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RISMEDIA, March 12, 2008-(MCT)-You bump into the boss in the hallway or ride the elevator at the same time. Or perhaps you’ve landed a meeting with the top dog. How do you best use the time?

If you’re someone who wants to be a trusted adviser, don’t whine. And don’t use the time for self-serving talk that paints you as a victim: “I’ve been working for this company for 15 years and I only have two weeks’ vacation.”

A legitimate complaint, but not one to waste your three minutes with the CEO. Whining will make the boss run the other way before you can get a word in. The boss’ assistant may even signal your impending arrival.

Instead, ask productive questions or use it as an opportunity to pitch an idea.

Employees are often frustrated when they are not invited to the table: They’re left out of an important meeting or not asked for advice on an issue involving their department or expertise.

How can employees get their boss to listen?

“You choose to be the table,” says James Lukaszewski, author of “Why Should the Boss Listen to You?” and a crisis management expert. “You have to have this sense of what you can accomplish, a personal confidence. You’re acting on their behalf and in their best interest.”

For members of a family business, getting attention may be easier but also has challenges.

Amy Gioeni, director of business development for Boca Raton, Fla.-based Hirsch Architects, is the daughter of Ken Hirsch, head of the firm.

Gioeni says she presents ideas like everyone else at work, usually at special lunch meetings or an after-work meeting once a month. But, she admits, “I probably get to bend his ear a little more. … I do get the opportunity to have lunch with him or speak with him on the weekend.”

Her strategy to pitch a project is to identify benefits to the organization and clients, and then enlist co-workers to help her evaluate it. It helps that Hirsch is open to new ideas: “He doesn’t say, `no.’ He’ll listen first.”

Lukaszewski says employees get noticed when they make their budget or sales goals, are a contributor toward the company’s strategy, and are generally “inspirational” people.

At the same time, he says, workers who want to be listened to also need to:

– Understand where the boss is coming from, and the goals he or she may be trying to achieve. “Bosses hear many voices every day,” he says. “You have to say something that will matter to them from their perspective.”
Recommend solutions rather than giving orders. Too often employees seeking to be trusted advisers act like they’re entitled to give their opinion and a boss should be obligated to listen.
Reduce stress and tension. Be the person who can walk into a room and everyone is comfortable you’re there, Lukaszewki says. Humor and stories often help ease tension.
Deliver recommendations in a digestible, usable form. Be brief, positive and constructive.
Propose incremental solutions. Don’t insist that you have the entire answer to a problem, but your suggestion may be part of a solution for your boss. “They want a menu of things to choose from,” he says.

“Be a person who gets things done,” Lukaszewski recommends. Also be forward-thinking. “Don’t always be trying to solve yesterday’s problems. It’s done. Bosses are people of tomorrow.”

In trying to help your boss as an adviser, it’s important to be aware of the mission.

Lukaszewski recalls a mistake he made as manager when he was asked to prepare a layoff announcement. Instead, he sent the CEO a memo detailing how he could shift people into other jobs. The response from the CEO? “You’re not on my team.”

He misunderstood: The mission was to sell the company, not grow the business. “It was my fault. I wasn’t paying attention.”

Sometimes an employee can’t get a boss to act on an idea or recommendation. When you run into a wall, change direction, Lukaszewski says. “It’s their ship. If they’re ignoring you, move on and do something else.”

© 2008, South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.