The Art and Science of Managing Up
Eric Burns presented a three-part series, The Art and Science of Managing Up: Applicable Skills to Know How to Take Initiative at Work, during the 2017 AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition. Here is a recap for those who weren’t able to attend.
By Erik Burns, Ed.D.
Leadership skills get all the headlines in the working world, while “followership” goes under-appreciated.
“Managing up” is a vital skill for each of us, because at some point in our lives, everyone must operate as part of a team that we do not lead. How we approach our role as a team member and follower is key to driving positive dynamics in our working relationships. Knowing when and how to gently direct a supervisor to whom you answer will make your work environment, and the environment your team works in by extension, a better place to be.
Much of today's professional development and career advice focuses on leadership and management skills, but few suggest the how and when of applying these tactics, particularly when the person applying them is in a non-authoritative position. The highly organized authority structures necessary in big entities that are working to bring drugs and therapies to market pose a special challenge.
CULTURE OF TEAMWORK
Let’s focus on one topic we covered during day two of the series—Translation of Leading and Following: Understanding the Role of Each and the Impacts on Others. We discussed the concepts and actions of both leading and following and how they can affect each other.
I encourage you to pay attention to what is sometimes under-valued within an organization—culture! Creating an environment for sustained success is obviously necessary in the competitive world of pharmaceuticals, but how is this accomplished? How do you encourage higher performance from your coworkers? From your supervisor?
Support the leadership of your organization in moving past standard business behavior and offering assessments and techniques that go beyond typical strategies for recognition of others and incentive programs. For example, your supervisor may not realize that sometimes it’s appropriate to mix business practices and teamwork through a blended model that incentivizes the team when they are successful, not just a single individual. This brings in shared-risk and reward, resulting in an inherently collaborative structure that rewards everybody while building a culture of teamwork. This collaborative approach has been shown to lead to greater rates of innovation and self-actualizing within a team. Teams that self-actualize are better able to progress through group decision-making and problem-solving and meet evolving needs of key stakeholders.
How do you support that? Ask your leadership to emphasize team performance in goal-setting and when recognizing good work. Do it yourself whenever you have the chance, too! When you receive recognition, make sure your public response touches on the efforts of everyone on your team who helped you.
MEET THE CHALLENGE
Lead and motivate members of your team through authentic conversations stripped of the professional tropes we tend to fall back on. Focus on clear communication with your supervisor or other leaders, and make understanding and identifying areas for improvement the priority, not an afterthought. As followers, we can miss the opportunity to ask for clarification or to press for specifics when receiving information from leadership. Speak up in a positive manner, and help your boss clarify what confuses you.
You can support the facilitation of change in team-members who are overcoming an obstacle, and ask for the same in return. Be someone who accepts challenges, and supports others who are being challenged. Focusing on change in behavior, skills, and knowledge, rather than simply having good relations, will drive your team’s performance. This may mean holding each other accountable, instead of depending on your boss to do so for each of you.
I recommend aligning organizational objectives to the tasks within your team so that you, and those around you, understand your role within the larger strategy. Teams lose focus and energy when the individual members don’t know why they are “doing the doing.” One of the most important responsibilities of any team is to seek and understand their role and purpose within the organization. Your supervisor should detail goals and objectives – but it’s incumbent on you to ensure that information is received and understood.
Many scientists are hungry to learn more about the practical strategies and tactics for leading and managing others. The AAPS Career Development Committee has been working to address this need, both through sessions at the AAPS annual events and in AAPS Newsmagazine. Look for new programs from them in the coming year!
Erik Burns, Ed.D., is Assistant Dean of Professional Development, Division of Pharmacy Professional Development, University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy.