YPN: Managing Up, Down and Sideways - Everything You Missed

Watch the full recording here.

Effective leadership has never been more critical. As teams adjust to remote work, staff reductions, and a volatile marketplace as a result of COVID-19, leaders are asked to align and energize their groups to keep business on track. To offer guidance, Licensing International organized a virtual panel discussion dubbed 'Managing Up, Down, and Sideways,' a part of the organization's Young Professionals Network event series. 

The hour-long conversation included Linda Descano, CFA, executive vice president of Red Havas, and two 2020 Rising Stars: Krystyna Braxton, Apparel Licensing Manager, NFL Players Inc., and Louis Yenik, Licensing Manager, Crunchyroll. The session was facilitated by Amber Alston, Content Marketing Manager, Flowhaven, and YPN Committee Chair.

Multidirectional management is a popular part of modern organization theory. It suggests that complex organizations benefit when people engage with their peers across operational and business-unit boundaries to bring diverse perspectives and drive change and innovation. In licensing, some teams have adapted the method while others prefer more traditional approaches. The panel offered a fresh perspective on the topic. 

"What ties these concepts together is the need to maintain a meeting of the minds, show awareness, and be considerate," said Yenik. "During COVID 19, We're deprived of our 'normal'... It's important to provide extra consideration to make sure you stay in touch every day...and create space for folks to share to make sure people are doing well mentally and emotionally."

Below, we offer highlights from the conversation. 

Managing Up 

The idea of managing up challenges the long-held belief that leadership can only work from the top down. Modern CEOs are increasingly reliant on the insights and pushback of trusted executives to help sharpen strategy. For workers, "managing" the company leadership and mobilizing colleagues can increase business impact and career success, including promotions and increased visibility with the organization. 

"The easiest way to look good to your boss is to ask how are you going to make them shine?" said Descano, a C-suite veteran who has spent her career leading teams to victory. "To know and manage your manager, you need to know what makes them tick, what the expectations are that they're operating under, and what their boss expects from them. You should adapt everything for them to alleviate their burden."

"When you have a boss you [respect], it makes you want to do everything you can to make them look better," added Braxton, who works with one of the world's most recognizable sports organizations. "I make sure I'm on top of [my assignments], that I stay super organized, am able to provide answers to questions even before he thinks to ask them, and stay [ tuned into things that are months away.

Managing Down

Mobilizing subordinates helps managers establish credibility with the CEO and with colleagues and demonstrate their strengths to their bosses. The best managers build strong teams, refine team members' skills, keep subordinates focused on performance measures, and establish an environment favorable to trust and loyalty. To keep managers focused on creating positive, productive environments for the people who report to them, the panel suggested starting with the hiring process and exercising patience. 

"It's about how you hire, and asking questions on the front end, so you know what kind of employee you're getting," said Braxton. It's knowing what your team strives with and being able to cater to that. You don't want to come off as rude or mean, but you need to understand how to set boundaries to see how [your team]operates and learns. [Give you subordinates] opportunities to lead and show them how they can take on a project a manager typically would and let them soar."

Managing Sideways 

Managing sideways can be particularly challenging. The task requires leaders to motivate colleagues who do not report to them, but whose support and participation are vital to achieving organizational goals. During the discussion, managers interested in expanding their impact sideways were encouraged to lead from the front with respect and clear action plans to deliver tangible results. 

"It comes down to learning how people work," added Braxton. "When someone new comes to the team, take the time to sit down with them and ask how they like to operate... 'Do the [respond to email] right away? Take all day? Do it the next day? That will help you with every project after that.  Then take the time to figure out how you operate with others...and explain it, so everyone knows [what to expect from you]. 

The group honed in on the importance of self-awareness in establishing respectful and mutually beneficial working relationships. 

"[Self-awareness] is important because you don't have direct control over [the people you manage sideways], and everyone comes to the table with their own motivations and expectations. You have to be aware of your organization's priorities, but be able to read the room. Understand what those motivations are and understand how you can be impactful...Make sure you are not passive-aggressive or sabotaging others. Be willing to speak up, show up, and talk constructively in meetings without undermining. That's how you build respect."

Managing through Crisis

A time in which both global health crises and political unrest have impacted the business world, the panel discussed the unique pressure managers are under to be both change agents and cultural thermometers. Senior executives and entry-level workers have struggled alike, seeking to understand how to build more inclusive workplaces that put the needs of all employees first. 

"To start, we have to be more thoughtful about our choice of language and hold ourselves accountable," said Descano. "There are phrases we grew up with and certain adjectives we use when describing a certain gender or race specifically. We owe it to whoever we're managing to be careful about our choices. All of us have an obligation, whether we manage others or manage ourselves, to ask how these assumptions [are affecting our organization]. We can also ask our companies to help us recognize unconscious bias and be greater allies to all of the partners and people we interact with."

"It's important to weigh your values against what you may not agree with and what decisions your company is making," remarked Yenik, who leads a multinational, multilingual team at the world's leading anime platform. "Then make a judgment call about it if it's going to take a toll on you in the longterm  If you cant fully get behind where you work will impact your ability to work."

How Technology is Helping Managers Lead

Technology has helped companies overhaul their workflows. The panel was most excited about the role technology has played ain, helping each of them improve their communications, assign tasks, and feel connected to their colleagues at a time of increased social distance. 

"We use Flowhaven," said Yenik, whose company oversees hundreds of anime titles, runs an eCommerce store, and more. "[It] handles the contract approvals, and gives us deep analytics we can pull to make better decisions to manage upstream and gauge how much time our licensees [spend on each project]. Flowhaven is our secret tool!"

To learn how Flowhaven is helping team manage effectively click here.

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