In my experience, when leaders think of managing, they typically regard it as overseeing their direct reports and the team “below” them; however, this is only one part of it. Because the current environment is magnifying both challenges and opportunities, we are realizing that we have to invest more time and focus on managing up. It is a critical endeavor that will be of great value to you and the entire organization.
Recently, I have had many conversations with senior leaders about this topic. Although it is one of our main responsibilities, it seems to be frequently forgotten. In some cases, leaders manage a board, investors, or the owners; other situations might involve senior leaders managing one another. I believe it becomes a dance where the leader empowers the team, thus allowing him/her to better manage their time and focus.
This is not always easy. It takes trust, communication, and accountability to achieve, but it is worth it!
I think we are seeing this more today due to the magnification of stress resulting from the COVID chaos. Boards, owners, investors, and employees are nervous. Budgets are drying up and hard decisions must be made. When human beings experience high levels of stress, we often revert to our default modes – those that consist of working in the weeds, taking control, barking orders, and living in a reactionary position. It is important to recognize the tendency to slip back into bad habits, especially as senior leaders in times of extreme stress. Be mindful of your role and strive to move forward in a proactive state.
If you are working with a board, an owner, or investors, acknowledge their concerns and try to ease their anxieties. This will likely involve additional communication, better listening, reassuring them of the existing plan, and reminding them of the proactive measures being taken. Some situations will require the input of the board, owner, or investor to address and mitigate concerns. If you are the CEO of your organization, managing up might suddenly take more of your time. This is an opportunity to contact your direct reports and ask them to assist with managing you and your schedule. By trusting and allowing them to help, you will be able to stay focused and build a stronger, cohesive team.
Take a step back and look at the current environment in your organization. Are you managing the way you should? Are you communicating with and leading your direct reports and who you report to? If not, what could you do differently?
Are you a senior leader interested in managing up? Do you want to learn how your organization could run more efficiently? We can help with that! Contact us today to for more information.