5 Tips for Building Clarity and Confidence at Work: Ask Madeleine

Portrait of several business associates sitting on chairs by off Dear Madeleine,

I’ve been in my job for 18 months and I’m good at it. I’m basically pretty clear about what I’m supposed to be doing, and I know my coworkers see me as dependable.

My problem is that I can’t get any time with my boss. I send emails and leave voicemails with questions, but seldom get an answer from him. Even when he responds, he doesn’t answer my questions.

To be fair, he travels all over the world so he is always on a plane or in an airport, managing time zones. And since the company downsized he now has about 15 direct reports, so I’m guessing he’s basically overwhelmed. But I know I could be more useful if I could just get clarity on my objectives sometimes.

A Voice in the Wilderness


Dear Voice,

Wow. I feel for you and I feel for your boss. But here’s the thing—when a manager is running around with their pants on fire like yours is, all they have the bandwidth for is dealing with the real problems. So in your case, no news is probably good news—your boss trusts you to keep things humming.

Could there be a reason you don’t trust yourself? Perhaps you simply lack confidence. In our celebrated leadership model, Situational Leadership® II, you would be at development level three—a capable, but cautious, performer. Here are a few ideas that could help you feel like you are on more solid ground:

  • Tighten up your communication with your boss. Put your question in the subject line of the email and make it easy for him to give you a yes or no answer.
  • Instead of asking questions, explain the situation and offer up a suggested solution. This lets your boss reply with either a quick “Go for it” or “Wait, have you thought about …”.
  • Find a mentor in your organization who might have more time for you and can help you develop.
  • Identify a peer or colleague that has more experience than you with whom you can brainstorm solutions.
  • Put yourself on your boss’s calendar when you know he will be in the office. Be prepared with an agenda so you can get through your issues with lightning speed.

Good luck!

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard

Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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