For the last couple of years I’ve been working with quite a few people who are new to role – whether that be new to the profession, new to middle leadership or new to senior leadership – and I’ve noticed there are a number of things which no one ever tells us when we step into these roles and it makes our jobs so much easier when you work it out. I’ve read leadership books and I’ve had coaching over the years but I firmly believe I became much more effective as a teacher and a leader when these things clicked – and that was before I read them in a book 🙂
…managing is an up and down process
I first heard the term ‘managing up’ when I started as an Assistant Head. In my first line management meeting with the Head, she told me these meetings were more about me managing her than her managing me. It was my opportunity for me to manage her confidence in my ability and to manage the support I needed to do my role effectively.
Until this point I’d always considered line management meetings as a very one way process. The line manager checked up on what was being done and, when needed, gave new information or instructions. So a two way process of line management (let alone a complete reversal and managing upwards) hadn’t been something I’d really given much thought about – now I’ve read lots about it (eg see Leadership Matters by Andy Buck) and realized I’d missed a trick when I was a middle leader. My line managers may well have seen line management in the same way I had but I could have used those meetings to ‘manage upwards’ and shaped the conversations to get more out of them.
Managing upwards is about bringing the needs of your areas of responsibility to your line manager rather than treating the conversation like a check in. If your discussions were, like mine were as a middle leader, very ‘one way traffic’ of line manager to you then there are still plenty of opportunities to reshape the conversation in your interest. This links back to my post about autonomy in terms of knowing where your line manager gives you freedom and where you are expected to ask or follow direction. You can use this to shape conversations and give yourself more autonomy and empowerment with the ‘need to ask’ areas as you can go into the meeting with suggestions of ways forward that you know will align with their thinking – you are managing them and getting a solution you would like often without them really realizing it! In the same way an awareness of how you ask for support can shape the managing down process as you are taking control of how they are approaching line managing you.
I wish I’d appreciated this two way process much earlier – I reckon it would have saved a lot of frustration over the years when I left meetings feeling like we hadn’t made any progress!