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Fri, 05 Oct 2018

Not only can it put you on the path to promotion, it can help your boss shine while also boosting organisational effectiveness, innovation and engagement.

And managing up – which can mean anticipating needs and coming up with solutions without being asked – has never been as important as it is now, as workplaces are under increasing demand to adapt to rapid change.

Changing hierarchies

Workspaces are increasingly fluid, with more people working remotely, on contract, and consultancy bases – a phenomenon tied to the rise of the gig economy. The old ladder-style hierarchy, with its clear structure of leadership, is changing.

In the gig economy, people will increasingly find that they must work with a large variety of leaders at different times, some above and some below them; this constant rotation means that an ability to manage up is that much more important.

So how can people prepare themselves to be more effective at managing up?

1. Learn to anticipate

Figure out what issues your boss is most stressed or concerned about. If you can anticipate a deadline ahead of time, come up with a list of solutions and/or an update of where the team is with the current challenge, you can help a boss move through challenges by providing information timeously.

There are many traps that one can fall into in the bid to make a boss happy – but essentially managing up is understanding where the stresses lie and taking. As the Harvard Business Review commented, managing up does not, and should not, have to entail sucking up!

2. Solve problems effectively

If you are going to say you have everything covered, make sure that you do. Have a multi-point plan in place to move an issue forward, demonstrating that you know the issue and have a well-considered solution.

Managing up may have moments of grand ideas or big money insights, but it’s primarily about understanding the bigger picture, recognising issues or opportunities, being able to prioritise information, and coming up with well thought out ways to take things forward. If you can provide this type of approach for your boss, you will be worth your weight in gold.

3. Get buy-in

Even if your plans are impeccable, you won’t get anywhere if your boss is not open to your suggestions. Their buy-in is something you may have to manage carefully, particularly if it involves potential criticism. A good rule of thumb is never to challenge leadership in public, as it’s likely to lead to defensive pushing back (part of all leadership is managing egos, after all).

It is usually better to reserve disagreements or criticism for discussion in private. Along with this, it is usually most effective to couch these critiques in a clear understanding of the pressures or realities your boss is facing. In other words, it is much more likely that your input will be appreciated if you start with something like: “I know that the biggest pressure you have on you at the moment is the recent drop in the Rand value, so I thought it was [...]

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Fri, 05 Oct 2018

Lately, I have been followed. The man who is following me has good hair and dead eyes. It would seem wherever I go on the internet, he pops up. He is young, very young, but is constantly telling me that he has the wisdom and the secret stuff that can help me.

He keeps telling me he is very rich and desperately wants to help people. This is why he will help me become very rich, too. He always seems to be at a mansion with a couple of Ferraris in the background. The snake-oil gospel of success. PT Barnum without a real circus.

I have a name for these people. I call them the internet class. My definition of the internet class is people who have no discernible skills, but seem to make money by claiming they can explain things. They don’t make anything tangible, but have loads of information and answers they claim makes them experts. They repackage what exists and explain what is already known to people who are desperate for answers. They promise everything but deliver very little.

The internet class

I think our industry is starting to have its own internet class. Now, I know, advertising has always been full of hustlers. But, the hustle, for creatives at least, has always been about trying to make things. The hustle was the way, never the end goal.

One of the great comforts of being a creative is that you know, in the end, after all the talk, something will have to be made. There will be evidence of industry. The process will lead to something other than itself. This simple fact guarded against words being more important than things. The result is what counted.

For many that is still true. However, in my travels I have started to meet a certain type of person. Other creatives have described them to me as well.

“They have good hair, the right trainers and a fixed smile. The know all the work. They know all the buzzwords. In the first meeting, they are very impressive. In the second one, less so. Their gift is, they can explain everything and anything. They just don’t know how to make anything. They have vague titles and even vaguer skills. You find them everywhere. They are spread across the advertising universe like the black space between stars.”

The internet has given them the information, the platform and the words. They don’t think. They don’t have to. They just explain. They tell you that you don’t understand, but they have the formula. They know the secret. It is very seductive and very palatable, in a world where things are getting faster and faster. The danger is, as an industry, we could end up drinking our own snake oil and wondering why we are still not feeling well.


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Wed, 03 Oct 2018

Throughout time, storytelling has largely influenced how people behave and perceive each other across the world. It is this single factor instilled in individuals since childhood that has contributed to stereotyping and prejudice across societies and cultures. Stories have instigated wars and political mudslinging, racial segregation and gender discrimination, generational and cross-country hostility, and bitterness between low and high-income communities. Even Africa is perceived in a certain way because of the stories being told about it. The role of traditional media and social media are key players in the way the world views Africa, and possibly contributes to putting the brakes on the continent’s development. How do the stories we disseminate shape how the rest of the world views Africa? How does it affect foreign investment? How does it influence markets and economic output? These are some of the questions we should be asking, along with how to change our one-sided approach. Even research indicates that attitudes and views have been shaped in a specific manner.

Influence The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for example, explored the neurobiology of listening to stories and how attitudes and behaviours can change. It found that storytelling changes views about people for the better or worse and significantly influences societies.

“Narrative exerts a powerful influence on human thoughts and behaviour. They consolidate memory, shape emotions, cue heuristics and biases in judgment, influence in-group/out-group distinctions, and may affect the fundamental content of personal identity,” it states. Meanwhile Octavia Utley’s curriculum at the Yale-New Haven Teacher’s Institute explored this tradition in Africa. She found that storytelling throughout history made it possible for African cultures to pass on knowledge, history and experiences from one generation to the next, manifesting itself in different ways and serving many purposes.

“It was used to interpret the universe, resolve natural and physical phenomena, teach morals, maintain culture values, pass on methods of survival and praise God,” said Utley in her paper titled, Keeping the tradition of African storytelling alive.

This data tells us that a story is not just a story. Narratives have shaped societies, and the world has been significantly affected by the stories we have told about each other. Collectively we have all in some way contributed to bias stories without due consideration of its consequences.

So how do we change our views from what was instilled in us as children, and how do we ensure the next generation do not stereotype others?

Perceptions There are many layers to unravel and now is the time to review our attitudes and perceptions of others. We need to challenge our internal and exported narrative because this is where behavior change begins. Parents, in particular, need to be mindful about the type of stories they tell their children, and be aware of books they are reading.

Now is the time for the people of Africa to tell a new story. Tell the world about our unique heritage, majestic views, vibrant fashion and tasty foods. Tell them about our talented youth, our humanitarians, our innovations, and our uniquely African projects. Tell them about our beautiful [...]

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