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Escalate Well

In many offices, being politically astute means knowing when and what to escalate to your boss. That is, as I wrote a few days ago, knowing what information they really care about. Most leaders especially appreciate knowing about things before they blow up.

For example, Lisa said her team lacked political acumen. When we looked at what was happening, it was clear that they didn’t understand what was important to their boss. Because of that, they weren’t escalating issues at the right time.

So we sat down and made, of all things, a process map. The map showed flash points – steps where if something went wrong their managers wanted to know about it.

We mapped the process with small subsets of the team. They provided the information about escalating. Strangely, as a group they did know when to escalate. But no individual knew all of the things that they should escalate, or when.

Once it was in black and white, they didn’t have to guess what their boss wanted to know and what she didn’t. They kept the map up to date and worked through it with new hires. Everything got simpler.

If you think you know when to escalate, then it would be worthwhile having a conversation with your boss about it. About what is important and what is not. If your boss is a little fluffy, or thinks you should know, then that’s cool. Say thanks for the confidence, and press on.

Write a list of what things you do, and turn it into a table showing which things you think she might want to know. Work with your colleagues to find out what’s gotten them in trouble, or not, over the past few years, and make a list together.

Believe me, when you’re receiving a written warning for not having escalated something important to your boss, you will remember.

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