Managing up

As business leaders compete to boost
their return on human capital while
perfectly executing their company’s latest business strategies, it’s no wonder
that employee passion remains a top priority. So how are today’s leaders creating a passionate work force, energized and prepared
to meet the challenges of today’s agile

“We have companies that are trying to do
more with less, with a shrinking employee
population,” says Phil Reynolds, senior consulting partner, The Ken Blanchard
Companies®. “So companies must create
self leaders who will give the extra energy
toward the key performance indicators critical for overall organizational vitality.”

Smart Business recently spoke with
Reynolds about certain key concepts discussed in Ken Blanchard’s book “Self
Leadership and the One Minute Manager,”
(coauthored with Susan Fowler and
Laurence Hawkins) including how managing up helps self leaders get the job done,
builds trust and creates passion in the people who are willing to give extra effort.

What is the definition of a self leader?

The book ‘Self Leadership and the One
Minute Manager’ defines a self leader as
someone who has both the skill sets and the
mindset to lead themselves to reach their
critical tasks and goals.

How is self leadership a benefit to organizations?

Companies want to create a work force
that is both able and willing to meet the challenges of today’s fast-paced, flatter organizations. There’s been a lot of focus on retention
as the grand prize, but sticking around might
actually mean that people are stuck in a rut,
and retention doesn’t automatically deliver
stellar performance or extraordinary effort.

Self leaders are employees who will be
both productive and also go the extra mile
toward achieving those key performance
indicators and key work areas. So it’s not just
people sticking around or hanging around —
it’s retaining people who are actually giving
their best to the customers and to their job.

How does an employee ‘manage up’?

As a self manager, you must first honestly
ask yourself a set of questions including,
what is the task or goal I’m being asked to
do? Am I competent? Do I have the skills to
do this task and goal? What’s my commitment level? Am I motivated? Am I confident
I can do this task without help? Once you
determine these needs, then you can begin
to ask yourself if you need additional direction or support. Managing up means not just
going to your leader but also taking the
responsibility of going wherever you need to
go to get what you need. It could be your
boss, it could be your colleague, or it could
be a team member.

What is a major roadblock to managing up?

Mindset can be the most difficult aspect of
managing up. You can have the skills in place,
but if your mindset is that you believe you
can’t manage up, you won’t. Let’s say you feel
your boss won’t listen to any of your ideas —
that is a constraint you have around your
working conditions. So that assumed constraint — a belief based on past experience
that limits current experience — actually limits you from managing up. One of the things
that research has shown is that the truth will
not set you free. Someone can come in and
tell you the truth about something, but unless
you have a mindset and framework that reinforces that, you’re not going to act on it.

Where do you see companies struggling with
building self leaders?

We’ve taught leaders how to let go, but we
haven’t taught people how to hang on. Companies teach leaders how to delegate, communicate and lead through change, but we
don’t teach the employees how to manage
themselves through that process. When you
empower leaders but they don’t know what
you’re empowering them for, they become
frustrated because they feel that the organization is dumping work on them. With no
sense of enthusiasm around what they’re
doing, they’ll do the very minimum required.

What are the managers’ responsibilities for
self leadership?

The managers’ responsibilities are communicating to employees a clear picture of what
a good job looks like, a clear outcome or target, and then providing the communication
mechanism or venue for the employees to be
able to share with them what they need. The
main responsibility of the manager is to provide the followers what they cannot provide
for themselves by building trust with fair
practices and helping them reach their goals.

What are the responsibilities of self leaders?

As a self leader, your job is to diagnose and
determine what you need from your leader.
Most of the research that has been done on
the subject of leadership has been written
from the perspective of the leader — the top-down approach. The leader ‘empowers’ you
or tries to ‘engage’ you in the workplace. The
self leader takes ownership for the power
and responsibility that is given to him or her
in the workplace.

PHIL REYNOLDS is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. Reach him through The Ken Blanchard Companies
Web site at