Using “IDEAS” to Manage Up

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You and your team of ten have been diligently working for the past three months on a highly visible, high priority project in which the company has made substantial investments. You know the importance of the project; it’s the kind of assignment you have been waiting for, it’s why you joined the company and you believe it has given you the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and leadership abilities.

Your boss has requested you to give a project update to the senior executive team at a meeting scheduled for the following Friday. The meeting will be held in the company’s Board Room and you should bring your entire team.

The day prior to the meeting you assemble your team for one last review of your power point deck. The team has invested considerable time and has collectively worked hard under your leadership and you are proud of their contributions. You paid meticulous attention to every detail of the project. Your boss even called to say he is looking forward to your presentation. He also asked if you have any questions in advance of the meeting and if there is anything you want to run by him in advance. Confidently you tell your boss you have no questions, you’ve got it covered and you are certain he will be pleased to see the good work of your team.

The morning of the presentation you run over to the Board Room to check the A/V equipment. You even have time for a quick walkthrough of your presentation with your team. You are confident you dotted every i and crossed every t. You are excited and satisfied with how the project has progressed to this point.

Later that day, the time arrives for your presentation. When you enter the room, you see your entire team seated in a side row; a couple colleagues even smile as you nod a gesture of appreciation to them. You are pleased they were invited. You immediately notice your boss; his reputation is that of an alpha and everyone knows when he’s in the room. Most employees avoid him. Some colleagues have even suggested you may also be guilty of doing that. Seated next to your boss is the head of research & development, then the VP of Marketing, who is a friend and mentor of yours, he suggested you join the company and he shepherded your assimilation into the company. There were also two other VPs and finally sitting at the head, all by herself, was the company’s top dog…the CEO herself. With her attendance you know the importance the company places on the project you have been leading.

You survey the room with nervous enthusiasm; you look over at your team seated like quiet cheerleaders. You step to the podium with elevated confidence and begin your presentation. You start with a crisp and commanding opening statement regarding the vision, mission and objectives of the project. You can feel your energy increase as you click on the first of your professionally designed slides. Everything is going the way you rehearsed, your team is smiling as you proceed, and you even notice a slight grin of encouragement from the normally stone-faced CEO.

As you move to your third slide that shows the timelines for the project, suddenly out of nowhere your boss interjects “What am I missing here,” and he hits you with a question regarding what you believe is an insignificant detail. All of a sudden you feel like you have been hit in the head with a 2×4, it’s a question you never expected. Even as you believe you have been blind-sided, you gracefully say you will need to get back to him. Believing you have maneuvered your way pass this unpleasant interruption you precede to explain the team’s many accomplishments. You don’t get past the fifth slide when you again hear your boss roar, I don’t understand what is on this slide, and this is not what I had expected your presentation to cover. You begin to sweat and feel flushing in your face as you stand there frozen and not knowing what to say. You are lost for words and you feel like you’ve been ambushed by your boss. All the wind has left your sail and you have been reduced to a deer in the headlights.

As you try to recover, you look to your team for help, but you know they can’t come to your aid. From day one they were following your instructions. They look equally bewildered. It has become evident to everyone in the room that you and your boss are on different pages. In the corner of your eye you notice the CEO quietly exit the room. Adding to your devastation, your boss says “I’ve heard enough, let’s wrap this up.”

A couple hours pass. You are sitting in your office still trying to understand what went so wrong when you notice the VP of Marketing standing at your door. He was in the meeting and you can tell by the look on his face, he is going to get real serious with you. Without hesitation he says, “that was certainly a presentation to forget about…now let me give you some advice to prevent it from happening again.”

You trust him; he is the reason you joined the company. In a calming voice he says “we all make mistakes and today you made a biggie, but you will recover.” You look up and say where did I go wrong? His response is straight forward; he says “you failed to manage up.” You are surprised because you always gave yourself credit for your ability to interact with all your colleagues.

He continued, “you failed to remember your #1 priority is to always keep your boss informed, and finally, your boss should never be surprised by things you are doing or saying.”

He proceeded to say all you need to remember is the acronym “IDEAS” when managing up.

Inform your boss of all things you are working on and the current status of each. You should be diligent to provide your boss all the information he needs to make informed decisions, even if you think you might be over-informing. Think of it as pre-selling your ideas.

Inform your boss of all things you are working on and the current status of each. You should be diligent to provide your boss all the information he needs to make informed decisions, even if you think you might be over-informing. Think of it as pre-selling your ideas.

Engage your boss with energy and enthusiasm. Don’t ever fear or be intimidated by your boss and never shy away from communicating in-person. If you have a choice between sending an email to your boss or meeting face-to-face, always make face-to-face your first choice. And don’t ever make excuses that either you or your boss is too busy to meet and communicate.

Assertive in the way you communicate with your boss. Always speak with authority, especially when you have done the research and collected the data to support your position or recommendation.

Surprise your boss and you risk torpedoing your career. You should never put your boss in a position that he doesn’t know what his team is doing. Communicate to the point you believe you may be over communicating. Keep in mind too much is never too much.

As I thought about what my friend said, I realized it’s a very simple prescription…to manage up you must Inform, be Direct, Engage, be Assertive and never Surprise your boss.

By |January 22nd, 2016|Categories: Articles|0 Comments

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