Managing Upwards in a VUCA World

  • you were expecting direction from your manager. He/she set the tone, the priorities, and most of the times you stood-by for direction
  • the assumption was your manager knows all/best/more than you
  • another operating assumption was that learning was happening downwards — your manager had all the answers, and you were to do your best to soak up the knowledge and the wisdom from him/her.
  • while your manager continues to set the direction of your work, it is now up to you to speak up when there’s a need to shift perception. You can (and are expected to) bring pressing matters to attention and advocate for those to be pushed at the top of the agenda
  • information flows upwards, not just downwards — make a deliberate effort to help the manager understand the specific realities you get to witness beforehand. In a world with so many things happening, no one person can be expected to have all the answers
  • your manager doesn’t do everything better than you, nor he/she should. You can definitely find areas where you are better equipped to perform. Most of the times, that turns into a source of frustration, but take a step back and remember — no man is an island. Just for the sake of interdisciplinarity, Esther Perel talks about this in reference to how relationships work. She talks about how we expect our life partner to at the same time be our confidant, our teacher, our best friend, our entertainer, our finance and administrative partner, and so on. No one person can live up to those expectations, just as much as no one manager can be the best at everything. It’s time to drop the myth of heroes and superstars! Companies and systems generally cannot rely on individuals, but on teamwork and synergy.

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