Learn Your Boss’s Priorities for Your Job

12 Feb, 2019 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: It’s often difficult to determine how to organize your many tasks as a CAD manager. What does your boss want you to focus on first? There’s only one way to know for certain — ask!

When I hear from CAD managers about their concerns, there are certain questions that come up again and again: “How should I deal with all the tasks I have on my plate?” and “How does my boss expect me to get all this stuff done?” and “How can I know what they want me to work on first?” These questions may seem unrelated, but in reality they are all about two things: priorities and communication.

In this column, we’ll begin a discussion about prioritizing your workload so your managers will love what you’re doing, and communicating in a way that helps them notice your efforts. Here goes.

What Your Boss Knows — and Needs

In my years as a CAD manager, I’ve talked with many senior management teams, and I’ve come to believe they think the following:

  • They realize that your job is hard.
  • They know you’ve got a lot going on.
  • They’re aware that you receive conflicting demands from users, project managers, and the IT department.

So this means that they understand your plight, if not your job. But here are a few other things senior management teams tend to think:

  • They expect you to help projects go out the door profitably.
  • They want you to prioritize standards and best practices over user desires.
  • They need you to keep software costs under control.
  • They want their priorities to be your priorities.

Now we’re getting somewhere: It turns out that senior management teams are all about business efficiency and profitability. So how should you prioritize the CAD manager’s job in a way that’ll make management happy?

Get Specific

Of course, it’s one thing to speak in generalities about being more productive, controlling costs, and generating profits on jobs, but how can you know what specific priorities your management team wants you to address? Two words: Ask them!

To get things rolling, take the following actions right away:

Ask your boss for a meeting. Make sure you tell him or her that the subjects you want to discuss are 

  1. doing a better job as CAD manager, and
  2. getting their ideas for how that can happen.

Communicate your agenda. In your agenda, solicit your boss’s ideas for how to prioritize your workload, but also ask how to deal with conflicting demands upon your time. Send the message that you want to come away from the meeting with a plan for how to approach your job more effectively.

Check for immediate action items. When you make your request, be sure to include a way for management to reply immediately. You could say, “I look forward to our meeting, but if you have anything to pass along right away, please tell me so I can start working on it now.”

Explain that you want to set priorities. When you make your request, make it clear that your goal is to make sure you’re tackling your job with the right priorities, and that you welcome your management team’s input.

Prepare for the Meeting

Before the meeting takes place, do some honest homework based on these self-diagnostic questions and action items:

What are your priorities? Are they consistent with faster, more productive job completion?

Action item: Brainstorm a list of all the activities you perform as a CAD manager, then put them in order of importance according to how much time you spend on each activity. The point of this exercise is to figure out where you’re spending your time, as that will indicate what your priorities are.

How do you think your boss would write your priorities list? If your meeting highlights differences of opinion, can you defend your priorities to your boss — or have you never really thought about them?

Action item: Imagine you are your boss, and rewrite your activities list in the order you think he or she would have to prioritize them. Of course, you’re speculating about how another person would think, so the result likely won’t be entirely accurate, but it is amazing how this exercise can help you think differently about your job.

Are you thinking like a manager? Are you focused on methods, standards, and efficiency? In my experience, when meeting with your managers, it always pays to think like they do.

Action item: Rewrite your activities list in a way that makes sense to your boss. For example, instead of “educate users on the importance of object properties for inherited line weight and materials assignments,” opt for “train users on best practices for reusing CAD content.” With the original terminology, your boss could be confused or totally lost — but the second version illustrates that you’re driving for standards and reusability of content, which managers will love.

Your challenge now is to complete the action items above and be honest with yourself about how you can best approach the meeting with your boss. Go over your work again and again until you really understand and can clearly defend your positions. And if you happen to find yourself stumped on any of these assignments, there’s no harm in telling your boss, “I don’t have all the answers when it comes to this job, and that’s why I’m asking for your guidance.”

Practice the Conversation

Once you've completed the preparation steps above, think about how the conversation with your boss might go, and rehearse some responses in advance. The more you think about the topics you’ll discuss, the better prepared you’ll be. So even though you may feel weird talking through your responses ahead of time, rest assured that every minute you practice now will make you more confident when talking to your boss.

Action item: Prepare for this meeting as if it were a job interview.

Summing Up

If you are willing to ask your boss for help prioritizing your tasks, you will surely learn a few things, and you’re certain to gain a much better understanding of how your boss views your job. Armed with this new insight, you’ll be better able to tackle the CAD manager’s role in a way that pleases your boss.

In the future, I’ll cover some tips for handling communication with your boss so that you can maintain a high degree of contact and never again have to wonder what your boss is thinking. Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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