Magazine article Management Today

First Class Coach

Magazine article Management Today

First Class Coach

Article excerpt

I'm making a pretty good job of managing my direct reports but don't have much contact with my boss and her boss. Despite the fact that I'm performing well, recently I've been criticised for failing to manage upwards. Does this matter and, if so, what should I do about it?

Sorry to be critical, but if you haven't already developed an effective working relationship with those further up the hierarchy, you are only doing half the job of managing.

Not managing upwards has all sorts of consequences for you, for those you manage and the tasks for which you are responsible. For a start, you are in competition with other parts of the organisation for resources - financial and human - and for attention. Although logic should dictate that these essentials are distributed according to merit, in practice logic is rarely the final arbiter for how allocation decisions are made.

If you haven't established positive expectations with your bosses, what will happen when you want extra budget for some new initiative? If the organisation is downsizing, how will you ensure that it is not your department that feels the knife most keenly? For, be under no illusion, there will be others at your level (or even downstream of you) who will have taken the time and trouble to ensure that they have a disproportionately large share of the good things and fewer of the bad things that are up for grabs.

You say you are performing well. But if you don't have close contact with your boss, to allow you insight into what's going on at the top of the organisation, it will be difficult for you to know if the goalposts have suddenly shifted and that, despite your hard work, your efforts are suddenly being misdirected.

How would I describe successful upwards management? You know you've got it when you have established a match between your expectations and those of your line manager; when you have established mutual trust and support, a symbiosis through which you further each other's professional and personal ambitions.

Before tackling the subject of how to establish or improve relationships, consider why you haven't already successfully engaged in managing upwards.

Are you unduly conscious of the pecking order and feeling that you don't have the right to an adult, equal relationship with those who are your seniors (in age and/or position)? If this is the case, your deference may be interpreted as indicating you are not worthy of this equality. …

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