Investing Up: The New “Managing Up,” Only 100X Better

Daniel Hallak, PhD, of WiLD Leaders shares a very impactful, very accessible process for creating clarity, commitment, trust, and a stronger working relationship.

When you think about investing in others, who comes to mind? Maybe your kids, your spouse, your team and direct reports, someone you mentor.

Who is less likely to come to mind? Your boss, your boss’ boss, your mentor.

Why is that? Why do we get inspired about investing in other people, but we rarely think about investing in the people who support us and lead us? Why is the concept of “investing up” or “investing laterally” something that we struggle to wrap our heads around?

Investing Up Vs. Managing Up

What is managing up?

  • “Managing your boss.”
  • “Dealing with power and office politics.”
  • “Promoting yourself effectively.”

When I think of the difference between investing up and managing up, I think of the difference between these two questions:

How do I get my manager to ____
Vs.
How can I support my manager in _____

In the first option, it’s all about learning your boss’ preferences and habits, and figuring out how that person likes to work. So in my case, it would be as if I arranged a sneaky set of tricks, power plays and corporate maneuvers so that I could get my boss, Rob McKenna, PhD, to think that my ideas are his. And then when he plans and executes these ideas, then I’ll actually get what I want.

As a leader, the moment that people need to “manage up” to me, is the moment I’ve missed my people.

Managing up is full of relational triangles, secret motives, and power struggles. It’s built on an assumption that there is a low level of trust that one needs to manage around.

I realize that, for many people, this is the unfortunate reality of the contexts in which they find themselves. Yes, there are ineffective leaders who are self-absorbed. But there are also a lot of leaders who might not have malicious intentions—they are just moved about by powerful undercurrents and structures that they might not be aware of. Managing up might be reality for some, BUT it doesn’t have to be the case for all of us. I believe there is a different way… investing up and investing in the people who lead and support you.

Investing Up In Your Boss

This is moving from “How do I get my mananger to…” to “How can I support my manager in…”

The governing principle is that your success is wrapped up in your boss’ success. To facilitate this, we use a process on our team called a People Investment Plan. It’s a crazy-powerful process that is super impactful. The thing is, though, that most people only use it for their direct reports. But what if you considered the following questions about your boss?

  • Character: What do you appreciate about the character of this person?
  • What’s Important: What matters most to this person? If you don’t know, that’s okay. Go ahead and ask them.
  • Competencies: What are their greatest skills or competencies?
  • Areas for development: What, if it were further developed or overcome, would strengthen this person?
  • Needs: What does this person need from you? If you don’t know, that’s okay. Go ahead and ask them.
  • Your investment: What are you doing to help unleash their potential?
  • Satisfaction: On a scale from 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with how you are currently investing in this person? For example, this might include the ways in which—and how often—you communicate with them.
  • Your next steps: What could you do to increase this score in the next 3 months?

The big idea for investing up is that instead of trying to manipulate someone, we take the guess work out and share how we want to support them, to serve them, to help them be successful. The process creates clarity, alignment, commitment, trust, and a stronger working relationship.

The goal isn’t to jockey for position, but to build a positive alliance with the people who are supporting you, leading you, investing in you.

The same goes for mentors, advisors, advocates and sponsors. So rarely do we stop to think about how we can support them. But think about it. Investing in others feels purposeful. It reduces ambiguity. We get stuff done, we focus our efforts. We don’t waste time.

What would change if you were intentionally investing in the growth and development of others? What if that was the person you worked for or reported to?

For more on Daniel’s work, listen to the webinar recording on Whole and Intentional Leader Development, and learn about the Certificate in Whole Leader Development.

Tips & Resources

Webinar Recording: Investing In Your People
Tip of the Week: Applause, Applause
Tip of the Week: 5 Ideas for Minimizing Distractions
10 Reasons to Get Wild Every Year
Get Certified: Whole Leader Development


Photo: #WOCinTech Chat


As the chief commercial officer at WiLD Leaders, Dr. Daniel Hallak drives strategic commercial initiatives and other operations, product development and marketing efforts that support the development of whole leaders.. Before WiLD, he spent over a decade developing whole leaders in business, academic and nonprofit settings. He’s run his own coaching practice and served as a recruiter at Microsoft, a career management consultant at Right Management Consultants and in a leadership development role at Slalom, an award-winning consulting firm. He’s also served as a coach, professor and advisor at three higher education institutions


'Investing Up: The New “Managing Up,” Only 100X Better' has 1 comment

  1. October 28, 2022 @ 4:05 pm Lynnea Common

    This is an excellent and much needed perspective! I shared this week with my manager and owner of the organization that I support, how critical a healthy work environment & relationship are to me. Sadly, I have had all too many instances of supervisors who took advantage of my passion to run me into the ground, my abilities – to only shoulder me with tasks that team members weren’t getting done and boundaries that were stomped all over! Now, I treasure my working relationships, because these are the people who “get it” and who, quite frankly, “get me”. I used to manage up because it was a necessity, now I hope that I will be known for supporting those around me, sacrificially sure, but not as a martyr or as a scapegoat or any other dysfunctional thing you can think of! This transparency allows us to align our shared vision, shoulder stress or burdens and reallocate tasks as needed to meet the most important (not just most demanding) person or task first.

    Thanks for sharing healthy workplace tips!


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