CHICAGO–There are five things that exceptional employees love to do, and that toxic employees hate, according to one person who has shared his thoughts on the practice of “leading up.”
Writing on Inc.com, Marcel Schwantes, principal and founder of Leadership from the Core, related how he had been contacted by someone sharing a problem he has frequently heard. In this case, it was a VP who was giving the team all kinds of problems, and who would often show up for a day and check in, and then go MIA for a whole week and leave people hanging. He rarely followed up and didn't communicate clear expectations for results.
Schwantes’ advice: Subordinates in such situations need to “lead up.”
“If this idea is new to you, ‘leading up’ can only work for followers with influence. If you're a poor performer, you don't have leverage, so don't bother,” wrote Schwantes. “For good performers valued by their organizations, you have an inside edge.”
So, what is leading up? It’s not telling the boss what to do and nor is it about being the boss of your boss, said Schwantes.
Instead, it requires figuring out what good performance actually looks like to the person evaluating your performance, and then it requires that “not only are you rocking it and meeting expectations, but also supporting your manager to rock it in his or her job.”
Schwantes shared these “five smart and emotionally intelligent ways of practicing leading up:”
Take Things Off Their Plate
“Find out what your boss doesn't do well and find a way to get it away from him or her. By adding this kind of value, and doing it with good intentions, tensions will ease and things will begin to shift to the positive.”
Connect With Your Boss
“Those in higher positions won't go along with you, your ideas and suggestions, if they don't know you or can't get along with you. So, connect with your bosses. And don't wait for them to initiate that chemistry. Make the first move and reach out. And be a champion of what your boss desires. That, in itself, shows your leadership.”
Be Tactful in Your Timing and Approach
“When you can make the right move at the right time with the right motive, you're leading up. This requires the crafty skill of feeling out the atmosphere, reading your boss's mood well, and knowing when to push and when to back off,” Schwantes said.
Anticipate Your Boss's Needs
“When you ask what your boss needs before he even thinks to ask you for it, you're adding value and leading up. But first, get a firm understanding of his goals and top priorities so you're in a good spot to anticipate his needs. For example, if his goal by month's end is to close four pending sales, check his calendar for meetings with prospective clients and find out what he needs from you to be ready, locked, and loaded.”
Offer Wise Counsel
“If your boss is like most bosses, he is probably juggling a million things, thinking about big picture stuff, and carrying around a fire hose to extinguish flames,” wrote Schwantes. “Others may be faced with so much pressure to meet a deadline, they're laser focused on what's in front of them and miss picking up things on the radar screen. By having the foresight to point out opportunities to pursue or obstacles to avoid, and ask good questions to expand their thinking, you'll put yourself in the influential role of a trusted adviser. And if you present a new problem, be ready to show up with potential solutions.”