Master “managing up” in minutes

By Adam Rothberg on April 17, 2015

This is the third in a series of posts by Linkage’s own strategic thinking expert, Adam Rothberg. Here, he shares some quick tips designed to help you become a more strategic and effective leader. Click here to start reading at the beginning of the series.—Ed.

In his research on highly effective leaders, John Kotter found that all successful leaders establish and maintain a leadership agenda that answers this basic question: “Where do I need to lead?”

Leadership agendas are made up of loosely connected goals and plans that address short-, medium-, and long-term responsibilities and a broad range of financial, product, market, and organizational issues. They help focus a leader’s efforts by

  • Clarifying desired outcomes (goals, activities, etc.)
  • Establishing order (priorities, time frames, etc.)
  • Facilitating action (guiding followers, building networks, etc.)
  • Tracking progress (milestones, success measures, etc.)

While it’s easy to see the value of having a leadership agenda for yourself, it’s also important to investigate the leadership agenda of your boss. It may not be a formal document, but your boss should have a clear idea of the issues that he or she is confronting, and specific objectives associated with these.

So, how do you actually go about learning the strategic agenda of your boss? Let your boss know that you want to set up a meeting to learn more about his or her leadership agenda (so you can be a better, more informed and efficient team member), and then ask the following questions:

  • What are your specific objectives for the week, quarter, and year?
  • What actions do you intend to take to achieve these objectives?
  • Who and what will be involved in achieving your objectives?

Make it clear to your boss that by asking these questions, you are trying to learn how to be a better team member. Chances are, he or she will appreciate your eagerness to learn and grow. And both you and your team will benefit from the enhanced strategic alignment.

So, the next question is: Are you sure you are shooting at the same target as your boss?

Posted in Blog

About Adam Rothberg

Adam Rothberg works with organizations to develop targeted leadership development initiatives aligned with organizational objectives.
2 comments on “Master “managing up” in minutes
  1. So simple but so useful. This way you can establish your leadership agenda INSIDE of your boss’s leadership agenda. In effect you’re telling your boss that you’re committed to her/him winning.

    Then you can also encourage your direct reports to establish their leadership agenda inside of your agenda.

  2. Adam Rothberg says:

    Thanks for your comment, John. I agree that this is simple yet elegant approach to increase strategic alignment and to set expectations accordingly. In many of our leadership development programs, we first ask participants to interview one another as if they were in their boss’s shoes and to generate a leadership agenda for their boss before creating their own agenda. They ask one another questions such as what are your priorities for this next month, the next six months, this year? What are some of the obstacles you are facing, and how will you overcome them? etc…This forces leaders to really think about how their own activities (both current and planned) contribute to and are aligned with greater organizational demands.

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