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Managing Up, Down, and Sideways

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

Are you responsible for managing a staff? Are you often looking for ways to more effectively manage them, to become a “better” manager? If so there are shelves and shelves of books to help you with that, right?

But here’s the thing: we are all managers, no matter what our position, and we all are responsible for managing multiple things.

So maybe I manage a staff. But definitely I manage my relationship with my boss. I manage my relationship with my co-workers. I manage the tasks on my to-do list. I manage my relationships with my friends and family. I manage my community involvement. I manage schedules. I manage my time. I manage my weekly menu. I manage my on-line presence. I manage the unexpected health issue/traffic jam/sick child/lost report/board meeting/car problem.

So whether we are “managers” or not, we are all managing up, down, and sideways every single day.

Where’s the book on that?

Over the past few years I’ve started to pay greater attention to how people go about managing the up, down, and sideways of their lives, and I’ve come to believe there are a few simple tips for doing it well, for keeping centered amidst the chaos of our lives.

  1. There is always something more to learn about people, no matter how well you think you know them. And the more you know, the more common ground you will find. Strive to find that common ground, and your relationships will flourish.
  1. You don’t have to be a “manager” to be a leader (and you don’t have to be a leader to be a manager). The only person whose choices and behaviors you can control is you. Don’t get hung up on what others are not doing and focus instead on what you are.
  1. In your life, you will be put in positions that make you uncomfortable and you will be asked to do things that make you feel silly. You will be asked to lead and you will be asked to follow.  You will support, you will guide.  You will be asked to stand on the stage and you will be asked to build the stage. You will play many roles… embrace all of them.  
  1. Nobody but you can create the life you imagine. So don’t hand over responsibility for your happiness and contentment—it belongs with you and you alone.
  1. Whatever life is asking of you… Be brave. Take a deep breath, and dive in.
  1. The list of things you are managing will almost always be larger than the hours you have in the day and the energy you have in your body. Don’t worry about doing all the things… just focus on doing the next
  1. Kindness trumps almost everything else. Always strive to be kind. 
  1. Just keep breathing.

So let’s put some of these into practice. 

You have a new co-worker that seems to be the complete opposite of you, and the two of you rarely see eye to eye. Frustration is mounting. Instead of focusing on how different you are, ask them for coffee and talk about everything BUT work… see what you’ve got in common, and you just might start to see each other in a different light.

Your team keeps letting you down, and your list of things they are not doing for you is growing by the day. You find yourself working late, muttering about how you have to do it all, and your resentment builds. First, try breathing. (When in doubt, always try breathing).  Then, take a look at yourself. What have you been doing or not doing that could be contributing to the team’s behavior? Can you have a genuine conversation with them, asking them what they need from you?

Your boss wants you to handle all the administrative aspects of a big company presentation coming up, but you believe you should actually be giving the presentation. Instead of half-heartedly handling the admin duties, embrace them so that whoever is giving the presentation shines bright. Meanwhile, find a time to talk to your boss to let him or her know how great the presenter did, and that you’d also like the chance to represent the company at a future event.. and ask them what you might need to do in order for them to consider that. (And also, don’t forget #8).

You’ve got two parties to plan, a work trip looming, a massive project deadline approaching, three school events, and a sick child. Your heart races at the mere thought of all that needs to get done and you feel completely overwhelmed with how you’ll possible manage it all. Stop thinking about all of it. Make a list of the things you need to do, and just think about the first one. Then the second one. You’ll get there. 

What would you add to the list?



"Managing Up, Down, and Sideways", The Leadership Program, Inc. 2016


Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.