Give your boss context when you ask for approval

“Can you give the greenlight on this?”

“Can you approve next week’s social media post?”

“Can I get an approval on this Facebook ad creative?”

Depending on your role, you might ask your boss for approval once to several times a day.

Even directors and vice presidents need to manage up. And if you’re creating anything new, it makes sense to get buy-in each step of the way.

We can’t force our bosses to approve our work, but we can embrace that it’s our responsibility to get better at securing their greenlight.

Getting the greenlight faster could save you hours per week. If you can’t get their permission to proceed, your work might get stalled. And if your work gets stalled, you might eventually get blamed for that.

When you ask your boss for approval, the top thing to do is to come prepared. Anticipate their questions. Give them the context they need to make a good decision. Give them what they need to confidently approve your work.

Let’s say your manager takes forever to get back to you.

Theoretically, if what you’re asking is simple, they should approve it quickly right?

So why does it take so long for your boss to give you the clearance to move forward?

Because your boss is ultimately responsible for any potentially bad decision you make. Let that soak in for a minute. Your manager’s head is on the chopping block for any bad outcomes that happen.

Ideally, you should feel accountable. For what it’s worth, I only choose to work with people who feel personally responsible for whatever happens. So if you are one of these people, keep that sense of care and integrity. It’s one of the most scarce things you bring to the table.

At the same time, any manager worth their salt is going to take responsibility when one of their team members messes up. A good leader is going to say, “It’s on me. I should have caught that, or known better, or trained my team better.” A good leader takes the heat on behalf of their team. Chances are, your manager has already (and continues to) take heat from their boss because of what you or your team has done.

Subconsciously, you know that once your boss approves, you’re off the hook. “My boss said it was okay, so I did it.”

You have deniability. Sweet, sweet deniability.

But guess what? Your boss doesn’t.

This is a huge thing to understand and internalize. This is why people in charge can’t just quickly approve stuff. Their job and their reputation is on the line in a way that yours isn’t.

Empathize with your manager. Think about and appreciate the gravity of what it means when they give you their seal of approval.

So what can you do to make your boss’ life easier AND get your work approved faster?

Give them context in a way that’s easy to digest.

Be clear and explicit about exactly what you need to move forward.

Proactively share what they need to make a good decision.

Don’t make your boss think extra hard just to approve your work. When you share an appropriate amount of context up front, they’ll be able to approve and get off your critical path. Then you can continue doing great work that makes you and your boss proud.