Who should I manage?

A question I’ve often been asked is “How did you survive so long as a CEO?” I had an 18-year CEO career leading a tremendous organisation with great people, and was fortunate – and earned – the ability to finish in the role on a day of my choosing.  Yes luck, and politics, and respect and hard work played into this. 

I’ve thought much about it and how some people with all the seeming talent in the world don’t reach the stars. The simplest way I have worked this out is they didn’t learn “who to manage”.  To me it comes down to basically three key relationships you have at work and learning to manage each.  

You must manage yourself
You must manage your team
You must manage your superiors

Now before anyone comes along and tells me my errors over the years, I know at times my management of these relationships varied somewhere between good – and, well the opposite of good!  But I know I learnt as I went and had someone brave enough at times to pull me up – you’ve got to love that 360-degree feedback!  

So, regarding the first relationship, the one with yourself, do you even know what your skills are? What work you like doing?  Are you in the right career?  I do believe your life – where you live, who you work for and what you get up and do each day – is your choice. But it takes some thinking and more importantly, doing. 

When you reflect on the second relationship, managing teams, we teach, set KPIs and try to inspire and lift people up to their potential.  Fortunately, there’s been a fair bit of emphasis in the workplace on equipping people to manage teams. As for me, I’m a big picture thinker so when selecting and coaching staff, I tended to focus on their ability to add value in the future. That’s about people who can learn new things and who fit the culture that we’d nurtured.  

It’s often the management of the last relationship on my list that I’m astounded that mentees have hardly thought about. Managing up. I’m sure it’s one of the areas which enabled me to survive so long. I innately respected my superiors and wanted to achieve for them. And I guess if you’re faced with not respecting your superiors, you’ve got a bunch of decisions to make. 

Over the next few blog topics, I’ll try and expand on how I think about each of these relationships. Looking forward to hearing from you.