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Ron Shewchuk

Eleanor, this is a tough problem, and the solution depends on a few factors.

How far up or down the chain of command do you live? If you report directly to the COO, the only way to deal with this is to politely challenge him, or ask the people who produce the numbers to challenge him. If you report up through a different department, this is something you should raise with your boss, and let him/her do the challenging.

If the COO is disagreeing with numbers, he's in some kind of a weird state of denial, or there's some high-level politics going on - maybe a battle over accounting practices, or a rivalry that you're not aware of. Try to get to the bottom of why he's doing this, and then you can perhaps figure out a strategy for fixing the problem.

Another thought -- get one of those direct reports, yourself, and the COO in a room together and talk about the issue. "Listen, guys. This is causing serious problems. Disagreements over numbers should not be happening as we're about to communicate them. Surely there's a way we can get everyone to agree on the facts before we've written the story."

Or, never mind the meeting. When you're interviewing or corresponding with the COO's direct reports for a story, you could insiste that they confirm the numbers they're giving you with their boss before you proceed.

Hope this helps. Let me know how it goes.

Eleanor Smith

Ron,

Thanks for your insights on getting approval for articles. My question is: How can I get my boss (the COO) to approve reports with numbers that he disagrees with? I have no problems with the articles, I can easily interview people and get that info., but he refuses to approve reports (that need to get to the CEO in a timely manner) if he disagrees with the numbers, given to me by HIS own dept. heads! I have no way of checking them because they come from the people who are keeping track. Help!

Frustrated Executive Communications Specialist

Ron Shewchuk

Excellent additions, Tim! Thanks for sharing.

Tim Hicks

Good stuff. A few more, from painful experience:

(1) If Joe is a must-approve but just never gets around to it, ask him to delegate his approval to someone else, on the understanding that the delegate is expected to tell Joe about the ones he NEEDS to see.

(2) Separate the must-approve people from the should-review people; the latter can be told "If I haven't heard from you by (date) I will assume you're OK".

(3) In asking for approval, give them a deadline (even if it isn't enforceable) so they know how long they can delay it.

(4) If you know that Joe must-approve is buried in top priorities, ask his admin assistant if he would delegate his approval authority for the short term, just as if he were on vacation.

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