The Art (and Business) of Managing Up

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Leaders, are you looking for a highly effective way to gain support for meeting established goals, creating more autonomy within your organization, saving time, and better controlling your personal destiny? Learn the fine art of "managing up."

"Managing up is, in essence, positioning people well," says Quint Studer, author of Straight A Leadership: Alignment, Action, Accountability. You must make a conscious effort to manage up whenever possible. Studer says there are three major ways to do so:

Manage up your boss. Managing up your boss positions the organization well, aligns desired behaviors, helps senior leaders be more visible, and creates an opportunity for praise. "Bosses hear what's wrong all the time. Very rarely do they hear what's right," Studer says. Here is a suggestion:

Write your boss a thank you note. Be specific about what you appreciate, because it will align your boss's behavior to your own and help you control your own destiny. For example, if you say, "Debbie, I really appreciate the fact that you always make time for me because I find this to be so important," what do you think will happen the next time you see Debbie? She will make time for you.

Manage up your staff. Managing up employees is a practical tool for reinforcing specific behaviors. "Recognized behavior gets repeated," Studer points out. "When all managers start managing up their direct reports on a regular basis, pretty soon you have a whole company full of people making it a point to replicate the behavior that got them recognized. Here's how:

Single out high performers for public praise. Corner your exemplary employee when he's with a group of his peers to say thank you. Be specific, not general. Don't just say, "Bob, you're doing a great job." Say, "Bob, you did a great job on that marketing report. Thanks for staying at the office so late last night to finish it up."
Manage up your organization.

"People need to feel good about the company they work for," says Studer. "No one can achieve excellence—which means having a sense of purpose, doing worthwhile work, and making a difference—if they're in an environment where people denigrate the company or its products. Try this:

Never down talk other departments. If you're in marketing, don't make disparaging remarks, even jokingly, about those short-sighted "bean counters" in accounting. Remember, you must seek to create alignment, not division. A company divided against itself cannot stand.

Photo: Ophelia Cherry

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