slidedown

Leading Your Team: Kick Up, Kiss Down

December 26, 2007 4 Comments

(This is Part 10 of Leadership Principles)

As I walked past Evan’s office (he was my SVP – my boss’ boss), I couldn’t help but overhear a terse and pointed telephone conversation. He was being quite belligerent and direct in telling the individual on the other end of the phone how screwed up things were and how he expected them to be fixed in a reasonably short time. Evan emphasized the point that failure to do so was unacceptable because that failure would have a detrimental impact on the people in his organization.

I timidly poked my head in his door after he hung up and asked “How’s it going chief?”

“Fine. Stupid stupid stupid decisions. I abhor stupidity.”

“Who’s being stupid?”

“Frank. The guy has no clue how much trouble some of his knee-jerk decisions can cause.”

“Yeah. I know. So who were you chewing out on the phone?”

“Frank. Don’t you listen?”

I listen. Evan’s answer began causing some cognitive dissonance for me. Frank was Evan’s boss – the Executive Vice President in charge of our entire division.

“Wait a minute. You were talking to Frank? Like that?”

“Yeah. Kick up. Kiss down.”

“What do you mean?”“As a leader, you have to be willing to kick the people above you when they make decisions that adversely affect your people. Your job is to protect your organization as best you can. Occasionally that requires reminding those above you that their decisions affect peoples’ lives and often in a negative way.”

“I see.” I guess he was refining the point on being a Human Crapshield (see the post for a deeper explanation of the term).

“Be careful how often and when you do it. It’s always in private. It’s always about the decision, not about the decision maker. Offer solutions and rationale as to why your answer is better. And always be prepared to get marching orders you might not agree with.”

“Okay. So you’re saying if I see you do something stupid that negatively affects my team, I should come give you a kick in the behind?”

“Absolutely. Just do it behind closed doors.”

“I will. What’s the ‘kiss down’ part all about?”

“Never kick down. Don’t kick your people. Ever. They work their tails off for you. If you kick them too often – and more than once is too often – they’ll go work their tails off for someone else.”

“Fair point.”

“Kiss down instead. Let them know you appreciate them. Praise their accomplishments and even if they fail, praise their efforts. They know they failed – they don’t need you to point it out or remind them. Simply let them know you are thankful for their hard work.”

“Pretty simple stuff. Kick up. Kiss down.”

“Yeah. Very simple. Too bad so many people have a hard time figuring it out.”

Upon reflection, this notion of kicking up and kissing down was probably one of the biggest reasons I loved working for Evan. I can only hope I’ll do half as good a job at living this maxim as he does.

– Learn more about how to create your own set of leadership principles in my book One Piece of PaperBuy your copy here.

– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

4 Responses to “Leading Your Team: Kick Up, Kiss Down”

  1. Anusha says:

    good post. I am sure it must feel great to work with someone like Evan.
    Ironically most people work opposite, they kiss up and kick down.

  2. princess0764 says:

    “Ironically most people work opposite, they kiss up and kick down.”

  3. Raj says:

    Great post Mike!

    “As a leader, you have to be willing to kick the people above you when they make decisions that adversely affect your people. Your job is to protect your organization as best you can. Occasionally that requires reminding those above you that their decisions affect peoples’ lives and often in a negative way.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately a lot of folks are just too intimidated to speak up to their managers out of fear. Managers need to show their employees that they value all feedback, positive and negative. Its the only way to create a culture where employees feel comfortable enough to voice their concerns.

  4. […] them. It can also signal to them that you expect them to be a sycophant just like you. The fix: try kicking up and kissing down instead. Manage up and make your boss work for you. Protect your team and treat them like kings and […]

Leave a Reply





  • ©Copyright thoughtLEADERS, LLC. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast in whole or in part without the EXPRESS WRITTEN CONSENT OF thoughtLEADERS, LLC. Content may not be republished, reproduced or distributed in whole or in part without the proper attribution of the work and disclosure of its source including a direct link back to the original content. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content nor can you modify the content in any way. However, you may download material from this website for your personal, noncommercial use only. Links to websites other than those owned by thoughtLEADERS, LLC are offered as a service to readers. thoughtLEADERS, LLC was not involved in their production and is not responsible for their content.

    thoughtLEADERS, LLC has worked to ensure the accuracy of the information included herein. thoughtLEADERS, LLC is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional services beyond training, coaching, and consulting. Its reports or articles should not be construed as professional advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. thoughtLEADERS, LLC is not responsible for any claims or losses that may arise from any errors or omissions in our reports or reliance upon any recommendation or advice provided by thoughtLEADERS, LLC.

    thoughtLEADERS, LLC is committed to protecting your privacy. You can read our privacy policy by clicking here.