Dave Edwards Media

Providing Training For Aspiring Leaders and Organizations


Managing Up, Down and Sideways

When you are first building your career, you notice that your boss has the power to delegate, assign projects, and correct the work of subordinates. She is managing ‘down’ in your mind. You probably aren’t’ paying attention to the fact that your boss also has a boss.

When you become a manager, you realize that an essential part of your job is to ‘manage up’ because your new bosses demand accountability.

And if you want to be truly successful as a leader, you soon recognize that you need to cultivate your ability to manage sideways as well as up and down.

“Managing Down” is not just about assigning duties. Effective managers know they need to:

  • Get results from their team members. They do that by clearly explaining the tasks that need to be accomplished and give general direction.
  • If they have hired the right people, managers don’t need to micromanage. Instead, the job is the provide feedback and encouragement.
  • Praise and reward good work. If mistakes happen, remember that you have made your share. Encourage creative thinking.

“Managing Sideways” is building a cooperative spirit between departments. Sometimes a project requires the buy-in from different groups. You might also find some very creative ideas coming from a part of your organization that isn’t assigned to a particular project. Fresh eyes solve problems.

  • Communicate widely about important projects.
  • Encourage open dialogue and an exchange of ideas.

“Managing Up” is sometimes ignored. It is easy to think, particularly in a big organization, that your boss(es) are too busy to deal with your problems. After all, you have been given a job to do, and you should be able to do it independently. This approach will get you in trouble and may jeopardize your career.

IN a 2017 research report, the McKinsey Company reported, “Our findings lend support to the notion that senior executives should pay more attention to mobilizing their bosses (managing upward _ and functional colleagues (managing horizontally). Taken together, these upward and horizontal actions were about 50 percent more important than managing subordinates for business success 945 percent versus 30 percent) and well over twice as important for career success (47 percent versus 19 percent.)”

McKinsey calls that ‘mobilizing your boss” by focusing on strategic issues and demonstrating financial results.

Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Communicate about the issues you are dealing with. This could be in a quick email or brief meeting.
  • Be positive and show that you have a command of the subject while not being afraid to ask for advice. Everyone likes to give advice.
  • Be dependable and honest to a flaw.

And, even if your boss tasks you with something that you consider to be foolish, don’t bad mouth him or her to your employees. Not only will your opinion eventually get back to your boss, but you also need to remember that your attitude will affect all of those you work with.

Be as positive about challenges as you would want your employees to be.

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