Upward Leadership: How to Engage Your Leaders

April 28, 2009

OMAHA, Neb., April 28 /PRNewswire/ — During a tough business climate it is only natural to assume that the people in the executive suite are in control of the situation. But, the pain wrought by cutting costs, reducing staff, and trying to continue to turn a profit all have taken their toll on the boss’s confidence. A little help from staffers can go a long way, according to Greg Harris, president of Quantum Workplace, a market research company that surveys employee engagement, loyalty and retention.

Employee engagement is measured by the ability and willingness of individuals to exert effort for the benefit of the company, their tendency to speak highly of the organization, and their intent to stay.

“Employee engagement is a two-way street, rather than only the responsibility of the leadership team. Managers can create engagement among their followers and employees can work and communicate in a manner that instills confidence in managers–all while creating a harmony of engagement,” says to Mr. Harris.

When a subordinate does lead up, it requires equal courage for the boss to listen down.

“Because of industry layoffs, many bosses are being forced to do more with less. Those staffers who remain should try to seize the moment by lending an upward hand to their managers. Sometimes, even the people in the executive suite need some help. If you are afraid to help your boss, and if bosses remain reticent to accept upward assistance, then bosses will fail,” adds Mr. Harris.

The concept of upward leadership began at General Electric whose hard-driving culture encouraged its employees to challenge their leaders. To encourage its people to lead up, GE launched a program for mentoring up.

When then-CEO Jack Welch realized he and his management team had much to learn about the Internet, Welch required 600 top executives, including himself, to find younger mentors who were digitally knowledgeable.

“Planned interactions such as those initiated at GE provide an officially-sanctioned two-way street that encourages staffers to interact in an upward manner. This helps to foster employee engagement,” notes Mr. Harris.

Although upward leadership may not always be welcomed, once it is established as a company-wide mandate it can encourage everyone to lead up without the need for superiors to request aid or react hesitantly in accepting guidance.

“Opportunities for leading up come to almost all of us. In the best organizations, leadership is companywide,” according to Michael Useem, author of Leading Up. “Nobody’s superiors are so superior that they can never benefit from guidance within the ranks.”

“But, be weary not to battle your boss, especially in public. Learn to question your boss behind closed doors in order to prevent public demonstrations of discord. This will ensure that your voice is heard,” adds Useem.

“Innovation is not tied to managerial staff. Subordinates can innovate as well. The challenge for employers will be to create cultures that engage people and motivate performance. Companies that are successful in renewing their human capital will win,” stresses Mr. Harris.

For additional information please go to www.QuantumWorkplace.com .

SOURCE Quantum Workplace

Source: newswire

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