The most valuable people in any organization are people that manage themselves. That’s right, most people cannot manage up. Even seasoned execs cannot manage up.
It is the simplest thing to do yet it is such a rare trait. Managing up is easy. Just tell your boss (or the board in the case you are the CEO) what you are going to do, when you are going to do it, and then try to do it. If you cannot get it all done, tell your boss BEFORE it is due. That’s it.
It is amazing to me how few people can do this. If you can just do this and nothing else, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be a company rock star and you’ll likely be paid we’ll more than your peers because you allow your manager to avoid the very uncomfortable conversation asking you where a certain thing is that is due.
As a manager, interviewing for this trait is very hard. How do you know you know the person can manage oneself? I’ve met some very impressive people who still need active management. I try to find this out by calling lots of references, but I would love other ideas as this is one of the two most important traits in a general hire (the other being critical thinking).
I tend to think that checking into how someone has done at managing cross-functional teams indicates, to an extent their ability to manage themselves. This opinion is largely built from experience and observation.
A possible explanation: With cross-functional teams and management relationships with lots of dotted lines, you have folks managing a project where they don’t necessarily have a ton of pull. If they are able to pull that off, it is possibly because they have been very self-driven to get things accomplished.
To emphasize Jonathan’s point, I believe if you are the manage yourself type, you will undoubtedly encounter resistance. People who manage themselves will likely not have very much pull to get others to help.
I personally solved this issue by asking the co-founder of the company I work for give me permission to CC him on any email where someone has told me No. Now when I need some cross departmental support, people that object, object directly to a founder.
There is very little resistance with this strategy.