Want to be successful? Manage up, down, across and out!

Linda Clark-Santos
Linda Clark-Santos Boise State University

It’s no secret that building productive working relationships is critical to success. But have you ever really thought about just how to approach the complex web of relationships you need?

Consider the following:

First, you must manage UP, which means you must cultivate a strong relationship with your boss. This is the most important work relationship you have, so it requires special attention. Your work must align with and support the agenda of your direct manager. Whatever he/she is trying to achieve should be at the top of your priority list. If you disagree with the direction you are expected to take, you should either speak up or take your career elsewhere. If you are in doubt about what your boss is trying to make happen, run (don’t walk) to the next meeting to clarify.

Then, you must manage DOWN. The work of those who report to you must support your objectives. Your relationship with your direct reports is the most important one for them, and you must communicate your priorities and expectations to ensure alignment. Furthermore, your job is to bring out the best in each of them.

Also, you must manage ACROSS the organization. That means you must cultivate positive and cordial working relationships with your peers — both those who report directly to your boss and those roughly at your level in other functions. To be truly effective, you need to know when (and how) to lead, and when (and how) to follow. Your peer group will become smarter and more competitive as you advance, so this is tricky. You may be tempted to undermine the success of others to enhance your chances of getting ahead. Don’t. If you do, you will gain a reputation as something less than a team player. So just don’t.

Finally, you also must manage OUT. To be the consummate leader, you should cultivate positive connections to those outside your organization — vendors, customers, partners, colleagues. These relationships can enrich your perspective and build your own professional brand and that of your organization.

Being a leader is a complex task. Are you up for it?

Linda Clark-Santos, Ph.D., has extensive leadership experience in both the public and private sectors.