I originally published this column in 2008 and got almost 80 reader responses. Thought it worth sharing with some minor revisions…
Do you make anything of this? Last Monday I wrote about “managing up.” I got only 4 blog comments, three of which were random attacks on the Governor that were unrelated to my column. Typically 15-20 people weigh in. Then on my radio show this week the topic in the call-in hour was the same: how to manage up. And not a single call! I don’t think it’s accidental. I’ll tell you what I think, and I hope to hear what you think.
First, “managing up” can be a scary proposition. I imagine there were people who would have loved to call in and get some advice on handling a challenging boss, but those same people might have understandably been afraid to talk about it publicly. What if the boss heard?!
Second, I suspect that people feel rather hopeless when it comes to this topic. “Geez,” I imagine them saying, “It’s hard enough to manage down, to manage your kids or your team, let alone to manage your boss or your parents!”
I’d love to hear whether you think this is true (you can blog with a pseudonym or anonymously). Do you aspire to managing up? Or do you think it’s too dangerous? Do you think you should try to manage up – i.e., is it the job of all us who wish to lead, to lead those who are the formal leaders? I suspect this could be a robust exchange, especially if we drop the gloves of abstraction and actually write honestly about how we approach leading up. Do you manage up? Why, or why not? What holds you back? And what works? I fervently invite you to contribute to this week’s blog and read what others have to say.
Here’s my take on it. I think managing up is risky. And I think there are genuine limits to how much you can get a manager to change his or her practices. But I think most of the time it’s worth the risk. If you lead with your best self, you will almost inevitably engage the formal leader(s) to share information, question assumptions, offer ideas, and otherwise act with ownership. I hope you might take a little ownership of this important conversation, and comment this week, as you
Lead with your best self!