Leading From Below: The Hard Truth About Managing Up

Leading From Below: The Hard Truth About Managing Up

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In this special five-part BlackEnterprise.com series, Lisa Bing, educator, corporate consultant and founder of Bing Consulting Group Inc., talks the keys to dynamic leadership success and how to position yourself to take the helm.

Let’s cut to the chase. When people ask how to manage up, usually what they mean is, “How do I get what I want.” Here is a list of the top eight expectations people commonly have of their bosses:

  1. Promotion
  2. Recognition
  3. To be left alone
  4. More feedback and coaching
  5. Support to make a change
  6. Support to try something new (process, product, service)
  7. More resources — people, money, time (yes, time is a resource)
  8. More responsibility

Those who get more yeses than others understand the principles of influence. Anyone can increase their influence with a little know-how—with or without a leadership title.  Here are 4 habits that will dramatically increase your clout.

1. Help your boss achieve his/her goals and overcome challenges, both organizational and personal.

What are his/her priorities? Organizationally, priorities usually include some form of making money, saving money, branding, gaining and retaining customers. Start with stated company-wide and department strategies and plans.  Discuss them with your boss to understand how your work contributes to the goals, both directly and indirectly. Understand his concerns, these are opportunities for you.

Don’t overlook personal priorities. Observe, listen and ask to find out what they are.  It could be leaving a legacy, fulfilling a passion or getting better life balance.

2. Find ways to make it easier for your boss to do his/her job.

“I want my people to take ownership and show initiative”.  I hear this from executives all the time.  What they mean is that they want you to be accountable for yourself and your work; clarify and agree to expected outcomes, fulfill your promises and renegotiate if you’re not able to follow through on your promises.   When you make sound decisions and solve problems without your boss’s involvement, you increase the odds of being considered a key contributor.

3. Let your boss know what you’re doing.

The boss is not always able to know all that you do without you telling him. Many people wallow in disappointment because they don’t get the recognition or development support they want but they haven’t expressed their expectations. A misguided belief is that hard work will naturally be recognized and rewarded.  Not so. Provide regular updates on what you’ve accomplished including problems averted or overcome.  Sometimes if you don’t toot your own horn, there is no music.

4. Make your boss look good.

Represent your boss well. Attend meetings on her behalf and become known as someone who is prepared and a supportive player who makes things happen. Keep your ego in check and share the credit for successes.  You want your boss to know that he can trust and rely on you.

Keep in mind that the more you help others achieve their goals, the more others will help you achieve yours. Practicing these habits consistently won’t get you everything you want every time, but you’re sure to get more “yeses” more often.

Lisa A. Bing works with leaders and executives to aid them in extending influence and improving workplace performance. Her company, Bing Consulting Group, boasts clients including Deutsche Bank, Procter & Gamble, Verizon, New York City Police Department, and The American Cancer Society. The seasoned consultant has more than 20 years experience in professional executive coaching and skilled corporate team building and has been honored by The Network Journal as one of the “25 Influential Black Women in Business,” among other honors. The Brooklyn, New York native chairs the Concord Christfund Board of Governors, sits on the executive committee of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and has served as president of the American Society For Training and Development—NY.