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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Managing Up and Courageous, Proactive Communication

Jojo Anonuevo's CPC Framework
I've received a number of requests to include MANAGING UP  in my courses. "As a matter of fact, I've included it in my Work Attitude and Personal Effectiveness", and "High Performance Leadership" Workshops.  Those are not the only occasions when I talk about managing up, there really are plenty, and at each time, participants are frustrated. It seems like what is natural for me is a huge, daunting task for many.

Not everyone is capable of speaking up to his boss and influence him to redirect or consider another way. Not everyone, even if you tell them the best way of doing it. That's because managing up is not natural for many of us. Our culture dictates that we don't "talk back" to people of authorities namely parents, older siblings, teachers, church and government officials, and then... bosses.

Only those few who were not brought up this way and a much "fewer" few who are genetically designed to speak their minds are really capable of asserting themselves. But even this does not guarrantee managing up.

I learned from personal experience and from conversations with those who can and cannot do this that managing up is enabled not by the person who has to manage up but the ones who have to be managed up. If the boss makes it impossible for people to speak up, no amount of managing up training will make them.

Are you a boss like I am? Do you allow your staff to manage up? Do they respond  accordingly, I mean all of them or do you only have a few spokepersons who has to be pushed to talk to you about some issues? If you get them all to interact with you in an open, confident and assertive manner, how did you get there? Was it a managing up training or you encouraging them to deal with you in that manner?
Jojo Anonuevo, Managing Director of Ensogo Philippines made CPC (courageous proactive communication) part of Team One (management team) communication rules of engagement. The purpose of CPC is to encourage the team to communicate their thoughts to him and others with urgency and courage because he believes this to be important in building teamwork and steering the company towards the achievement of their objectives. You can ask him if it's easy to get the managers to actually do this and I'll bet he'll say no. I have seen his effort to build his team's confidence to actually do CPC. If he is enjoying any success in getting his team to engage now , it is because of his persistence and his willingness to be vulnerable to constructive feedback or what many of us call criticism. Criticism, a lot of us, including myself, admit it or not, dread it and instantly get defensive when we hear any semblance of it. This, my friends is why, managing up is not easy not just for those who give it but those who should receive it.

I'd like to borrow Jojo's own words on promoting CPC.
  1. The main motivation for CPC - is to get problems to surface faster.  Just like in the pyramid-shaped org, every level in the org blocks issues from surfacing to the top -- hence the CEO takes longer to implement fundamental changes needed in any org.  This is also indicative of the number of occurrence of the "Elephants in the room" and "artificial harmony." This is why I had to start preaching CPC not only with my direct reports...but the next level down.  By telling my managers 2 levels down, that the CEO is ok with getting constructive feedback -- this forces my directs to foster the same environment.  Hence, why you noticed that our TeamOne was initially bigger than optimal.

  2. Practice-Practice-Practice feedback with impunity - this seems obvious, but I made every effort to show people that I'm ok with feedback and no one will be penalized.  I ran several Pizza and Beer sessions with our Sales team to get feedback.  Furthermore, after a meeting with a customer -- I would ask our salesperson how I performed.  Many find it surprising -- that I would ask them feedback, but the word got out that anyone can talk to the boss.  Also, my decision to turn my office into a conference room -- and hold office in any desk that's available -- made it easy for people to talk to me -- and vise versa.  I jump from one department to another every other day.

  3. Warning -- Sense of self-worth (aka be secure with yourself) needed before proceeding.  I find this absolutely critical and believe this is the biggest obstacle to open communications.  It's again basic, but I realize that the best character trait I bring to bear in practicing people management -- is that I'm secure about myself.  I'm not referring to having an impenetrable armor -- I've taken arrows that constantly pierce my armor, but I've also developed self-healing capabilities.  Managers who are less secure about themselves are likely to have one-way communications only -- them criticizing their subordinates, but not the other way around.
KEY LEARNING POINT: Managing Up is enabled by CPC. If you are a manager, you enable it. By enabling, I don't mean just allowing it but empowering it, encouraging it, soliciting it, and rewarding it and by going out of your way to make people know that it is not only okay to talk to the boss but it is imperative to give the boss some useful and constructive feedback.. Ask people what they think. Recognize people in public for stepping up. Make your decisions firm but allow your employees to examine and weigh in on your ideas. There's just so much leadership benefits to enabling them to manage you up. It builds trust, improve communication, strengthen commitment, accountability and focus on results.

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