Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Never Reverse Delegate

When your boss asks you to do something, simple or complex, they are doing you several favors. Favors? At its most basic level, they are giving you a job to do so you can earn your pay. Assignments and responsibilities described in your job description give you a chance to prove yourself and your value to the organization. Each assignment, every project, is an opportunity to show what you can do. All of this is self-evident to any professional person.

One of the points I want to make about reverse delegation is that giving your job back to your boss is essentially giving away your job and your opportunities.

If you are the boss, be aware when reverse delegation is happening. In a moment, it might even feel good that one of your direct reports is essentially saying that ‘you are the only one who can do this’. Don’t buy that for a minute. Reverse delegation often comes disguised as a request for help, which turns into you doing the job, and if the reverse delegator is good at it they will make you feel important in the process.

Worst case, reverse delegation happens when the person you gave the assignment to simply doesn’t perform, and you have to take it over. No doubt you feel the frustration of that situation. How much of that are you willing to tolerate? How much of that can the organization tolerate? What is the best thing for the organization? My advice is to take care of business, take care of the organization. Assignments are opportunities for your folks to prove themselves or not. Make the call if someone can’t do the job.

Another form of reverse delegation is - If the boss has to think about and remind you to do your job and when to do it, they are doing your job for you. Any time I have to remind folks to do their job I’m doing their job.

Reverse delegation comes in your door quietly. Often staff will come to you with a problem – but no solution. This is a subtle form of reverse delegation – expecting you, the boss, to come up with the solution. Either because of your experience or creativity, you may be able to come up with the solution yourself. Again, this is not the time to let your ego get in the way. Grow your people by making it clear that if they bring you a problem, they also need to bring the solution or at least some options. The job includes both problem identification and solution generation.

This applies to collaborative team work. Most of the time folks will agree with the boss. If the boss always has the solution, then the organization can grow lazy and lose out on all of the stored up innovation within the team. Force your team to develop solutions. You will grow a much stronger organization in the long run and have much more creative solutions in the short run.

A few remaining thoughts - Life is a writing and speaking contest. Look at every opportunity to develop a written product or make a presentation as your chance to shine.

Writing something? Edit it yourself. Don’t make your boss find and make edits that you should know to make. And for heaven’s sake, remember and internalize feedback your boss gives you so he/she doesn’t have to repeat the same edits again next time.
Reverse delegation comes quietly.

Managing Up: Take the Initiative! - Never Make Your Boss Wonder What You are Doing - Manage Expectations Around Deadlines - Never Reverse Delegate

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Manage Expectations Around Deadlines

When we measure results there are always two variables – how much and by when. This is the ‘by when’ part of Managing Up. If taking the Initiative is the most important aspect of Managing Up, and not making your boss wonder what you are doing is the most basic, this one is the easiest to do.

A deadline is a deadline is a deadline. Whether you are issuing permits, delivering a budget or a performance report, submitting a grant or issuing an rfp, a deadline is set because timeliness is important. The essential truth about goals is that goals and deadlines drive performance and are a great lever to make happen whatever difference for customers is on the agenda.

Look at deadlines as a great opportunity to meet or exceed performance expectations. Because that’s what deadlines are – performance expectations. Remember – how much by when. If you meet or exceed the ‘by when’ part of the equation, you are managing up – managing to the expectations of the organization and presumably your boss.

It’s pretty simple really. If you can meet the deadline, meet it and celebrate that. If for any reason, any reason, you cannot meet the deadline, communicate with your boss as soon as you know this. As hard as it is to do so, especially if the reason for not meeting the deadline may be your own performance, do it anyway. The alternative is much the worst. It’s a matter of honesty – just tell the truth. It always pays to do so – George was right about this. Ask any politician how it works to withhold the truth.

A couple of more points about what not to do-- If you say you are going to deliver a product by a certain date, then do it. It will enhance your credibility as someone the boss can count on – and you do what you say you are going to do. Under promise and over deliver is one of my favorite sayings.

If we promise something or agree to deliver something by a date and it looks like we can’t do that for any reason, then re-negotiate the deadline. This is so simple to do and is a great opportunity to communicate and build a bond of trust. Remember the earlier posting about not making your boss wonder or ask? Re-negotiating deadlines prevents the boss from being in that position.

If you are the boss, you want to know the deadline is not going to be met so you can either bring additional resources to bear, help solve problems to come as close to the deadline as possible, and so you can manage expectations above you about what is happening and what to expect. If people know ahead of time that something is happening or not happening, they can adjust their thinking, expectations and communicate rationally.

Manage Deadlines, Manage Expectations, Manage Up.

Next is ‘Never Reverse Delegate”.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Never Make Your Boss Ask or Wonder What You are Doing!

If taking the Initiative is the most important aspect of Managing Up, this one is the most basic. If you are the boss and you have to wonder what a member of your team is doing, something is wrong. If your boss has to ask you what you are doing, something is missing.

Right off the top, this is an important issue when managing up. If your boss is wondering or asking what is happening or what you are doing, you have a problem. That is not the state of mind or the state of the relationship that is best for you, for the boss or the organization. The boss does not want to spend his or her time wondering – he or she has plenty to think about. Never make your boss wonder what you are doing! Don’t even make them ask. If they are asking, somewhere there is a lack of Initiative on your part to make sure they know.

Proactively communicate with your boss. As a boss, I appreciate this so much. Yours will too. And if you are communicating too much, you’ll sense it or they will tell you. Make sure the boss sees the value of your contributions, your leadership, your products, the productivity of your staff and the key relationships you bring to the organization. Never make them wonder.

Oh, one last point – if your boss has to think of and remind you of what you are supposed to be doing (your job), the boss is doing your job for you.

Next in Managing Up – manage expectations around deadlines.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Initiative - Take It!

As you read this series I want to encourage you to think not only about how you manage up, but how you want people to manage up to you! Whether it be my 5 Rules for the Road or your own, it pays, as always, to be clear about what you expect.

Initiative is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as ‘The power or ability to begin or to follow through energetically with a plan or task; enterprise and determination.’

Initiative is power, energy and determination unleashed and directed. Taking the Initiative means that you aren’t waiting to be told what or how to do what needs to be done. Instead it means moving forward what needs to be moved at or ahead of when its expected or required.

You do have to observe the extent of your authority. However, I’m a fan of asking forgiveness for high performance rather than asking permission.

Initiative is the polar opposite of resistance, especially passive aggressive behavior, which happens to rank at the very top of my list of unacceptable behaviors.

Manage your boss’s expectations by exceeding them. What I look for in employees is that they are continuously taking the Initiative, expanding the job they’ve been given and surprising me with unexpected results. Delivering products or results before I even asked for them or before they were due to arrive in my inbox will win my confidence. How about you? These are the folks we want in our organizations and these are the folks who will ultimately lead our organizations.

Courage and Confidence. It takes a fair amount of both of these to actually take the Initiative. It requires a little courage to move forward more or less without being told to do so. It takes a little confidence to believe in yourself to move forward without your boss looking on. Grow both of these in life and work and you’ll have no problems Managing Up.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Managing Up

All of us have a boss - or several. I've been working for money since my first paper route at age 7 and have been both a boss and had many bosses since then. Yeah...that's a few bosses, a few years and a lot of employees.

Managing Up is worth talking about because we all have to do it. How the relationship with the boss is managed has everything to do with how much we can get done, how we feel about the job and, at the very least, our short term success. So here are my five Managing Up - Rules for the Road:

  1. Initiative - Take It!

  2. Never make your boss ask or wonder what you are doing

  3. Manage expectations around deadlines

  4. Never reverse delegate

  5. No surprises
Coming up are my comments about each of the 'Rules'.

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