How to Lead Upwards
There are bosses and there are BOSSES! We have all been in situations where we have felt that things could have been done better. Take a moment now and reflect on the time when that happened. And, what did you do? Did you take some action, or did the idea get lost in the notes app on your iphone? Great results come from great ideas and yours are no different. My suggestion, keep in mind the scenario that happened, read on and see what you can do differently TODAY as a lead upwards who is determined to make a difference with an re-energised leadership strategy!
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg
8 Smart Ways to Lead YOUR BOSS
One of Marcel Schwantes Inc. readers writes: “Our office is challenged because [our VP] shows up once a month for a few days, then disappears. He doesn’t follow up and he doesn’t communicate well. It’s incredibly frustrating. Anything you can say or send me that could help is greatly appreciated.” This is a problem that I’ve heard countless times: When your boss’s behaviour or performance just isn’t cutting it, which affects everyone down the line. What do you do? Here’s the advice I gave her and the answer to her question: You lead up. This is a leader who lead upwards his or her boss through influence, and never through being the boss of your boss. I asked my reader the same questions I’m now asking you: “To what degree do you currently have an opportunity to lead up–to influence your founder, manager, VP, CEO? What are the challenges? Is it difficult to do? If anyone is bothered by this idea, and having images of awkward conversations about telling your boss what to do, let me smooth your fears. Leading up is not upward delegation or manipulation of some sort to try to get something from them.
Leading up is a very beneficial practice for both parties involved. Most leaders want to lead, not be led. But most leaders also want to have value added to them. If you take the approach of wanting to add value to those above you on the org. chart, you have the best chance of influencing them. So in what ways can you add value to your boss? Here are 8 smart, emotionally-intelligent, ways of doing it:
- Embrace the idea that one of your key roles is to make your leader wildly successful
- Lighten their load
- Build credibility
- Invest in the relationship
- Be a master of the right approach
- Show curiosity and the willingness to learn
- Be a trusted advisor
- Use persuasion to sell your ideas
One of the best arguments for persuading decision makers to change direction is to show the value of a great idea. So your approach should always be to present your ideas as possibilities. Then watch their faces light up…and, which of these ideas could you start putting into practice today?
Manage UP, DOWN and SIDEWAYS
A McKinsey article shows that strong team leadership isn’t enough. New research shows the importance—for business impact and career success—of also mobilizing your boss and colleagues. Most of the leadership advice aimed at senior functional managers is how to build, align, energize, and guide a world-class team. This is a challenging task in its own right, but we all know it isn’t the whole story. Leaders, even those in the C-suite, must also extend their influence upward and horizontally.
Our findings lend support to the notion that senior executives should pay more attention to mobilizing their bosses (managing upward) and functional colleagues (managing horizontally). Taken together, these upward and horizontal actions were about 50 percent more important than managing subordinates for business success (45 percent versus 30 percent)—and well over twice as important for career success (47 percent versus 19 percent).
Mobilizing subordinates, in particular, is the base executives need to build from if they want to establish credibility with the CEO and with colleagues. The best executives build strong teams, relentlessly enhance team members’ skills, keep subordinates focused with objective performance measures, and establish an environment conducive to trust and loyalty. But they also do much more. Our model helped us identify the most important specific actions associated with managing upward and horizontally as follows:
- Mobilizing your boss: Focus on strategic issues and demonstrate financial results,Mobilizing your colleagues: Forge strong ties with peers to build momentum
Mobilizing horizontally means walking the halls, getting out of the office to share ideas with peers, listening to their concerns, and working jointly to attack strategic issues. Fortunately, the actions needed to mobilize the CEO and colleagues are often mutually reinforcing. For instance, moves by functional leaders to build support horizontally are often related to their simultaneous efforts to show tangible results and advance the organization’s strategy.
Remote Working TESTS Leadership
My blog suggests “What do we do if we are being led by someone who can’t lead remotely or virtually effectively?” They say people leave their managers not their jobs. However, during times like these it is challenging to leave either. We have all worked with bad managers and when we work with a great manager – we notice the difference don’t we! This is why during this time it is imperative to learn the skills and tools around self-leadership and leading upwards (aka I might have a useless manager).
All of a sudden, we are now working from home, remotely, virtually or maybe with skeleton staff in the office and we don’t really know how to lead or work this way. It’s now our new norm. It takes a different set of skills and tools to lead and be led remotely. What do we do when we work with a manager who can’t lead remotely (or even face to face for that matter)? The ability to lead upwards is critical as remember leadership isn’t a role or title it’s an attitude, mindset and action, so:
- Start with self
- Get to know your manager
- Set regular or weekly one on one catch ups
- Be proactive
- Put yourself in their shoes
- Be the change you want to see
- Invest in your own self development
- Have the conversation
- Focus on our circle of control and influence
- Use this time as a learning experience
The ability to lead upwards is definitely a skill and an important one of that.
STEP IN, STEP UP and LEAD UP
McDonald Inc. has a vision to: “Lead 1 million women to have Courage, Step in, Step up and Start up.” Through a compelling need, McDonald Inc. has the solutions and is now taking women’s leadership to the next level. This will help women across the globe become courageous in their lives, careers and through leadership especially in sectors where women are under-represented. Choose one of our programs to take your leadership to the next level:
- Courage to Step In – getting into and back into workforce – career transitions and helping women back into workforce after a career break or those who don’t have resources
- Courage to Step Up – getting a seat at the table, Courage to Start up – entrepreneurial program,Courage to Lead – leadership for future of work
- Leadership and Executive Coaching
- And, remember, Leadership starts from within, so grab my latest book FIRST COMES COURAGE!
Also we have launched the COURAGEOUS LEADERSHIP MEMBERSHIP too! Starts from $1 a week…!
Get in touch today to learn more about building leadership skills and set yourself up for success!
Stay Kind. Stay Courageous.