Skill 06 – Manage Up

The Complete List of Essential Leadership Habits for New Managers, Team Leaders, and Change Agents to Lead with Confidence

Great leaders manage up.

Everyone is accountable to someone, and great leaders are no exception.

If you are in the middle of an organization, managing up includes your direct boss, his or her peers, and your bosses’ boss.

Even if you are at the top of the hierarchy, you are accountable to a board of directors, shareholders, and your customers.

One of the secrets of being a great leader is that they’ve also learned to be a great follower.

Let’s learn the secret of managing up …

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Habit 7 -​ Accept The Mission

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is too …

When you embrace all four of these objectives, you will have a thriving career.

If you neglect any of these areas, you will have a difficult time, and your career will quickly turn into a “job.”

Habit 21 -​ Your Boss Is Human

Let’s begin by reminding ourselves that your boss is a human being.

Just like you, he or she has goals, dreams, and desires for themselves and their families.

Just like you, they …

  • Have fears, doubts, insecurities, and are putting on a brave face to the world.
  • Experience love, joy, stress, anger, and frustration.
  • Have a job to do and a responsibility to the organization to do their best work.

Sometimes we can forget this in this crazy boss/employee relationship.

If you happen to be struggling in your relationship with your boss, try practicing empathy and compassion.

You may be surprised to discover that your boss is actually human.

Habit 36 -​ Know Your Boss

The chances of you having a great boss are around 1 in 4.

Here are a few traits of great bosses …

  • Clearly love the work that they do.
  • Are effective at achieving results.
  • Are actively working on developing the habits of great leaders.
  • They are usually the calmest person in the room.
  • Regularly demonstrate empathy and compassion toward others.
  • Invested in the growth and development of their people.

If you happen to have a boss with even just a few of these traits, consider yourself blessed because, according to the authors of Mastering Leadership, 75% of leaders have what they call – a reactive leadership style.

There are three reactive leadership styles …

1) Controlling Type

A leader with a controlling style is often viewed as driven, ambitious, and aggressive due to their nature to use power to get what they want at the expense of others.

While this style can be effective at achieving individual results, a controlling type can stifle team collaboration, innovation, and creativity.

At their worst, controlling leaders can be aggressive, angry, dominating, stubborn, resentful, and rigid.

And at their best, they can be courageous, generous, supportive, honest, dependable and practical.

2) Protecting Type

A leader with a protecting style is often viewed as arrogant, cynical, and superior due to your protective nature to withdrawal and maintain emotional distance.

At their worst, protecting leaders can be detached, withholding, isolated, anxious, pessimistic, hyper-vigilant, self-absorbed, and unrealistic.

And at their best, they can be thoughtful, dependable, respectful, calm, optimistic, witty, playful and adventurous.

3) Complying Type

A leader with a complying style is often viewed as conservative and passive due to their tendency to give up too much power in exchange for being liked and accepted.

At their worst, complying leaders can be prideful, image-driven, impatient, competitive, moody, self-absorbed, and passive-aggressive.

And at their best, they can be caring, helpful, supportive, enthusiastic, practical, creative and compassionate.

Regardless of your boss’s style, there are several things that we can do to develop a positive relationship ..

[source] Mastering Leadership by Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams

Habit 37 -​ Adapt Your Style

Everyone behaves differently depending on mindset, context and stress levels.

1) Mindset

Mindset refers to the default patterns of thinking and behaving that we’ve established over our lifetime.

The reactive leadership styles of controlling, protecting, and complying are all mindsets.

And yes, it’s possible to change your mindset.

2) Context

Context refers to the current situation where you find yourself.

Since we are flexible by nature, we behave differently at different times.

A leader may have a controlling style at work and a complying style at home.

Even within the context of work, your style may be different.

You probably act differently around your boss than with your peers.

3) Stress

Stress is defined as the amount of mental or emotional strain resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.

Factors that can impact stress are the time of day, carry over from a previous encounter, and urgent demands that require our attention.

When stress levels are low to medium, we tend to perform at our best.

However, when stress levels get too high, out comes our worst behaviours.

Be Flexible

The secret to getting along in any relationship is to be flexible in your approach.

Observe the behaviours of others to discover their mindset, pay attention to the situation and context, be mindful of the stress levels of the people around you, and adapt your style accordingly.

Habit 38 -​ Anticipate Needs

We all have preferences around the way we like to work, and this includes your boss.

The secret to a healthy relationship with your boss is to learn these preferences and anticipate their needs.

Discover the answers to these questions, and you will be one step closer to anticipating the needs of your boss …

  • What is their leadership style?
  • What are they trying to accomplish in the organization?
  • What role do they play in the big picture?
  • How does your role play in their plans?
  • What is their preferred method of communication (in person or email)?
  • Do they make decisions based on hunches or data?
  • Who’s opinion do they care about the most?
  • What type of questions do they repeatedly ask of yourself or others?
  • How can you make them look good to their boss?

Habit 39 -​ Do Your Homework

The secret to building a trusted relationship with your boss is to do your homework.

Here are three specific ways to do this …

1) Come prepared with solutions, not problems.

Anytime you have a problem, do some thinking ahead of time.

Based on what you know, come prepared with two or three possible solutions that could address the issue.

2) Know the answer.

Anytime you can’t answer a question to senior management shows that you haven’t done your homework.

Learn to anticipate the types of questions that you are going to get and be ready to answer them.

3) Know the details.

Anytime you provide a status update to the management team, know the details at least 1 or 2 levels below what you are reporting.

If you are reporting on project milestones, know the activities required to complete that milestone.

Or if you are discussing budget numbers, know the details that make up that number.

Doing your homework takes additional effort, but it goes a long way in building trust.

Habit 47 -​ Alignment of Purpose

To enhance your overall job satisfaction, you need alignment of purpose.

Ideally, you are looking for alignment between of purpose between yourself, the organization, and your boss.

Start by getting clear of your purpose.

There’s a reason why you’ve been put on this earth – and your job is to figure out why.

Once you have a sense of your purpose, you need to assess how it aligns with the purpose of the organization.

Most organizations attempt to express their purpose through a mission statement and list of values.

Review the mission and values of the company and assess if it aligns with your purpose.

And finally, assess if your purpose aligns with that of your boss.

All great leaders will be able to tell you their purpose and how it aligns with their work.

If you are dissatisfied with your job, it’s probably because there’s a misalignment of purpose.

A few questions to ponder …

  • Are you clear on your purpose?
  • Does the company you work for have a clear and compelling purpose?
  • Does the culture within the organization express this purpose?
  • Is your boss able to express their purpose?
  • Would you want to work for a leader that didn’t have a clear purpose?

Habit 55 -​ Find Great Leaders

We’ve all heard that people leave bosses, not companies.

According to Gallup, 50% of employees have left a job to get away from their manager.

If your boss lacks the self-awareness to get unstuck, you may have no other choice then to move on.

Keep on the lookout for leaders that are applying The 100+ Habits of Great Leaders.

Make a point of building trust with these great leaders.

And when you are ready to make a move, perhaps they will be in a position to help you out.

Habit 71 -​ The Weekly Update

Get into the habit of providing a weekly update to your boss.

This might be a verbal update during your weekly one-on-one, a quick email summarizing the week, or a more detailed project status report.

A good update …

  • Provides a concise summary of completed activities.
  • Gives enough detail without getting into the weeds.
  • Anticipates and answers questions in advance.
  • Summaries issues along with plans to address.
  • Clearly defines next actions.

Make sure to do this every week without fail.

Every update shows professionalism and is another deposit in the emotional bank account.

Habit 84 -​ Never Blindside In Public

Anytime you have bad news, make sure your boss knows about it before anyone else.

And when giving bad news public, make sure the impacted people know in advance, before the announcement!

There’s nothing worse than your boss being put on the spot without having a chance to prepare.

This doesn’t mean holding back and not sharing bad news.

If something is going south, you need to come clean.

Just inform your boss as soon as you can.

Habit 98 -​ Fill The Gap

You can measure the quality of your boss by counting how many of the 100+ Habits of Great Leaders that you see in action.

What you will discover is that your boss will be strong in some areas and will be weak in others.

This weak area is your opportunity to shine.

Focus on learning and adopting the habits where your boss is the weakest.

For example, your boss may be fantastic at achieving results and weak at coaching the team.

You could try picking up the slack by coaching and mentoring your peers.

When done correctly, this will make you an invaluable member of the team.

Habit 106 -​ Accept Feedback

Your ability to accept feedback is one of the single most important skills that you can develop and is an essential part of self-awareness and professional growth.

If you get defensive, make excuses, or lash out, people will stop giving you feedback and, even worse, will only tell you what you want to hear.

However, not all feedback is created equal.

While I appreciate the effort it takes to provide constructive feedback; I only accept input from people that I trust and care about me on a personal level.

This enables me to ignore the feedback of “internet trolls,” those with a hidden agenda, and other negative individuals.

If you would like to learn more about feedback, I highly recommend the book “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott.

[source] Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Habit 117 -​ Avoid Bad Habits

Anytime you work for a reactive leader, you need to ensure you don’t pick up any of their bad habits.

If you are not careful, you will end up adopting their reactive style.

This may serve you in the short-term but will stifle your long-term growth.

Be hyper-vigilant to ensure you avoid bad habits and stay focused on building positive ones.

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