BUT I’M BEING MICRO-MANAGED!
Is your boss asking for weird or irrelevant data or “asking the wrong question”? Get to the bottom of what they are asking for. What is their core question?
If you’ve ever played the Why game with a child you’ll know you can ask Why enough times to get pretty deep into a problem. Do the same – ask what question they are really trying to answer.
They aren’t really asking “why did writing that feature take so long?” or “why did Joe take such a long lunch break?”, they are asking “how can we get revenue-bearing features to market faster?”.
Bring the focus up and away from the micro-management and to the big picture questions. Step away from the minutiae, identify bottlenecks and brainstorm big changes.
THE “OTHER BOSS” PROBLEM
I’ve been lucky to have some great bosses, where we see eye-to-eye, have mutual trust and even in difficult stressful situations we respect each other’s opinions.
But even then, they have a boss too, or they have peers in other departments. These other bosses are much trickier because you don’t have the same relationship or communication avenues.
Arrange some meetings where you all sit down and discuss the big picture goals and again, brainstorm some solutions. It may take a few iterations but every time you interact it gets easier.
Document your improved processes and underlying goals so that when department heads change you can review these touchpoints.
Start to independently build relationships with leaders of other departments – they need data too. Ask them what they’d like to see from Engineering.
Set up regular meetings, over communicate and when problems occur look for ways to stop them recurring.
AND DON’T FORGET ABOUT PERSONALITY TYPES
Whether you’re using Strengths Finders, Myers Briggs, DISC or other similar systems, take time to look up the best and worst ways to communicate with your boss(es).
All of these systems have a matrix that shows effective ways that you (the rational engineer) can communicate with the other departments.
Using Myers Briggs as an example, remember that we ENT/INT’s are in a very small minority – just ~10% of the population. 90% of the workplace does not think like you.
One last thing; if you’re a “Rationalist” ENT/INT like me, as well as your awesome talents as an Engineering Director, others may view you as controlling, arrogant, intimidating and angry – not terribly conducive to open and honest communication!
So step away from “the boss doesn’t understand” viewpoint and instead ask if you understand them.