Recently we had a web site registration with “ineffective manager” filled in under title. When we sent an e-mail verification to “Tanya’s” e-mail address, we learned she had not registered for access and was mystified as to who did. Our best guess is that one of Tanya’s colleagues or direct reports signed her up in an effort to give her some not-so-subtle feedback.
It’s easy to sail a ship when the sea is calm. It’s easy to look like a brilliant investor in a bull market. And it’s easy to be positive when we have an optimistic, supportive, and highly effective boss. What takes courage, skill, and Emotional Intelligence is upward leadership, when we have a weak or a bad boss. You may have a boss who needs a surge protector to buffer his or her mouth from emotional outbursts. Or a wind sock outside his or her office to gauge abrupt changes in direction.
The lousier your boss or those higher up in your organization are at setting priorities, the better you and your team must be at stepping into the breach. You may need a daily, weekly, or monthly process to reset your goals and priorities as conditions and demands change.
Try to better understand the bigger picture that your boss and others above you in the organization are operating within. Do you know what keeps them awake at night? What are their key goals and priorities? Don’t wait to be told — find out. Don’t wait for your boss or someone else to open the door. The handle is on the inside.
Dealing with a boss is what clearly separates the wallowers and followers from the leaders. Wallowers will complain bitterly that their boss doesn’t communicate and give them the information they need. Followers will passively wait for the information and perhaps understand that their boss is busy, disorganized, or not getting the information from above. Leaders will ask questions, quietly persist or gently insist until they get the information they need. This takes skill, this takes initiative, and this takes courage. This is leadership.
Whomever was trying to send Tanya a message about her leadership obviously didn’t read too deeply into the advice on our web site. If he or she was a direct report she could type “upward leadership” (with the quotation marks) in our site search engine and find 18 articles and blogs to peruse on the topic (an even broader selection is at Serving, Influencing, and Leading Upward) Not one of these resources recommends the approach used in Tanya’s case!