During his three terms as the mayor of New York Ed Koch asked everyone he met, “How am I doing?”  He didn’t want to wait for an election to find out.  How did you do last year?

Did You Ask?

The more senior your role, the less likely you are to have a formal discussion about how you’re doing.  Many companies have moved away from formal evaluations completely.  Whether you get formal feedback or not, you may be reluctant to ask your boss for informal feedback because:

  • You don’t want to be micromanaged
  • No news is good news
  • It’s the boss’s job to initiate these conversations
  • You might have to make some changes

Find an Approach That Works

If it is important to you to know what you’re doing well and how you could improve, and you work for someone who isn’t good at giving feedback, you owe it to your boss and yourself to find an approach that works well for both of you.  Real time feedback is best but not everyone is comfortable with that.  Ask your boss what she or he prefers.  You might get the best feedback during conversations over coffee.  If more structure appeals to you, you could suggest regularly scheduled discussions focused on one or two key areas.

If you don’t ask, then how will you know how you’re doing?

Remember the classic game of finding the letters of the alphabet on road signs and billboards? You have to watch carefully to find those tough letters like “Q” and “Z”.

What Are You Missing?

Driven, results-oriented leaders sometimes miss a few signs on the way to their destination. One of the most frequent comments I hear when conducting 360 feedback interviews is, “he needs to do a better job of adjusting his style based on the situation.” Those signs might look like:

  1. High turnover on your team
  2. Difficulty getting your peers to support your ideas
  3. Your boss tuning you out or cutting you off

How to Adjust

When you notice those signs, consider making these adjustments:

  1. Delegate more and micromanage less
  2. Take the time to build consensus
  3. Provide a high level summary and get into details only when asked

I invite you to try and identify one sign this week and figure out which direction you should go. It could make the trip a lot smoother!

Read more about Adjusting Your Style


When we hear “The devil is in the details,” we are reminded not to overlook something small that could have a big impact.  When I work with leaders who are detail oriented, they often struggle to let go.  That becomes even more difficult when their boss expects them to have the details at their fingertips.

How do you find the right balance?

  • Set an example – What kind of leader do you want to be?  A micromanager or a big picture thinker?
  • Weigh the risk – What is the worst that could happen if you said, “I can get that information for you.”
  • Push back appropriately – “Based on my assessment of the information provided by my team, I recommend the following…”

I invite you to stretch beyond your comfort zone and trust your team to handle the details, and then manage your boss’ expectations.  You might help him or her become a more effective leader in the process!


Do you work in a 24/7 environment?  Many of my clients tell me that they could avoid being constantly on call if their colleagues were more effective decision makers.  According to a Bain & Company survey of almost 800 companies worldwide, this is a common problem.  Most people rated their company as less than effective at making decisions.  Have you been frustrated by someone who micromanages and slows down the decision-making process?  Or by someone with analysis paralysis?

The authors of “The Decision-Driven Organization” in the Harvard Business Review recommend assessing critical decisions to determine whether they are:

  • Major decisions like a change in strategy or a capital investment that has significant stand-alone impact
  • Minor day-to-day decisions like customer discounts or  changes in product specifications that together can lead to success or failure of a pricing strategy

When you have determined which decisions are critical, decide where in the organization those decisions should be made. Some decisions are better made at the field level, others at the regional or corporate level.  Many decisions require input from multiple levels.

It is also important to recognize different decision-making styles.  Leaders with engineering or other technical backgrounds may prefer a lot of details and need to learn to make decisions without all the information.  The ready, fire, aim types need to slow down and consider their options more carefully. These coaching issues come up frequently in my practice and it takes time to change ingrained behaviors.

The Bain study found a strong correlation between decision making and financial performance.  It is worth taking the time to assess the decision-making effectiveness of your organization and to address necessary adjustments.

If you or a colleague could be a more effective decision-maker, contact me at