Seven habits for effectively managing down.

Here’s a very cool sequel to my blog post last week about managing up. The author is Michael Dresner, our resident king of licensing…

mistakes-bosses-employee-boss-day-ecards-someecardsLike Repman, I also receive updates from Leadership IQ.  “Managing Up” struck a different chord for me however.

Let me get to the point.  If you can’t manage down, don’t bother managing up.  Across large and small employers, I can think of supervisors that spent 80% or more time managing up and 20% or less time effectively managing down.  And those appear to be my colleagues who always struggle to stay with the same employer.  Their dysfunctions don’t stay secret for long.

Managing down doesn’t demand a Leadership IQ seminar to do it right.  On the other hand, I’m not the best manager I’ve met.  I read a lot about good ones and sadly witness a lot of bad ones.  So with that experience, my 7 habits for effectively managing down follows.   I know few of these thoughts are original.  But, I also think most of them work.

7.  Make sure your team is aligned on the goals of the month, the quarter and the year.  Everyone who works for you should articulate that on cue.  If they don’t know, or have different interpretations, that’s a problem.  This is easy to do and liberating for any leader.

6.  Make sure each person on your team knows exactly what they should be contributing to achieve those goals.  It’s not just a to-do list or a job description.  It’s their broader responsibility to help get the group to the finish line.  And repeat it all the time. It’s far worse to be non-directional than it is to sound like a broken record.

5.  Smile when your team members walk into your office.  Always.   Go to their office once a day to ask what’s going on.  Always.

4.  Let people know where they stand.  If they’re great they should know it, and so should everyone else in the office.  If they’re weak they should know it, and understand what skills they need to sharpen.

3.  If you have team members that keep getting better, promote them.  If you have team members that keep deteriorating, wind things down.  Quickly.  It’s more compassionate for everyone than it sounds.

2.  Think about ways to stretch your good players further with new ideas all the time.  You never know when that will (and it WILL) lead to a major business win.

1.  Be clear, candid, constructive, collaborative, and kind.

I think this works for most people I know.  I think it works for me.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

2 thoughts on “Seven habits for effectively managing down.

  1. Solid post, Mike. You’d be amazed at how many agency account executives get promoted because they can mange accounts, timelines, production schedules and clients, but fail to implement a number of the key people management habits you’ve outlined above. Of course, that’s what provides the opportunity for those of us who lead management training workshops at agencies :)

  2. Thanks Ken! A couple of initial thoughts – some agency account executives need to be convinced that effectively managing down is the proven key to better timelines, production schedules, client work and new business, not what you do once these other initiatives are complete. I would also argue that some agency AEs take a camp counselor approach to downward management – keep them happy, keep them laughing, make them love you. That is an occasional role, but not the role, and it doesn’t address resolution of acute performance problems. More to follow as always.