“Managing up is the most important concept I’ve learned that has been and will continue to be critical to my career success.”
What is the most important thing you have learned that has been critical to your career success?
Managing up is the most important concept I’ve learned that has been and will continue to be critical to my career success. To manage up means to take your career development into your own hands, and it is typically referred to when looking for a mentor. Instead of waiting for an opportunity or a mentor to come to you, you have to go after them.
“Recently, I noticed an effort in our group that could use improvement... I’m very excited to see what kind of a difference I can make.”
Recently, I noticed an effort in our group that could use improvement. I suspected we were in danger of missing a deadline, even though the deadline was still two months out. Many factors were contributing to the impending issue, but I knew my background would lend itself well to helping the team get back on track. I decided to manage up and approach my boss about helping out. We met, I pitched my plan, and after a day of thinking about my proposal, he agreed. I am now the lead engineer over the effort, and I’m very excited to see what kind of a difference I can make.
“A solid team whose members have great relationships with each other will be the team that succeeds against all odds.”
What is your leadership style?
My leadership style/preference could best be described as team-oriented. The team that plays together stays together. I’m a firm believer that a solid team whose members have great relationships with each other will be the team that succeeds against all odds. When the pressure is high and the workload never seems to end, if you enjoy and respect the people you’re working with, you’ll work hard for them – and vice versa. This kind of dedication to each other isn’t one that is commanded, it’s freely given.
“To help further develop myself and my career, I have been taking steps to get involved with more mentors.”
What steps are you currently taking to improve yourself, professionally?
To help further develop myself and my career, I have been taking steps to get involved with more mentors. The Poised for Leadership workshop encourages us not to stop at just one mentor, but to diversify our support network.
My current mentor Dawn reiterated this point by advising me to speak with and be mentored by individuals in various leadership roles, such as Program Manager, Engineering Manager, Project Engineer, Marketing, and Technical Program Manager.
“In life and at work, I tend to avoid or diffuse confrontational situations...after using Jo Miller’s advice, I was comfortable to hold my own on major issues.”
Have you experienced a career or leadership challenge recently that you have overcome?
In life and at work, I tend to avoid or diffuse confrontational situations. For example, if a coworker arrived late to an important meeting or if a decision I made was challenged, I would hear myself say, “Oh, that’s OK, no big deal” or “OK, we don’t have to do this my way, it’s just a suggestion.”
After the attending the Poised for Leadership workshop, I mentioned this to Jo Miller as something I’d like to overcome. Jo offered, “Watch the leaders in your group. How do they handle similar situations?” After using this advice, what I saw was an immediate correction, establishing of a boundary, and then moving on. “We need to start on time next time. Let’s move on.” “Hey, no; that’s not what was intended. It needs to be done like this.”
Jo then advised me to pattern my behavior after my leadership. “Practice with a friend, a waiter/waitress”, or (my addition) my husband. I began starting with smaller issues, drawing boundaries over minor things until I was comfortable to hold my own on major issues.
A leader and closer-network peer of mine at work explained it like this,“those who can draw those boundaries and stand up for themselves will earn more respect than the individuals who let themselves become steamrolled.” Turns out, he was right.