Managing Up: How to effectively influence the executive level

Posted April 29, 2013 in Career Management, Communication, Latest News & Insights

Think that managing your boss feels too manipulative or like you’re sucking up?  Think again my friends.  Managing up is a complex and, in today’s fully matrixed organizations, crucial ability that leaders need in order to thrive (and possibly survive).  During our April PowerRoundtable, we benefited from the wisdom and experience of three dynamic leaders: Stacey Allerton, VP HR of Ford Canada; Sharon Wood, CEO, Kids Help Phone; and, Dave Baran, VP/GM National Strategic Accounts, Workopolis who shared their strategies (buying their bosses’ “treats” wasn’t one of them).  As always, the discussion was lively, the insights practical and the authenticity plentiful.  Here are some of the top tips on how to manage up and influence senior level stakeholders:

Ask:  Talk to your boss about how they like to work, what their priorities and what you can do to help them.  Managing up starts with understanding expectations.

Politics shmolitics: Understanding your bosses agenda, isn’t manipulative or a political play… it’s just a smart business strategy…assuming your intent is positive and aligned to the organization’s values and priorities.

Think 360:  It’s not just about what you.  Be aware of everyone’s agenda.  Understand their priorities and how well yours align (or don’t).  Identify ways that you can create more alignment and support between your various groups before looking for senior level endorsement.

Practice collaboration:  Doing our own job is only part of the equation.  Seek synergies across departments/silos.  People in the middle have the strongest opportunities to build and add value across the organization, which can get you noticed and get your projects noticed.

Set the stage:  Take the time to have conversations before the meeting. Align the stakeholders.  If you don’t get to talk to the key decision-maker before the meeting, talk to the people who report to him/her.

Watch your wake: Building alignment can require patience and compromise on your part.  Bullying your views through the organization can create a tsunami wave of resentment and make it harder for you to get future projects off the ground.

Confront the snakes: Don’t let bad behaving peers get away with manipulative kissing up behaviour.  Take a deep breath and have a courageous conversation to confront them on the issue directly.  Running to your boss to complain puts them in a tough spot and can create friction in your relationship as well.

As always, there was so much more.  Our net conclusion was that managing up is a lot harder/more time consuming than it seems.  Communication is key and the more you can frame your idea/perspective in terms of the benefit to the organization, the greater your chance of success.  Hope to see you in June for our next PowerRoundtable session on June 5 in Toronto: Riding the Tough Times: How to build resilience and confidence during a downturn with Bill Neill, PostMedia Group, Janet Yale, The Arthritis Society, and Silvio Stroescu, ING DIRECT.

Happy leading!


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