Effective management means thinking like a marketer

Facts tell, stories sell

Tom Allen
clock • 3 min read
Effective management means thinking like a marketer

Good leaders are effective managers, but great leaders know how to manage up as well as down

When I was just starting out in the world of work, my dad gave me an important bit of advice: "Learn how to manage your managers." He didn't mean to puppet them like Machiavelli, but how to get the most out of that business relationship in a way that achieves both people's goals.

Stefanie Krievins, founder of The Change Architects and a speaker at MES Spring in Orlando this week, called this "managing up," which it turns out is a. more widely recognised and b. faster to say. It's about understanding your and your manager's goals and learning how to work together.

IT leaders in the audience wanted a mix of things from managing up: money, of course, but also influence, gratification, trust and less interference (which won a round of applause).

"Managing up is a key component of being able to lead with strategic influence," said Stefanie. She admitted those are "jargony" words, but are summed up as someone who unifies departments, creates value and works with others to help them achieve their goals.

That's exactly what the modern CEO is looking for: problem-solvers who can unify the company and cut through complexity, not build more churn.

"Managing up is simply, in my opinion, the ability to work with others so that they are…hitting their goals and hitting their results, while at the same time you're also able to accomplish your own results.

"Managing up is not asking for permission to lead; not waiting to be told what to do; not staying focused on your IT role; not being too humble to ask for what you want and deserve; not defending your turf or your budget; and not delivering only on your people's or today's problems."

Influence, Stefanie said, is "the most effective power mechanism to get what you want and what other people want… [It] gets you all of the goals listed earlier."

The power of stories

Facts tell. Stories sell. As upwards managers, you need to create (and repeat!) the narrative. If you're not, someone else is – which means you're losing power.

Creating a story doesn't mean making things up. It's more about drawing people into a scenario by relating it to their role. Most cyber professionals, who paint pictures of the outcome of a cyberattack, are already skilled at this.

"Strategic leaders need to think more like PRs and marketers; you need to frame the story… The point of a really good story is that you can put yourself in its place."

Every story should include six essentials talking points:

  1. How are your colleagues' goals your goals?
  2. Which specific stakeholders will benefit? 
  3. What we're fighting against – TOGETHER. In recent years common enemies have included the pandemic and an economic recession, but you shouldn't wait for a global disaster to identify a common enemy.
  4. Challenging the status quo and being willing to be challenged. CEOs often receive feedback that's watered down and full of jargon, making it difficult for them to make decisions. Be someone who speaks truth to power and you'll be respected.
  5. Promises made and promises kept. You must deliver on promises you make, which builds credibility, influence and trust.
  6. Deliver value and know what you're saying "no" to. As someone managing up you need to be able to communicate trade-offs. Don't be a yes-person. It might be effective in the short-term, but in the long-term you are destroying your credibility.

Stefanie will host a free live webinar on this topic on the MES IT Network on 16th May.

MES Spring is a flagship event for our North American sister brands, the MES IT Leadership Network and MES Computing.

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