At second glance it is truly about the ‘art of leading up’, yet it still feels right with the title above.
The more consistently successful leaders already understand this art. They have answers to the question, “How do i get more of what I want from the people above me on the chain?”
Here’s one way I’ve learned over the years. Please share the ones you’ve learned with others through this blog.
Mine has to do with that concept introduced in the new book, “The Missing Piece in Leadership”.
The concept referred to is, managing the listening you’re speaking into. I first heard this expression from Dennis Wagner explaining why he thought the work we do was so impactful in so short a time.
Dennis said, “You manage the listening you’re speaking into first.” (After over three decades in the transformation in thinking field, Dennis Wagner is still on top of my list of naturally effective leaders.)
Consider a situation where you had something to share, with the intended outcome including having buy-in to what you were sharing about. Question is, “What is going to have the biggest impact on the level of buy-in, how good the idea actually is or how people perceive it?” If, even the best idea in the world is perceived as a threat, how good the idea is virtually irrelevant.
Back to leading up. When bringing this topic up in working with a leadership team the first concern vary often expressed is that people don’t want to seen as brown-noser’s or butt-kissers.
I learned this approach years ago with my musical friends. After their shows, I’d say something like, “That was great!” Time and again they’d go immediately to telling me how they missed lyrics here, of were out of tune in another part. They’d find all of the reasons it wasn’t great.
When I’d say something like, “I really enjoyed hearing you play!” they’d simply say “Thanks.” Or “Glad you enjoyed it.” There were able to actually hear the compliment, past all of their self-judgments.
Try this with your kids or someone else close. Share what you appreciated about what they did instead of a generic “Great!” or “Good job”. I believe a key differentiator between the generic accolades and sharing something specific leads right back to how this is a helpful tool in the art of leading up.
First the differentiator. It’s sincerity. How long does it take you to know when someone is talking to you with the lights on but no sincerity behind the words – no matter how enthusiastically spoken? Saying all the right words, yet you know there’s nothing backing them up inside.
One of the most commonly shared reasons for hesitancy in acknowledging someone up the chain is, that the acknowledgment might be taken as butt-kissing, taken as being insincere. That conditioned way of thinking has deprived many of us of access to one of the most useful tools in the process of creating the future we want.
Imagine the power, the energy, unleashed in an organization when more of the leaders were doing more of the right things more often – when more of the leaders are making more of the right decisions?
One giant step in that direction can be accomplished by letting those leaders know what it is they are doing that we want them to keep doing. A key is in how the acknowledgment is communicated.
Share the action appreciated specifically and how the action benefitted the results. Seem simple? It is. Try it. If more comfortable at first, practice at home, in personal life. Share your successes back here. Also share what you are doing that works in having influence up the chain.