Lessons in Leading-Up from a Two Year Old
Children develop leading-up skills at an early age. Most of them teach us things we shouldn’t do.
Leading-up from a two-year-old’s perspective:
“I’ll be good.” A two-year-old uses good performance as a bargaining chip.
If you want to lead your boss, do your job with excellence. Don’t use performance as manipulation.
Tantrums are extortion by toddlers. Never embarrass your boss to prove your power to get what you want.
Unhappiness is a short-term strategy for getting what you want.
Looking at the floor with a pouty face is an attempt to get ‘management’ to adapt.
Be clear about what you want, not simply what you don’t like. Don’t use dissatisfaction as an exclusive tool for change.
“Please, please, please.”
Children feel comfortable telling you what they want.
Clarity is a useful tool when managing-up.
It takes persistence to lead your boss. It’s never once-and-done. But nagging creates resistance.
Leading-up is about helping higher-ups more effectively get what they want. But when leading-up is mainly about getting what you want, it’s manipulation.
If your leader adds value to the team and serves organizational interests, help them get better. Sometimes that means helping them treat you better. Other times it means overlooking.
All bosses suck. Everyone has a narrow band of exceptional skill, a wide band of average skill, and a huge bucket of things they suck at.
When you spend most of your think-time focused on people’s weaknesses, you are the problem.
In praise of overlooking:
Everyone in your life has glaring weaknesses.
- He’s not good with ambiguity.
- She can’t organize her way out of a wet paper bag.
- He lets things bother him.
- She’s terrible with details.
Overlooking enables relationship and enhances influence.
What does leading-up mean to you?
What suggestions do you have for leading-up?
The most important lesson I ever learned about “leading up” was when I watched a colleague apply himself to delivering with excellence. After a sustained performance, he asked for a raise, and was told “I’m not paying you any more to do the same job!”.
Figure you boss out BEFORE you design your up-leading technique, not after.
A two-yr. old is emerging from total dependency and exploring influence, first through manipulation – by necessity – and then learning persuasion, given the appropriate feedback.
Taught cause and effect, they can be taught interdependency, or taught to be submissive – accepting coercion/extortion as a way of life.
These early negotiations are essential, and formative, in how we build trust (and quality of relationship):
You make a mess, you clean it up.
(Day school social justice)
Always leave it better than you found it.
(Scouts honor excellence)
Affirm good (life and health);
negate harm (hurtfulness and violence).
[Worldview of Civility and Humaneness]
Screaming and crying can’t be understood by anyone else, so when you’re done, then I can listen and help.
(Your manipulations don’t persuade anyone else, they are not reality)
Overlooking is enabling manipulations, not empowering efficacy, whether you are managing upward, cross-interests, or downward.
Leadership guides negotiations to a synergetic mutual benefit, not directing a zero sum win/loss. IMHO…
“When you spend most of your think-time focused on people’s weaknesses, you are the problem.”
“Overlooking enables relationship and enhances influence.”
These two points were helpful to me, thank you. It reminds me of people who get a 97% on a test and they focus on the 3% instead of accentuating the 97%.
Learnt so much today, thank you Dan. Transformative information.
Wow that was surprisingly helpful and o so true. My kids are now 3 and 4 but when you think about each of the points you make its crazy how good they are at negotiating. Maybe its a shame we grow up so much! I sure know I could use some of these strategies in my startup