Books, Professional Development

Book 379: HBR Guide to Managing Up and Across – Harvard Business Review

Harvard Business Review - HBR Guide to Managing Up and AcrossIf you follow the blog you’re aware I’ve been having a mini-professional identity crisis. Earlier this week I wrote about What Color Is Your Parachute? 2016 where I found tips and tricks to focus on my strengths and professional interests. I also wrote about my first forays into the idea of managing up with Harvard Business Review’s Managing Up, in their 20-Minute Manager Series. I was interested in finding out more after I read it and luckily I already had a copy of this from my local library.

As I read Managing Up (The 20-Minute Manager Series), I realized I’ve had great managers at all of my positions. Each one of them has encouraged me to explore my interests and to develop skills that will help me throughout my career. What I’ve also learned is that knowing a lot about your own personality, work style and needed support are vital to success.

I knew starting the book that it was a collection of essays previously published in the Harvard Business Review. What I wasn’t aware of was that many were condensed versions of previously published essays. This both worked for and against the book. There were a couple of pieces which I was not impressed with and would’ve struggled to finish reading and there were a couple which I was really impressed with and sought out the longer piece to see what other advice their authors provided.

One of the best pieces of advice I read in the book was, “If you’re not 100% sure what a Y means, ask her to clarify.” (183, Collaborating Across Generations – Tamara Erickson). And I can’t reiterate this enough. I am that person who straddles X and Y, I both want to support and be supported and sometimes say something but really mean something else.

Outside of this piece of advice, there were two that really stood out to me: What Makes a Leader by Daniel Goleman and Make Your Enemies Your Alies by Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunla. (Both links are to the HBR site – you get five free views a month or something like that.)

Goleman’s article was great in that it explained all about Emotional Intelligence and what you can and can’t do to gain that. As a person who gains a lot of knowledge it was disheartening to read the following,

“The neocortex grasps concepts and logic. It is the part of the brain that figures out how to use a computer or make a sales call by reading a book. Not surprisingly—but mistakenly—it is also the part of the brain targeted by most training programs aimed at enhancing emotional intelligence. When such programs take, in effect, a neocortical approach, my research with the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations has shown they can even have a negative impact on people’s job performance.” (91, What Makes a Leader? – Daniel Goleman)

But at the same time, I wrote a post a few weeks ago about Building Relationships and how much I’ve learned through work and blogging, so I’m not too discouraged.

Uzzi and Dunla’s piece was much more practical and their discussion of the three R’s was incredibly helpful. I don’t feel as if I have any “enemies” in my professional life, probably because I’m not a fancy executive yet. I found the idea of redirection, reciprocity and rationality to be eloquent and it was one of the few that stuck with me when I reached the end.

I think what I gained most about managing up and management in general is that you have to be aware of what’s happening below you and above you, or what could be happening even further above you. I found that I do a lot of what was suggested in both of these books but could do them better.

This quote really stood out to me,

“Sometimes incompetence can manifest itself in a lack of communication. You may have a manager who hasn’t given you a clear sense of your goals or even a concrete job description. These are essential to doing your job well and advancing your career, so take them on yourself. Write your own job description and articulate goals for the quarter or year. Send them to your boss and ask to review them together. In person, you can then confirm your priorities and understand her expectations. If she’s still unresponsive, keep a record of what you’ve proposed and work to meet the goals you laid out. It may be that she isn’t sure what you should be working on and needs you to take action.” (58, Dealing with Your Incompetent Boss – Amy Gallo)

Now, I don’t have incompetent bosses, but I am a very logical person. I have done a lot of these things recently in an effort to make my work life and that of those above me easier. Honestly, I think asking for defined clarification on my role and responsibilities and specific goals will be one of the best things I’ve done in my professional life so far.

Recommendation: As with Managing Up (The 20-Minute Manager Series) I found that this book was a great resource and could be used as an excellent reminder in a time of need. I did find the lack of in depth study or discussion a bit irksome. Thankfully, I already have a copy of Managing Up: How to Forge an Effective Relationship with Those Above You by Rosanne Badowski and Roger Gittines, so keep an eye out for that!

Opening Line: “Does your boss make you want to scream? Do you have more than one boss? Do you spend your day herding cats? Working across departmental silos? Corralling contractors?”

Additional Quotes from HBR Guide to Managing Up and Across
“The agenda for change may stretch farther than you and others are willing to go. Many new leaders have transformational marching orders. Your job in the course of a leadership transition is to see how compatible the new boss’s plans are with your own agenda and career goals. If they’re at odds, you might have some thinking to do. And, of course, that thinking cuts both ways: if you’re on the edge of disillusionment, a new boss can be a breath of fresh air, helping to rekindle your enthusiasm and optimism.” (21-22, Winning Over Your New Boss – Lew McCreary)

“Look to peers or people outside the organization for advice and a place to vent. This doesn’t mean indiscriminate moaning about your boss. Instead find confidants: a trusted colleague, a spouse, a mentor, or a coach. Explain what you’re seeing, how it’s affecting you and your work, and ask for advice. ‘This is not to conspire against your boss but to check your point of view,’ says Useem. People outside the situation can give you a fresh perspective or offer new coping strategies.” (56-57, Dealing with Your Incompetent Boss – Amy Gallo)

“Guidelines can also help your conflict-averse boss work with larger groups. If his glossing over disagreements inhibits your team’s ability to air differences, check your perceptions with your teammates offline. If they also feel that he’s squelching productive debates in favor of  peaceful chats, raise the issue with your boss in a one-on-one meeting. Propose that a little debate might help stoke the team’s creativity and that setting ground rules for such discussions would ensure that they’re productive. Volunteer to take notes to help keep the creative ideas moving along to implementation.” (63, Coping with a Conflict-Averse Boss – Anne Field)

“It’s important to emphasize that building one’s emotional intelligence cannot—will not—happen without sincere desire and concerted effort. A brief seminar won’t help; nor can one buy a how-to manual. It is much harder to learn to empathize—to internalize empathy as a natural response to people—than it is to become adept at regression analysis. But it can be done.” (93, What Makes a Leader? – Daniel Goleman)

“Biological impulses drive our emotions. We cannot do away with them—but we can do much to manage them. Self-regulation, which is like an ongoing inner conversation, is the component of emotional intelligence that frees us from being prisoners of our feelings. People engaged in such a conversation feel bad moods and emotional impulses just as everyone else does, but they find ways to control them and even to channel them in useful was.” (96, What Makes a Leader? – Daniel Goleman)


5 thoughts on “Book 379: HBR Guide to Managing Up and Across – Harvard Business Review”

  1. Earlier this year we had a 2 day off site meeting and the first portion of the meeting was a 3 hour leadership workshop and emotional intelligence was one of the topics covered. There was emphasis on how EQ (emotional quotient) was often more important than IQ. And that was one of the take-home messages that resonated with quite a few people by the end of the 2 days. It was a really fantastic 3 hour workshop. The facilitator who led it also does a 2.5-day long management & leadership workshop so our 3 hour session was just a small subset of that. I would eventually love to take the longer one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s awesome. I totally get EQ but that doesn’t make it any easier to comprehend or excuse people who go to far in that direction 🙂 Decisions have to be made, goals made and met and the work has to be done. It’s such a fine line.


Let me know your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.