#125- The Importance of Leading Up
John (Intro): I have been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good. After running companies small and large for the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito and I’m your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic: What makes the best leaders so good? Welcome to Tomorrow’s Leader.
John: All right, welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dive deep on all things leader related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I’m John Laurito, your host today. And actually, I wanted to bring up a topic today, which is an absolutely critical element to leading a successful organization. Doesn’t matter what type of organization this is. And that is the concept of leading up. OK, leading up, what the heck does that mean?
John: Well, here’s what leading up means. Most people think when they’re leading, they envision a leader of an organization leading the people below her or him and the people that they are influencing based on the dotted line or the solid line or whatever. Leading up is different. Leading up is where you are leading to your boss and providing direction or guidance or leadership to him or her. That’s different, different, different, and difficult and difficult to say. But yes, that is what I’m talking about is the absolutely essential ingredient in a winning organization and that is leading up.
John: Now, some of you listening may never have been in a position where you’ve led up to your boss or your supervisor, whoever that may be. But I will tell you from personal experience, your boss, your leader would greatly appreciate you leading up to him or her if it’s done in the right way. OK, so let me talk about what not to do. And this runs the fine line between providing leadership and leading up in a constructive way versus just complaining. And that is the difference simply between presenting a problem or presenting a problem with a solution. So any time you’re presenting a problem, present a solution. Hey, here’s what I see happening. Here’s what a problem is. Here’s something that’s broken. Here’s what my suggestion is on how to fix it. There’s nothing worse than a leader listening to somebody bring to them an issue or problem or complain without having a solution attached to it.
John: So I was always appreciative of people coming to me with issues and things that they saw as opportunities within the organization when they attached that with, hey, here’s my idea for a solution. I don’t if it’ll work, but here’s one suggestion on how we might address the problem. I didn’t actually care if it worked or not. I just appreciated their resourcefulness and I appreciated their courage in coming to me with a problem and their resourcefulness to try and think through an issue, a solution to the issue. This is why this makes sense. There are so many times, I’ll give you an example.
John: I remember a time leading an organization where we had we were basically we had a need for our team to have a client, relationship manager, a software system that would really manage their contacts with their clients. And obviously, that’s an essential part of running a business. And we were in the process of exploring and comparing different types of programs. We collectively found one that really far and away exceeded what we thought other competitors offered. So we decided instead of having 50 people individually subscribed
to this, which aggregated would be an enormous cost, we decided to explore doing an enterprise-level or group level type of agreement and then having everybody do it from there at a much cheaper arrangement.
John: And so we did that worked out economically to be a very great solution. It gave everybody access to this really great software system for their contact management. And we decided we’re going to roll this out. We’re going to share it with the group, everybody’s going to plug into it. They’re off and running at probably a third of the cost that they would have normally had. They subscribed individually. So we did this big rollout. We shared this with the whole organization. Here’s what we’re doing and here’s how we’re going to roll this out for you and your benefit. And here’s what you need to do to start it. You have to input your contacts and here’s how you get going.
John: Well, you know, a week goes by and really nothing happens. Nobody really signs up. Nobody gets going with it. Nobody puts in their contacts. And I’m thinking, OK, well, why why is there slow uptake on this? You know, two weeks go by and I’m thinking, I don’t understand this. And it probably was three or four weeks. And I’m sitting there thinking, what? Why are people slow to move on this? It was really a small percentage of people that had taken up the opportunity.
John:Now, again, we knew this was the right or felt this was the right pick in terms of the provider. And we were able to do it in a way, we’re providing it at a third of the cost. I mean, why would people not sign up? You understand that this contact management system is CRM is essential to doing business at a high level. You’re either making a decision that, no, you disagree or you’re using something else, which, OK, just let me know and share with me what the reasons are. I finally had somebody come to me and say, hey, you know what? Here’s the issue. The issue is the fact that this was one of the advisors.
John: The issue is the fact that everyone is under the perception that when they put information into this, they’re not the only ones that are going to have access to the. The formation, in other words, the advisers felt that when they put their client information or data into this, that other advisers would be able to access it or other people would be able to access it. OK, well, I understand now why there was slow uptake on this, we communicated with the company and the provider, and just to clarify, no, that’s not the case. That would be ridiculous. And then we were able to communicate it to the group, at which time, OK, everybody, now, there was an uptick. So what was interesting is that here there were two, three, four weeks that went by. Nobody shared this. I didn’t know. And that’s part of what happens as a leader, especially as your organization grows.
John: Sometimes you think things are happening a certain way. You think people are thinking a certain way. You think the adoption of a new idea is moving at a certain pace. You think obstacles are a certain shape or form or whatnot that you think is there. And in reality, oftentimes as a leader, you’re wrong. You just don’t have the right perspective. You’re not close enough to the action. You don’t know exactly or you’re just mistaken in terms of your perception. That’s fine. Leaders are wrong all the time, but without that leading up component, you have to have that because that’s the way that leaders really don’t understand what’s going on. And those are the organizations that move the fast and grow the fastest.
John:Now, as the leader, if you’re sitting and listening to this and saying, wow, I don’t have people leading up to me, I don’t have people coming to me with ideas or I don’t have people telling me when I’m, you know, communicating a message, not the right way, or if training or
meeting was not as effective, you know, as a leader, we need that type of feedback. The higher up you go, the less of it you tend to get.
John: So whose responsibility is that and why is that a problem? Well, I hate to say it, but pull out the mirror and look in the mirror. That’s you as the leader. You own the culture. And is the culture the type of culture where people feel comfortable leading up to you? Do they feel comfortable? Do they feel like they’re going to get punished or some kind of negative consequence because they’re leading up to you or bringing up a suggestion or an idea or even giving you feedback that might be constructive and not always pat on the back or they disagree with you?
John: That’s leading up. You need that in an organization. Without it, you will only be as strong as you are as the leader. And you know what? When you have an organization of 20, 30, 40, 50 people and it’s only as strong as you are, I got to tell you, unfortunately, you’re not going to grow very much. And eventually, you run the risk of failing because those people that feel that the organization is not growing and only going to go is as good as you are. And as much stuff as you have in your brain is is the capacity at which we’re going to think out of the box.
John: Well, your players are going to seek somewhere else to go and they’re going to seek a better option where people and leaders are tapping into their expertise and their brain a little bit more. So you have two choices. Either you don’t open up the environment to allow for people to feel that they can lead up or you do. And how you can start that is simply by communicating that get your team together and say, hey, you know what? My sense is? There are some people here that feel as though they cannot provide leadership to me and lead up. And that’s unfortunate because that’s exactly what I need and want and we need and we want as an organization.
John: So I am tasking you and asking you for your help in letting me know your thoughts and ideas and feedback, good and bad, on what’s happening and what we could do better in ways that we can grow faster, ways we can streamline our systems or decrease the time of delivery or increase the service or quality of service or advice or our products or whatever the case may be because we’ve got tons of brainpower here in this organization. And I worry and I’m concerned that we’re not always tapping into as much as we can.
John:So this is me asking for your help in leading up to me. It’s that simple comment that’s simple communication would do wonders. My guess is within the next 24 hours, you were going to have somebody come up to you with an idea, with a solution, with a problem, with a solution, something that’s going to be of some value to you. And that’s how you get your organization accelerating and really growing fast.
John: So I hope this is helpful to you. If it is, message me. Let me know. Give a thumbs up, share this, provide some feedback, go down below, give a five-star rating, and review and tune in next time. We’ll have some more good stuff coming for you. Thanks, everybody. Take care.
John (Closing): Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions, or inquiries, about having me at your next event, or personal coaching, reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org Once again, that’s email@example.com. Thanks! Lead on!