Sunday, July 7, 2019

My Talk to Emerging Leaders: Learn how to manage upwards

This blog is in continuation to the earlier blog I wrote about my experience in being a mentor to emerging leaders in my organization.

What did you find to be most challenging as you moved from middle management to senior management leadership ?
(This is the Part-2 of the question i started answering here and here)

One of the VPs I worked with a few years back told me something that stayed with me. He said that after one reaches Director level or equivalent in the organization, the role should focus a lot more on managing upwards.

By managing upwards, he meant not only immediate boss but also boss's boss and all other influencing people in the organization.

He certainly did not mean that managing your team is demeaning or less important. By the time one reaches senior management level, one already have managers reporting into you who takes care of managing the teams.

I had picked-up some of the nuances of managing upwards from R.Gopalakrishnan's book- What the CEO Really Wants From You: The 4 As for Managerial Success

Sharing this excerpt from the book:
The management world is replete with articles and books on how to succeed, how to get to the corner office fast and how to be a great leader. But the literature is thinner on how to be a great subordinate, how to deserve before desire, and how to regard understanding what your boss needs as an integral part of your job. And if you have not been a great subordinate, you are not quite headed towards the C-suite or the corner office!
We live in a world that over-emphasizes leadership and downplays the role followership. Infact, every great leader was an outstanding subordinate once.

One of the things in the book that resonated well with me was the author emphasizing that the relationship between the leader and the sub-ordinate is often asymmetrical. It means that there is a vast difference between what our boss expects out of us as against what we expect our boss to do. Here's an enlightening excerpt from the book:
As part of my training sessions, I conduct an exercise on the subject of expectations. What does the boss owe you? What do you owe the boss? After compiling answers over several hundred candidates' responses, I find that people list nine expectations from their boss but only four from themselves to their boss!
The nine things that managers feel that their boss owes them are: feedback, empowerment, coaching, transparency, recognition, opportunity, clear tasks, access and respect for personal time.The four things that people feel they owe their boss are: one hundred percent effort, loyalty, honesty and get-it-done results.When your consciousness and focus in any relationship is driven by what the other person owes you rather than what you owe that person, that is asymmetry: this means that more often than not, you are giving less than what you take out of the relationship.
Such unbalanced expectations merit some thought, because the asymmetry is the cause of strife and disappointment It is important for any good subordinate to think about the boss's needs as much as he or she would like the boss to think of his or her needs.
The true meaning of managing upwards is to be aware of boss's needs at work and leverage this awareness to help him or her succeed in their role. And not to be do this with any expectations of rewards (rewards always follow right behavior) but more as something do be done as a part of your job role and duty.

What is your experience of managing upwards ? Please do share.

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