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Don’t Just Manage Your Team: Manage Your Boss and Peers Too

For people in management positions, successfully building and engaging your team is the foundation upon which all other successes are built. Most of the advice for leaders is on managing and leveraging diversity in the team for the mutual benefit of your staff and the company. However, research published in the McKinsey Quarterly suggests it is equally important for these leaders to also manage upwards and horizontally.

The research, by Thomas Barta and Patrick Barwise, studied over 1200 marketing executives. It found that extending influence beyond their team allows managers to create better collaboration with other business units. Doing so helps guide the broad strategy and vision of the firm. Furthermore, it found managing peers and superiors impacted the success of the business 50 per cent more than managing subordinates.

It can be a career boost, too. Barta & Barwise find mobilising other managers, including those senior to you, is more than twice as important to your career success and progression than mobilising your team.

Managing your boss

Mobilising your boss creates an important conduit for business activities. Managing upward is not about being obstructionist, but providing resistance when needed. It keeps the executive team abreast of operational realities, and the leaders in touch with the business mission. The C-suite can use on-the-ground insights to guide big-picture strategy.

Leaders who perform their role in this way, with a view to the broad vision of the business, are more successful than those focussed solely on their own business unit.

The research found aligning with business strategy contributed 10 per cent to a leaders’ business impact. In addition, it increased career success by 10 per cent.

Three quarters of managers said they were aligned with overall business strategy. On the other hand, less than half of executives believed the managers below them knew the business direction. The efficient uses of resources and measurable ROI for expenditure contributed strongly to the reputation of managers in the eyes of the executive team.

Dana Rousmaniere from the Harvard Business Review says managing up does not mean sucking up. “It means being the most effective employee you can be, creating value for your boss and your company”.

Managing your colleagues

Forging strong links between business units is critical. Building a movement from within the company relies on each team working to the same vision. The study says this involves ‘walking the halls’, listening to peers and working together to address strategic issues.

This allows teams to focus on the overall brand mission, instead of working to achieve discrete touchpoints.

Barta & Barwise find horizontal management within the same business unit can explain about 10 per cent of business impact and 20 per cent of career success. Extended to other business units, such as IT, accounting, or marketing, this adds an extra 13 per cent to each.

Managing horizontally contributes to the ability to better mobilise your superiors. Leaders who take initiative with other units can more easily produce measurable results for the executive team. Crossing business-unit boundaries generates a range of perspectives, driving innovation, efficiency, and career success.

Forbes writer Jacquelyn Smith says mobilising your peers does more than just improve morale. Smith writes that information flows more freely and key performance indicators are reached more easily.

Do not forget your team

The study notes you cannot neglect your team in trying to mobilise those around and above you. Successfully managing your team is the base from which a leader can establish credibility, tangible results, and trust from the business. Generating the trust form peers and the executive team is borne of the trust your team has in you. If all parts of the business are to move forward and upward, the management team and employees need to work cohesively and efficiently.


Want to better manage your teams? Roubler can help. Our inbuilt live performance analytics give you a range of business metrics to allow faster and better informed management decisions in real time.

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