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Managing Up

Hello, my friends.

Today I want to focus on the concept of “managing up” as a team leader. Managing up is the process of influencing and propelling your team forward with the oversight and support of your supervisors and stakeholders. As a leader, it can be easy to focus primarily on the team that reports to you, but it is also imperative that you focus upward to make sure that you are leading your team in the right direction. Here are some key components to successfully managing up:

Believe in your boss and stakeholdersIf you don’t believe in your boss, you shouldn’t have that boss. You need to understand that your boss isn’t leaving, and if you don’t feel confident in the leadership provided, you need to be proactive about making sure you have the right boss for you. This may be a different boss within your current organization, or a different boss at a completely different organization. It is your responsibility to make sure you are following a leader in whom you have faith.

Align with your organization’s goals – If you don’t believe in your organization, where it is headed, and where it wants to be, you shouldn’t be a part of that organization. Just as you need to believe in your boss and stakeholders, you need to have the organizational commitment required to lead your team forward.

Your boss’s agenda is your agendaIf your boss’s agenda for success isn’t already your agenda, it must become your agenda. You must appreciate this agenda and apply yourself to it to ensure that you are meeting the appropriate organizational priorities and upcoming deliverables.

Align to goal completion – You are responsible for prioritizing your team and your own efforts to make sure you are aligning for organizational goal completion. You are between your team and your boss, and it is your job to have and to be able to communicate to both a clear overall goal and the steps required for achievement. Consequently, this also means that you are responsible for anticipating and planning for any changes or issues that may arise. Don’t manipulate the environment – you can win if you can anticipate and be prepared to respond appropriately when changes or issues arise.

Know your boss – Knowing your boss not only includes an understanding of goals, personality, attributes, strength, and competency, but also biorhythms and body language. Clear communication is absolutely essential, and you need to recognize how your boss communicates and what is being said, both verbally and non-verbally.

Introduce new ideas the right way at the right time – You must be strategic about where, when, and how you introduce new ideas to ensure that they are heard and considered. Consider how you like to receive information from your team – is it an email, a PowerPoint, a verbal conversation, or some other mode of communication? When is the best time for your team to introduce new ideas to you? Just as your team knows the best way to communicate with you, you need to know and utilize the best way to communicate with your boss, which goes hand-in-hand with knowing your boss. If your boss is an effective morning person who loves verbal presentations accompanied by detailed PowerPoint slides, don’t send your new idea by email at the end of the day – make sure you are communicating at the time and in the way that is best for the intended recipient.

Grow clout through wins – Success grows and breeds your clout, which gives you the opportunity to have a much stronger voice at the table. Achieving and delivering success means that you become someone who can be relied upon. As a leader, you know which members of your team can consistently be relied upon, and you need to be that person consistently for your boss.

Grow trust through honesty – People must be able to talk to you, talk with you, speak in confidence, bounce challenging ideas off of you, and have hard conversations when necessary. This applies to your boss just as much as it applies to your team – both rely on your strength of character.

Defer credit – No successful leader worth a damn ever takes credit. Credit goes to your team for execution and to your boss for trusting and empowering you to lead the team. You get the warm and fuzzy feeling of reinforcing success.

Own Failure – Everyone experiences failure. When the failure is yours, take responsibility, and make sure that you know and can express what you have learned, how you are going to fix it, and offer a solution set.

Ultimately, managing up has almost all of the same characteristics as managing your team. As long as you are applying best practices with your team, they will transfer exceptionally well to managing up. Diplomacy wins when managing your team, and diplomacy wins when managing up. Make sure you are giving your boss the opportunity to be the kind of leader for you that you are for your team, and thank them all today for helping you grow into a better you.


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