Suck up, Manage Up, or Engage Up?

ImageIn his book Managers Guide to Employee Engagement, my friend Scott Carbonara challenges all employees, regardless of level, to engage up. He suggests that there is a significant difference between sucking up, managing up, and engaging up. We’ve all seen the first two, particularly the first.

Imagine what our workplaces would look like, feel like, if everyone engaged up.


Suck-Up: A person who ingratiates himself or herself, often using insincere behavior. A suck-up may be said to “cozy up with the boss.” In more erudite circles, a suck-up may be referred to as a sycophant. But a suck-up is best known for “brown-nosing” those who may help him or her.


Manage Up: This involves assessing your boss’ weaknesses and coming up with a strategy for dealing with them. At the very least, managing up includes the art of paying attention to the management and communication style of your boss, and changing your style to be an asset instead of a liability.


Engaging Up: This means providing positive reinforcement to your boss on the things your boss most values, while simultaneously letting your boss help engage your employees. It’s not manipulation; rather, it’s bringing out the best side of your boss. Your goal in engaging up is to link what your boss wants with what you and your team deliver.

I believe the difference between the three is that your interest at all times is the greater good of your organization.

The driving question should always be what’s best for the company?

If everyone is focused on this larger picture, the result will be a payoff for everyone, including your boss and you.


Of course if you are jaded about your company, this is probably unlikely to happen.

It’s difficult to want the best for an organization that you believe is responsible for your misery. If this is your case, you have two options.

  1. Rediscover the attraction you had in the first place (much like renewing a stale marriage).
  2. Leave (still talking about your job here, not your marriage).

I’ll talk more about this in my next post…


The Perfect Retirement Gift? Buy Dad a Dog


If your Dad is approaching retirement, there are a few things you should know.

Retirement can be tough on a person who has been in charge for years, only to find out later when he tries to give direction to his wife, his days of control are over.

Now his orders are met with rolled eyes, a smirk, and a “don’t forget to take the trash out on your way to the grocery store.”

He mumbles something under his breath as he walks into the garage and drops the garbage into the trashcan, thinking of the good old days when he had people on his staff who took care of all the little things. Now he has no one to hand him the paper with the morning coffee, schedule his appointments, clean his office, and compliment him on his tie.

Now the morning paper is in the wet flowerbed. The coffee pot is empty. His only appointment is with his cardiologist. And, he hasn’t worn a tie since his business partner’s funeral.

So what can be done for the retiring high power executive who is no longer fueled by his ability to avert life and death crises, close impossible deals, rescue the industry, and leap tall buildings with a single bound?

Buy him a dog.

You see, he still needs to have someone who will come when he calls, leave when he opens the door, protect him when necessary, show him loyalty without hesitation, and occasionally kiss his hand. Now that he has no one on payroll to do these things, where can he turn?

A dog can do these things and more. We can’t really put our finger on it, but somehow, having a dog around makes us actually feel better, physically and emotionally.

According to the University of Minnesota’s Academic Health Center, puppy love is more than just fun; it can actually be good for you and have a profound effect on your health and well-being.

The benefits of pet companionship have been proven in scientific studies to lower blood pressure and heart rate and to relieve anxiety and depression. In short, pets reduce our stress… A number of studies have suggested that pet owners are healthier than people without pets… A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society revealed that pet owners tend to be more active and less prone to depression… Pets help us focus outside of ourselves. They improve our social lives by keeping us active and connected to the community.

So, if you’re still wondering what the perfect retirement gift might be for someone who has been operating at optimum speed throughout his career…

Forget the gold watch. That will only remind him that he has no place to go and no schedule to keep.

Forget the golf clubs too. Most men only golf because they have to for business. Few are really good at it and the idea here is to lower the blood pressure.

Perhaps the most disastrous idea is a motor home. While seeing the country is a great idea, being cooped up in a “cabin on wheels” with the wife he hasn’t really spoken to in twenty-five years is a formula for a heart attack (for both of them).

Remember, what he really needs: someone who will come and go as he directs, love him unconditionally, and be absolutely overjoyed to the point of peeing every time he comes home.

Unless Mom can measure up to those standards, you better buy him a dog.

SUCCESS: Overcoming Complacency, Fatigue, and Resistance.

high placesHannah Hurnard’s Hind’s Feet on High Places is a provoking allegory with characters to which most leaders can relate – pursuing a dream while shedding the nay-sayers.

The hometown from which the main character, Much-Afraid, is trying to escape is bent on her destruction. She tries to pursue a better life, one that is truly worth living, but unfortunately meets with interference and resistance. While her family members act as if they have her best interest at heart, they would lead her to ruin if she followed their direction. Her family, the Fearings, is opposed to her journey. They want her to remain among them and marry her cousin Craven Fear, which would certainly ensure the continuity of complacency and dysfunction. Much-Afraid, however, is compelled to move on; move beyond the stagnant life of irrelevance and move into one of promise and fulfillment.

Success is often unattained because of complacency, fatigue, and resistance.

A Choice: Overcoming complacency

Often times the easiest thing to do is to stay still. It may not be the best thing to do, or even the right thing to do, but it is often the simplest thing to do. A point does come however, when we realize that there is something else, something more, something better than that for which we have settled. When this realization becomes unsettling enough to evoke action, we are on our way to personal transformation. We choose to act. We have to make the choice in order to overcome complacency. No one will force us to grow.

 A Journey: Overcoming fatigue

Once the journey begins we are beset with a destination that never arrives immediately. This destination is often moving and at times seems so far away that we grow discouraged and tired. We realize how far we have yet to go and we want to give up. We are tempted to stop and stay put, or sometimes when we haven’t gone very far at all, we even consider turning around and going back to the very place from where we started. To carry on and continue the journey, however, we must overcome the fatigue and press on. We continue the journey knowing that in time, in perfect time, we will arrive at our destination and it will be far more fulfilling than we had ever imagined.

 A Challenge: Overcoming resistance

Besides our own fatigue and doubt, we must also overcome the resistance we experience from those often closest to us. Many times friends and family will be quick to tell us our endeavors are a waste of time and that our journey is destined for certain failure and disappointment.

In some cases, those who are closest to us may feel threatened by our potential success. After all, if we move on they might be left behind. Our accomplishments might only serve as a reminder of what their lives could become if only they were willing to leave their state of complacency and set out on a journey of their own. In short, our growth encourages others to grow and many don’t like that same unsettling feeling to which we ourselves had to respond.

At the end of her exciting and successful journey (which we know is just the beginning of even greater ones), Much-Afraid is asked what she had learned. She passes on her lessons:

  1. Accept with joy all that has happened along the way and everything to which the path has led.
  2. Bear all that others were allowed to do to us and forgive them with no trace of bitterness.
  3. God never regards us as we are now, but rather as we can become.
  4. Every circumstance in life, no matter how crooked, distorted and ugly it appears to be, can be transformed.