Your Responses Last Week Were Like Dynamite


Last week I wondered aloud with you why no one had addressed the issues in the prior week’s Reading for Leading, about managing up. Among the huge number of terrifically intriguing responses, came this one from Tony in Kalamazoo: “Looking at the number of responses this week vs. last week puts me in mind of Robert Redford’s line as the Sundance Kid: ‘Think ya’ used enough dynamite there, Butch?’” LOL as they say.

Consider this analogy. In some respects, I am in a position of relative authority with respect to the reader. Like a boss, it falls to me to set the tone or agenda, at least in this small virtual space that I occupy. Like “real” authority figures, I know that my work is much more effective when more people weigh in, sharing their views, their thoughts and feelings. And like authority figures at work I proceed in a routine fashion. From time to time, I ask — more or less explicitly — for your feedback. Two weeks ago I received virtually none. But then look what happened when I went out of my way through multiple links to the blog in the text and through repeated requests for your input: it blew up like dynamite!

Which one of us as a boss, parent, teacher, principal, pastor… does not think in their own mind that they are open to, no, seek, no, thrive upon, no need input and feedback? Yet which one of us hasn’t fallen into certain routines that make it almost inevitable that we will receive next to no feedback in the routine of our days and weeks?

Perhaps the greatest truism in sales and in development work is, “you won’t get the sale unless you ask for the order!” Managing’s the same. So if you feel like you are bearing the load, or just not engaging and involving your teams, you should step outside the routine and quite explicitly, emphatically and repeatedly seek input. If you don’t believe me, spend a few minutes reading some of the comments in last week’s blog, for they make it so abundantly clear that many people find huge obstacles when it comes to managing up. Many find it useless if not downright dangerous. If you want their input, you better systematically remove barriers and plow open routes for input. You’ve got to go out of your way to bring them into your way, and thereby

Lead with your best self!


  • Dan,

    First I would like to start by saying I love your RFL, it truly is inspiring. But with that said, I am frustrated at the same time. Each week I read the RFL and want to hit my head on a brick wall, because my supervisor really needs this information. But I have forwarded the RFL’s in the past to the top and it just doesn’t filter down. Our CEO preaches left and right about open communication and getting along, but it really is not filtering down. I don’t see our top leadership doing this and in turn, my supervisor isn’t getting the tools needed to do the job effectively. The sad part is my supervisor is in a crutical role for the corporation.

    How do you give feed back to a supervisor who gets defensive and doesn’t want to hear it. They feel that you are being insubordinate and a war is started? I just don’t know what to do and am at my wits end every day! Basically, the supervisor feels threaten.

    Do you have any suggestions?


  • How can we manage up as citizens in government? This question has been driving me nuts. I know the ballot box is the answer but with term limits, some politicians don’t even have to worry about that if they are in their final term. I am paying 200% more this quarter due to the Michigan Business Tax. It is unfair and it is not right. This was because our government has no leadership, no guts, and the need to keep special interests that got them elected happy. The model is broken. Our governor led an equally clueless legislature through a process which caused a governmental shutdown, a repealed tax after they figured out they were clueless the first time, and another new tax that is literally going to drive more jobs across state lines. As a loyal Michigander, this hurts. But you can bet when I hear from development officials from other states, I no longer will say I’m not interested.

  • I’ve been fortunate to have some great managers over the years, and one of the more philosophical of whom told me more than once, “The answer is always no unless you ask.” I know that doesn’t help those of you who have beaten your heads against the wall trying to change things (and I’ve been there, too), but if you’re one of the lucky ones (like me) who trust their managers, don’t assume that the answer to postitive change will always be no. It might simply be that your manager needs help and doesn’t realize it or know how to ask for it.

  • I am an ex stay at home Mom who packaged her college degee, life skills, experience in government, volunteerism and a newly acquired associates degree to join the 9-5 work force. I work as a member of a team which leaves me with a handful of superiors. I am the most junior member. The tone could be set by the leader of this group; and if it were it would be wonderful. She is a kind and knowledgeable person. However, this group, typical of many, functions in last minute mode, which leaves emotions ragged and often, those that can (much like the family dog) kicked in frustration. The pace of this world, the dog-eat-dog mentality, is on the up-swing because clients can be scarce and jobs even scarcer. The next employee is knocking on the door – along with many others – literally. Managing up is something I strive to do every day, but it is very difficult and risky. I seize moments, keep an up beat attidue and bring the best that I have to offer to the job each day. But, at the end of the day, I need the paycheck and I need the job and jobs in Michigan for those without significant work history are scarce – despite the life skills and other attributes that we can, and perhaps do, bring to the table.

  • As someone who contributed some of last week’s dynamite, let me just say that I finally got around to responding to your response on last week’s blog, Dan.

    I can pity the toxic managers I have known, but there’s serenity in knowing I cannot change them. On a good day, I can change myself… and change the place where I invest my energy. Hopefully, not in any more black holes!

  • Dan,

    If you’ve ever read The Little Red Hen you’ll understand what I mean when I say that I have the REVERSE problem. There are SO MANY people weighing in on simple decisions that it is IMPOSSIBLE to “bake the bread.” I think feedback can be helpful, but frankly, there is a time when it is better for the project if people would just WEIGH OUT rather than in.

    I’ve watched as other leaders and project managers have received opinion after opinion on how something SHOULD be done, but in the end there has been only a single “hen” to implement the plan. I think that if you are willing to offer feedback or “constructive criticism” to someone else’s project, you should also be willing to commit a certain amount of time and energy to making the project a success – that means an investment LABOR as well as opinion.

    There are thousands of people who have GREAT ideas; it’s the people who are willing to walk through the process and help turn concepts into realities that really add value. Until those individuals identify themselves as “constants” to the project, the one who is doing the actual work has the opinion that really counts.

  • I have another take on this. You can’t assume the amount of influence your behavior has based on the feedback you get. The first week you had no response, but evidently by the large response during week two, many people heard and thought about the topic.

    It’s like at funersls- you hear “he (or she) meant so much to me” or “he did XX for me and it changed my life for the better” or “he was the person I always held up in my mind as my example of what I wanted to become.” You think how sad it is that the person never got to hear it himself.

    I try to use these experiences to remind myself that even when I don’t get feedback (good or bad), I am probably still affecting people (in good and bad ways) so I must try to make my affect good.

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