Focusing too much on managing up can bring you down

Some people are viewed as being better at managing “up” than managing “down”? To me, this is a contradiction.

On a short-term basis, executives may be impressed with a manager “managing” up to them and their priorities. Ultimately, however, all executives are looking for outstanding output from their staffs. By focusing too much on managing up, a manager will eventually fail at his/her job.

Being a manager means being a leader to his/her staff. A leader is someone who is more focused on the team’s success than his/her own individual success. However, people who focuses more on their bosses than the team, tend to be “me-focused”. So, they will care more about what the bosses think than what the team thinks. They are not good advocates for the team, and cave in too quickly to unreasonable executive demands. They don’t know how to motivate the team to work together. They tend to be quick in blaming team members for failures. In the end, they lose credibility and loyalty of  the team members.

Eventually, the executive leadership will  recognize them as a problem.

Given today’s typical work environment, we actually DO need some element of upward management from middle managers. After all, how can someone be an effective advocate for a group without understanding the political environment within a company culture? The fact is that someone who is only interested in downward management can be just as ineffective as someone just interested in upward management.

The most important job of a middle manager, however, is leadership that can produce outstanding output from his/her employees. A team will not be cohesive and successful if members don’t think the manager cares about them.

In the end, the outstanding output by a well-managed team is required for long-term success in managing “up”.