Reverse Engineering Managing Up

At The Roundtable, we explore all kinds of interesting topics. One that always gets people engaged is the idea of ‘managing up’. With the #1 reason that people quit jobs being their relationship with their boss, it’s little wonder that leaders in our programs spend time trying to figure out how to manage their leaders. But, here’s the thing that I’ve found with this topic… it’s one that’s often taboo in organizations. Managers don’t like to think that they need to be ‘managed’. We talk about needing to manage our boss, but rarely do we talk about how our team need to manage us! Well, guess what… we need to change that. How well are YOU at teaching your directs how to effectively manage YOU?

The reality of work relationships is that some are easy and some – quite frankly – suck. We’re not going to get along easily with everyone. And, if you subscribe to the mantra of bringing diversity of thinking into your team, then there’s a HIGH likelihood that many of the people on your team are going to drive you nuts. Just like you’re driving them nuts.

True confession: I have an awesome team. They are loyal, engaged, committed, talented and in one way or another are very different than me. And in some cases VERY VERY VERY different than me. And that’s good. That’s why I hired them.

But does that mean it’s easy for me to work with everyone on my team ALL the time? Absolutely not. Is it easy for them to work with me all the time DEFINITELY not!

Like many of you, we’ve spent lots of time in our company looking at our individual ‘strengths’ and ‘preferences’ and all that awareness is helpful. However, in my experience, it doesn’t always translate into concrete changes that improve your working relationship. Invariably, our tendency as human beings is to look at our results of things like Myers Briggs, DiSC, etc and say ‘look at how awesome my style is. Too bad everyone else is so deficient!

When someone’s style is completely different than you’re own, you need to be explicit about what they need to do to work more effectively with you. Help them help you. The more transparent and clear you can be, the easier it is for them to do the few key things that will keep you in line and off their backs. If you don’t tell them that you are a detail person and need to see the facts and figures, well how will they know that except through trial and error? (And countless frustrating meetings on both your parts?)

By clearly stating your expectation and what you need from your direct reports, you are helping them understand what your hot buttons are and what you need to see from them. This is going to reduce their frustration and make you happier as well.

Does this mean that you don’t need to adapt your style to your direct reports? Of course not. We all know that leadership is about being adaptive to different needs, however, this is a partnership. Don’t do all the heavy lifting yourself. It’s o.k. for you to have expectations of your directs on how they can make your life easier. Just as they have expectations on you.

Leadership today is about shared success and the best way to build a productive partnership with your team members is to teach them how to do it.

Happy leading!