Managing Up

How adept are you at managing up?
How adept are you at managing up?

One of my long-time coaching clients recently sold his business to a much larger entity. He is the President of his old company, which is now a significant division of a large organization with a very corporate culture. Prior to the sale, several of our coaching sessions focused on the cultural changes that would inevitably occur once the deal was consummated.

Having personally completed five successful start-ups and three major international turnarounds, I had some inkling of how significant the changes would be. My client originally believed that the changes he had to concern himself with were internal to his own organization. He and his founding partners had done an excellent job of creating an innovative and fun atmosphere, where everyone was encouraged to contribute at his or her highest level of ability.

They would, of course, feel the impact of being part of a much larger company. I was, however, confident that my client and his partners would be able to perpetuate and even improve the local culture. They are very good at taking care of their own.

My focus was more on the change of direction required of my client. He was used to leading and managing downward throughout his own company. He is a very charming and charismatic personality, so I was not concerned about how well he would manage across the larger organization with his peers. My concern was his lack of experience in managing up.

For the first time, my client now had an entire layer of bureaucracy above him. Each person in that layer had their own agenda, and metrics for success. My client now had to adjust his focus, invest his time and energy, and simply care about what a group of people clear across the country considered important.

It is often difficult for someone in my client’s position to accept that, for the first time, they must consider and plan for other people’s agendae.  The very success of his company is at stake…no matter how well he manages down or across; the power continues to reside at the top.

If you are in my client’s position, how adept are you at managing up? If you are up, how demanding are you of those below you? And most importantly, do your demands serve the company…or your ego?




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