Monday, August 30, 2010

Leading Your Leaders: Tips for Managing Upward

For our August 24 webinar titled Leading Your Leaders: How to Manage Upward, Kimberly Brown Strickland, VP, Merchandising and Marketing at Walmart was kind enough to share written answers to questions that were sent in by webinar participants.

Kim agreed to let me post the Q&A here.

Question: How do you manage upward when the managers are in different geography? - Anita

Kim Brown Strickland answers: By phone or video conference is usually better than trying to manage a situation through email. Before I physically moved to England and then Japan, I managed people and processes through conference calls from the US to other countries. You need to be able to present logical, factual answers/suggestions just as you would if you were in person. Its even more difficult through language translation so, again, be prepared to ask the same questions several different ways to get a good answer or drive the decision to closure.

Question: How do you communicate effectively so management can provide resources needed? - Leah

Kim Brown Strickland answers: Make a good case and make it simple. Provide a logical, reasonable case that shows the issue/objective and then provide pros and cons of what you need in a very simple, convincing manner. If it doesn’t work the first time, be persistent without being pesky and bring it up again, reiterating the net benefits. Resources is tough one to ask for but you need to show you’ve exhausted every other possibility or method to get things done and still need more resources.

Question: What are some suggestions to become visible and ready, to our bosses eye? - Jessica

(and from Debra: How do you manage upward so that your accomplishments are held in higher regard, with recognition and visibility?)

Kim Brown Strickland answers: I think this goes back to having mentors and advocates that will speak for you. It first starts with doing a good job, but networking and being involved in projects or initiatives or even affinity groups that show you can do more than just your job don’t go unnoticed. Your mentor or advocate can get you recognized or promoted sometimes as easily as your boss. You can also set up “career one on ones” with your boss’s boss to gain an understanding of their perspective and what they know about you and your accomplishments. You don’t have to be the one to tell them about all of your accomplishments but at least you’ll know where you stand and what conversations to have with your boss or mentor.

Question: Is it appropriate to discuss your manager with another mentor/manager? - Barbara

Kim Brown Strickland answers: I think so. You obviously need to be respectful about it but I would have to say that the majority of the conversations I have with my mentees end up being about their manager or their team members and them trying to get advice on how to handle something. I have even recently called one of my mentees managers to have a conversation about a specific situation and framed it as us developing that person together because that’s how I view it and ensuring we were on the same page.

Question: How to manage a manger that doesn't want to change - Rachel

(and from Michelle: After years of not clicking with your manager, when is it time to resign and move on?)

Kim Brown Strickland answers: This is a tough one and I have had a couple of mentees with this situation before. Its not an easy decision. At Walmart, we have an open door policy that allows you to have conversations openly with potentially your boss’s boss or even up to the CEO. So, at some point, you have to know when its time to escalate the problem. However, I’m not saying this always works, it could just be a personality/style conflict and only you know what you can live with. I have been very fortunate never to have been in this situation but know people who have and it’s generally a fairly long, fairly frustrating process. The key is that you have to happy with whatever you are doing so only you can decide when enough is enough.

Question: How do you get a "break-through" when it seems the "daily tactics" are overwhelming the strategic direction? - Kathy

Kim Brown Strickland answers: I agree that sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. When you get to the point where you are doing things just to be doing them and they no longer seem to align to the strategic direction, you need to stop and take a step back to re-evaluate what’s important and what’s effective and challenge the process.


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