandising, effective training techniques, passion for produce, successful financial strategies and dedication to sustainable agriculture. He is the co-creator and co-presenter of Rising Stars, a leadership development course for retailers, and is co-host the national radio show, An Organic Conversation

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