When it’s working well, leadership is a partnership between two people (manager and direct report) who work together to achieve common goals. When that occurs, both the leader and follower influence each other. Both people play a role in determining when things get done and both have a responsibility to make the relationship successful. This partnership of leadership going both directions (up and down) is the concept to which Jim Collins refers in his best-selling business book, Good to Great.
“First Who, Then What. We expected ‘Good to Great Leaders’ would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats…and then they figure out where to drive it. The old adage, ‘People are your most important asset,’ is wrong. The right people are your most important asset.”
The old ways of command-and-control managers are no longer effective. These days, one person doing all of the thinking for seven, 10 or 15 direct reports does not meet organizational needs. As a matter of fact, in these days of doing more with less, managers just don’t have the time, and in some cases, their people may know more about the work than they do. More than ever, successful leaders rely on empowered individuals to get the job done. Leadership is a talent. Because of this, we need to lead up when there is an opportunity to do so. For those below us, we need to become better at helping them coach us, and making us the leaders we should be, but sometimes are not.
When frustrated with your manager, it is critical to avoid political blunders such as bypassing them, criticizing them in public, displaying overt disloyalty or negative emotions toward the organization, burning bridges or violating confidences. Rather than going down that slippery slope, be a self-leader and take proactive action. As a direct report, what do you do if your manager, despite his or her best intentions, is still not meeting your needs? What if you need more from him or her in terms of direction and support to do your job well?
One technique suggested by the Blanchard Companies using their Situational Leadership model is weekly one-on-ones. In these meetings, direct reports schedule time with their immediate supervisor to discuss what’s going on and what they need in terms of direction to get the work done. This is the starting point for strengthening the partnership to get work done in a way that is satisfying to both parties. It also helps you better understand your role in asking for what you need, correctly identifying it and developing a way to ask for direction and support that maintains trust and esteem. Here are a few tips for setting up one-on-ones:
- Keep them short—limited to 15 to 30 minute sessions.
- Meet frequently—at least once every two weeks.
- Keep the agenda focused on what you want to talk about—progress reports, obstacles and questions.
- Make them a top priority—postponed meetings need to be rescheduled immediately.
A great leader is a person who surrounds him/herself with people who are even better—because leadership comes from above…and below. Fostering a leading-up culture will better position your organization as a great place to work! IBI