At Konnect, we are always working to better ourselves – both from an individual perspective, and as a company, to become a more efficient, well-rounded and intelligent public relations team. One way we do so is by reading books on various relevant topics together. The most recent selection is “Suddenly In Charge” by Roberta Matuson, a book that aims to improve how employees (as future managers) and managers communicate both up and down.
The book is actually divided into two parts: Managing Up and Managing Down. As publicists, having the ability to effectively manage your internal team, media AND clients can be a balancing act – so reading this book has proven helpful in a number of ways. Below I’ve provided a brief outline of each chapter and the key takeaways I found most helpful.
Chapter 1: Excuse Me, Where Do I Find the Decoder Ring?
This chapter focused on understanding the four types of management styles, and which your boss fits into. These styles are dictatorial, laissez-faire, bureaucratic and consultative. Figuring out where your manager fits in and adjusting your own style of communication accordingly is key, to find a pattern that works best for you both. This is a process that won’t happen overnight – but will take attention and care over time.
Chapter 2: Office Politics
The second chapter of this book chronicles how office politics will play a part in every office and position you occupy. Take time at a new job to assess the players, and the ways in which the “game” is played. You’ll notice where power lies, and through careful observation be able to gauge how to approach certain people and situations within the organization. What should be avoided is gossip and any factors that may prevent you from moving forward.
Chapter 3: How to Push Back and Back Down When Necessary
According to Matuson, “leadership requires the courage to take a stand and to push back when necessary.” In order to keep moving forward, it must be learned when it is right to go against the grain, and when its right to take a step back and go with the flow. It’s also worth noting that bosses do not respond well to “yes people” who lack thinking for themselves. While it’s a lot easier to say yes rather than no, it is often necessary to push back – what must be learned is to recognize the times when it is okay to do so, and how to do so tactfully.
Chapter 4: Help! My Boss is Young Enough to Be My Child
This chapter is self-explanatory, based on the title. It addresses protocol for those serving a boss younger than them, and appropriate strategies to develop when managing a younger boss. The main takeaways here are to be an employee, not a parent, and acknowledging differences while preparing to meet them in the middle.
Chapter 5: Dealing with a Bad Boss
Because this will inevitably happen at one job or another, it’s important to know how to deal when the time arises. Bad bosses and situations come in a variety of flavors – from discrimination and indecisiveness to micromanagement and those who play favorites, the best ways to deal with which comes down to your preference. Matuson suggests flying below their radar, ignoring the situation, meditation, taking your boss head on, and taking it to upper management if absolutely necessary.
Chapter 6: Tooting Your Own Horn
While most people are not comfortable touting their own accomplishments, in business, it is a must. But when doing so, it is important to keep in mind authenticity and timing. No one likes a bragger, but if you have something that you’re bringing to the table – show it! You must be able to prove your worth, using examples to validate your claims.
Chapter 7: Executive Presence – There’s More to Executive Presence than Looks
Matuson claims that “executive presence is the aura of leadership”, meaning that leaders enter a room accompanied by a certain type of feeling that’s indescribable. This executive presence is a mix of confidence, poise under pressure, decisiveness and communication skills that entice others to join their vision, and successfully work towards those results. This is achieved through self-assessment and figuring out what it takes to make yourself a better leader – which can be done by asking for feedback and trying new approaches. It’s a process that must be maintained daily.
Chapter 8: How to Work with a Coach or Mentor
To determine if you’re looking for a coach or mentor, it’s first important to assess what your personal needs are. Coaches are paid to help you, while mentors help without expecting compensation in return. It’s often important to have one or the other in your career growth, as they can help to fill in any voids.
Chapter 9: Seven Signs Your Time Is Up
If after all of this, you’re still not sure how to go about navigating your relationship with your boss, or unsure where you fit into the company, then recognize it may be time to leave. The telltale signs it’s time to do so include no longer being “in the loop,” having to train a backup, company financial troubles, poor decisions at the top, mergers or acquisitions, a boss being fired or no room left for growth. From here, it’s important to take the professional steps and make your exit gracefully.
Hopefully this summary proves useful in deciding if this book might be for you. While everyone who reads the book may find their own personal and professional inspiration for growth, my personal takeaway is that it’s important to meet someone half way. You can’t expect someone you work with to adapt to your style entirely without making some concessions to what works for them. The best working relationships are mutually beneficially because whether you’re managing up or down, you’re experiencing growth.