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June 6, 2014

Dear HubSpot: My Boss Won't Let Me Do My Job

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dear_hubspotNew here? This is a weekly column that we do to answer people's most burning questions about inbound. If you want to submit a question to be answered, click here. This week, we hear from a frustrated marketer whose well-meaning boss is bogging her down with distracting tasks. 

Dear HubSpot,

Here's my issue in a nutshell. I was hired to execute an inbound lead generation program, which I was excited about because I figured I wouldn't have to do much convincing about why inbound marketing works and I could just start doing blogging, social, lead gen, etc. That only ended up being kind of true, and now I have a to-do list from my boss that's a little ridiculous in my opinion. I feel like I was hired to do one thing but the to-do list she's giving me is totally counter to what I was hired for. It's not that she won't let me do inbound, she's totally excited about it... it's just that she's asking me to also do all these other things that aren't that critical in my opinion. And then by the time I'm done with the other things she wants me to do I'd be tacking on another 4 hours to my workday. To give you an idea, here's what I walked out of our meeting today to execute on (the first 6 are mine, the rest she tacked on):

  • Edit two blog posts and schedule
  • Assign at least 5 more posts to writer to get through next week
  • Review whitepaper and send to designer
  • Calculate lead targets for year and backtrack out for monthly goals
  • Do same for traffic
  • Do persona interviews
  • Add new press mentions to press page
  • Schedule candidate interviews
  • Get new email template designs, old ones need updating (keep in house)
  • New CTA creative
  • Go to lunch meeting with [company name redacted], old colleague worked there, might want to do some kind of partnership?
  • Write new boiler plate copy

If this was your to-do list, what would you do? Do I cut her tasks? My tasks? Talk to her? I think I need help prioritizing this short term and figuring out what to do long term too.

Signed,

Bogged Down in BS


Hey BDBS,

Sounds like you need a cocktail. Grab one then come back and read this.

Alright, so it sounds like there are a few underlying issues here. First, you're at a new job so you want to impress your boss, but you don't feel like you're getting the opportunity to put your best foot forward and show how effective you can be. Second, you don't know how to prioritize your to-do list in a way that helps you keep your sanity, please your boss, and show results. Third, you don't want this insanity to become a way of life, so you're wondering if there's a way to change what you and your boss agree on as high- and low-priority.

First, let's address the fact that your boss probably doesn't expect you to finish everything immediately. She hired you because she trusts your capabilities and judgment. So think of this as an ongoing to-do list that she expects you to prioritize -- and that means sometimes her things won't be right at the top.

However, to get the breathing room you need to execute the inbound tasks that are important to you, you need to get your boss off your back a bit. One of the best ways to do this is to show her that you're on top of the things she asked you to do by knocking off one of the easy, less time intensive items immediately. That gives her confidence that you're going to get to everything on the list eventually ... it just may not be right now.

Looking at your list of things, I'd venture a guess that adding press mentions to your website -- while not that important -- is one of the least time intensive things on that list. It's also the first thing you added that was one of her specific requests, which tells me it's probably the first thing she mentioned to you in your 1:1 -- so she cares about it and it's top of mind for her. Bang that out ASAP, let her know it's done, and you'll give her some peace of mind that you're going to get through the tasks.

Now that you have a little breathing room, I'd like you to know that your hunch is right. Some of the things she has asked you to do seem a little less impactful than the things you want to work on. However, she has some good items on there. For instance, it may seem like scheduling candidate interviews is a distraction, but think of the long-term benefits for you here. That's help coming your way. Help that makes your to-do list a lot shorter, which means you have more time to do the things you were hired to do. She's right to ask you to prioritize that.

Let's examine one of her items that you can deprioritize -- those email templates. Using context clues (you said you were sending your ebook to a designer) I'm assuming you don't have a designer to do those templates for you. It also sounds like you're the first inbound marketer there, so your inbound lead generation program probably isn't too robust. That means your TOFU needs (new ebooks) are much bigger than your MOFU needs (new email template designs). You're right to prioritize TOFU growth over a time-intensive redesign of email templates.

Finally, let's examine one of her to-do items that could end up being a great use of time, or a bad one. That lunch meeting with the "old colleague." This could be a legitimate comarketing opportunity for you that helps you expand your reach and seriously grow the top of your funnel. That means more traffic, more leads, and a great start to launching a fantastic inbound lead gen program.

However, your question mark and the fact that this is an "old colleague" sounds like there's not a clear agenda for this meeting, and it could just be a favor to a friend. Here's the thing. This could very well be a total waste of time -- from a lead gen perspective. But it will also give your boss confidence in you. It shows you're open to new opportunities, and that she's right to trust you to lead a strategic discussion with a potential partner. This has less tangible value, but value nonetheless, and you should take it seriously (even if you curse her when you get home).

I hope that helps give you an idea of how to approach these lists. It's always a balancing act, these to-do lists, but you should take a few high level things away from this:

  1. Your boss is really excited you're on board right now, so she's probably sending a lot more your way today than she will a few months down the road. You're the person who's helping her implement the mass of ideas she's had floating around in her head. It's stressful now, but it's a good position to be in.
  2. It takes time to earn trust, but it comes with execution and accountability. Even if you think some of her requests aren't that high a priority, think of it as an investment in your future autonomy.
  3. Even if you're not excited about some of the things she's asked you to do, implement them well. Over time, it'll be clear what activities are high value, and which ones are not, based on how much business value results from it. But you don't have a leg to stand on if you half ass it. Then she can just blame their failure on the half-assery!
  4. It's okay to push back and ask for help. If you truly can't fathom getting everything done, it's time to have a "something's got to give" talk. Position it as a conversation about agreeing on what the lowest value activities on the list are, and pushing those to the bottom of the priority list. If you agree on it together, no one comes out feeling their initiative isn't getting the attention it requires.

Good luck!

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