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Managing Up

There is a strong belief that management (or leadership) only flows down from the leader to the team. However, all winning leaders can lead and influence in all directions, Up, down, and sideways. We need to own our success and influence all directions whenever we can in order to achieve our greatest potential. We need to seek out ways to influence our peers and our teams to win.

And with all of this, at one point or another, we may face the situation where we feel the need to “manage up.” Our career success will depend on our ability to do it effectively. The term “managing up” refers to managing our bosses, and while that statement is certainly assuming a lot, what we are really talking about here is our effort to “influence up.” I think that term may be a little closer to reality, as our true desire isn’t to manage our boss, but rather to influence him or her with our thoughts, opinions, objectives, and expectations. And while influencing others is a mighty task itself, influencing those in higher authority can absolutely be a daunting challenge.

To create sustainability and winning leadership, at times we need to ignore the organizational chart. Like a flower’s petals, a rose in particular, every member is connected and can have a dramatic influence on our journey to achieve our purpose and expectations. We touch and support each other regardless of hierarchy. By having this mindset and culture, we will look at the importance of connection in a much stronger way that transcends any title on the office doors.

And this is where your Gapology skills can come into play. Gapology is such a fundamental leadership method that you can tap into its structure to help in all areas of your business, including with relationships. Below, we lay out a clear, structured way to leverage this to effectively influence others, specifically with your direct supervisor. Keep in mind that your goal isn’t to tell them what to do or assume their role. It is designed to help get your thoughts across in a systematic way that they will understand and appreciate while establishing a high level of respect and confidence in your own abilities. Here is what we’ve laid out:

Build a foundation of transparency and clarity of expectations while proactively closing Performance Gaps.

1. Closing Knowledge Gaps with your boss

  • Identify how he/she prefers to communicate. This is not your preferred method. You will need to connect with them in their style.

  • Identify any Knowledge Gaps you have with him/her. And vice versa. What does he/she need to know? What do you need to know?

  • Communicate your identified Knowledge Gaps

  • Create the role of a teacher/mentor with him/her. Let them be your guide.

  • Independently, increase your own talent. Communicate what your plan is to grow your talent and systematically update your progress towards it

2. Closing Importance Gaps with your boss

  • Determine the top 3-5 most important pieces of information to share

  • Share the “why’s” behind them

    • Include the impact on the people, the organization, and the customer

  • Share the expectations you’ve set for yourself, including the relationship you expect to have with him/her

  • Share your top 3-5 priorities and why you have set them. Schedule times to provide regular updates.

3. Closing Action Gaps with your boss

  • Discuss wins and opportunities to demonstrate accountability. What is working and what isn’t?

    • For wins, discuss:

      • Your goals and your strategy to achieve them

      • Provide regular updates on execution

      • Provide regular updates on results (during the same meeting)

      • Provide your learnings and the adjustments you are making from what you have learned

      • Request coaching on your execution

    • For opportunity areas, discuss:

      • The same things!

Remember that this is all about relationship building and communication effectiveness with the objective of influencing them. Your ability and success in “managing up” will be directly tied to these skills!

Listen to our Gapology Radio podcast on this topic:


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