Chances are, you know about “managing UP.” The art of influencing your mercurial, distracted, and perhaps occasionally unpredictable boss. If you have worked in the business world long enough, you have likely taken a class on this essential skill.
Hint: Know her priorities. Speak his language. Anticipate their needs. Be truthful and don’t BS them. Contract properly at the end of a meeting. Just a few of the essentials.
Chances are, as well, no one in that class you took spoke about “appreciating UP!”
Sure, you appreciate the folks on your team. You may forget and you may not do it perfectly, but you know it’s a good idea. Chances are, you do little to explicitly appreciate your boss. It’s a potent influencing behavior, and yet, the gifted executives I coach consistently do not do it. Bosses rarely receive a word of praise or appreciation. If you’re the CEO …. yes, it’s lonely at the top, in more ways than one.
The reason for our lack of explicit boss-appreciation? Chances are, we’re clinging tightly to a bunch of subterranean anti-appreciating-UP stories. Here’s how these stories go:
1. I don’t want to waste their time.
My boss’ time is precious. I want to be prepared, get to the point, and show that I respect how busy s/he is.
Fact: Your boss is a human being with feelings, no matter how efficient their outer demeanor may be. The longing for appreciation is universal.
2. I don’t want to sound like I’m sucking UP.
I’ve watched other people suck up to Senior Leaders and it just looks and sounds so darn obvious. I don’t ever want to become one of THOSE people!
Fact: Even when it looks like sucking up to you, chances are your boss still appreciates hearing it. Dump the phrase “sucking up” and supplement it with the phrase “expressing genuine appreciation.” That’s what we’re talking about, after all.
3. My boss is uncomfortable with chit-chat that gets too personal.
I don’t want to cross any personal boundaries with my boss or get into a conversation that becomes too private and which I will later regret.
Fact: Praising someone’s idea, expertise, or accomplishment is as safe as a professional conversation gets. It’s entirely about work. Your story is likely about your discomfort in offering a personal remark to someone with high Position Power, not that person’s discomfort in receiving such a remark from you.
Krista Tippett, the host of NPR’s glorious “On Being” radio program, chats with renowned British poet and organizational advisor David Whyte about leadership wisdom. “Being a leader,” Whyte affirms, “means being visible, all the time. It means truly showing up and not simply going through the motions of showing up.”
Yep. And part of being visible means appreciating UP, discomfort and all. If you appreciate who your boss is and an action s/he has taken, why wouldn’t you express your appreciation? I mean, really?