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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Managing Up: When You Need Buy-In From the Boss




I was invited to speak about innovation by an organization called Execunet. The webinar took place last Tuesday and it was called Transforming Chaos Into Innovation. Many of the callers asked questions about creating alignment as a way to eliminate or reduce chaos.

What I found interesting was there were an equal amount of questions about gaining alignment from
the CEO as there were about gaining alignment with subordinates. In fact, the questions about managing above were much more challenging. Why?

For the most part, it seems much easier to manage your subordinates. Their job stability may depend on their cooperation with you. Because of that, many managers are successful handling people below them, even if they use command and control. However, using command and control to manage above can be detrimental to your career. Ask anyone who uses that style with their boss. Most likely they are the person who is always out of a job.

Managing up requires savvy. It requires a vision and a clear plan for fulfilling that vision. Yet, in the webinar, I cautioned against having all the answers. My suggestion was for an executive to sit down with her CEO and present 80%-85% of a plan. Let the CEO know you have a clear vision for how to execute the plan except for the 15%-20%. Let the CEO know that you need their input to fill that gap.

If you use that method, the CEO will have confidence in you. In addition, he will have a vested interest in your plan because he will have contributed to it. He will have signed his name on your plan by providing the 15% you intentionally left open. Thus, you are more likely to receive the necessary resources to achieve your vision. At the same time, be prepared to have him make changes to more than 15%-20%. Regardless of how much he alters, it will require collaboration between the 2 of you. 

Because it is a collaborative effort, in no way will this imply manipulation. If you go to the CEO with 100% of the plan, he may reject it because it does not reflect his input. What could be more frustrating after you put so much effort into it? 

This method is so important that it can also be used to manage people below you. Instead of saying I have a plan, execute it. Present them with 85% and ask them to bridge the 15% gap. You will be surprised at their enthusiasm to support you throughout the initiative.

Throughout the webinar, there were a number of challenging questions for me to answer. A couple were much more challenging than the issue of the 15% gap in a plan. If you would like to hear the entire webinar, click the link below.

Transforming Chaos Into Innovation: A Conversation with Ted Santos <https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/363310830https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/363310830. 

What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know what is on your mind.  

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