How record-holding champions surf the waves of uncertainty

When working remotely, managing up is like learning to surf. Waves change. Perceptions, like tides, ebb, and flow. Changes in climate and current suddenly and radically affect direction and outcome. In order to successfully surf the waves of uncertainty, you must develop a mindset that is comfortable with challenging your limits.
Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer

Research shows that 40% of remote employees would prefer to work remotely even after the pandemic is over. The research shows that remote workers are only experiencing on average a 1% decline in productivity. Salesforce Research also revealed that 86% of remote workers rate their productivity as excellent or good. That said, there are real challenges when working remotely and doing your very best to communicate with your leadership team and managers. 

Karen Mangia, vice president of customer and market insights and a member of the Salesforce's Work From Home Task Force, and I have co-authored several articles on how you can reach your full potential and deliver peak performance while working from home. The path toward achieving high-performance work at home starts with how you design and architect your surroundings, followed by how you practice and refine the art and science of public speaking and presentation skills. Managing your time is important and it starts with the ability to pause, ponder, and prioritize your timeEffectively managing your remote teams requires a new mindset and behaviors. To manage teams with high energy, leaders must cultivate healthy relationships for all stakeholders. We also know the importance of managing relationships with managers and business leaders in a virtual-only setting. And the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship includes your ability to manage up while working remotely. 

Surfing the waves of uncertainty like a champion 

Managing up is like learning to surf. Waves change. Perceptions, like tides, ebb, and flow. Changes in climate and current suddenly and radically affect direction and outcome.

The secret to becoming a force of nature within your organization is the same strategy a surfer would use to confront a 50-foot rogue wave. Just ask Chris Bertish.


Chris Bertish is a Professional Speaker; Big Wave Surfing Mavericks champion; Stand Up Paddle Boarding Guinness World Record Holder and Ocean Pioneer.

Chris is a world-record-holding surfer and stand-up paddleboarder who's experienced the difference between riding a wave and being sucked under by one. His near-death experience transpired in slow motion during a surfing competition in front of 50,000 spectators. As the biggest wave he'd ever encountered reared up, a split-second shift in the movement of the ocean radically transformed his triumph into a terrifying, frigid, one minute, one-mile, current-fueled ride along the ocean floor.

"By the time I got picked up, I was like a lifeless corpse. I thought I was done for the whole day," Chris vividly recalls. "And then I re-evaluated. In life, sometimes you only get one chance to live your dream. So, I just put it in my head that I had to get back up."

Are you struggling to get back up and help your organization confront the waves of change you're facing? To what degree is your perception of your past performance preventing you from floating your winning ideas now?

What Chris discovered that nearly career-ending day -- the secret that's as true on a surfboard as it is for getting your management chain onboard -- is that the delta between defeat and dominance can often be measured in minutes. And mindset.

Challenge Your Limits

Chris went from gasping for air and gagging on sea water to winning the surf competition that same day in the matter of a few heats. And it wasn't because he fixated on the size of the wave, all the ways his next ride could go wrong or what was at stake. Instead, he fixed his focus on what he could reasonably affect. His mindset.

"Don't limit your challenges," Chris coaches enthusiastically, "Challenge your limits. And limit your limiting beliefs." Chris discovered that limiting beliefs often manifest themselves as two words. Can't. Impossible.


Chris Bertish scores stand-up paddle dungeons wave 


Have those words crept into your conversations with your manager recently?

Presenting your manager with options to overcome the obstacles they face is one of the most effective and timely tools for managing up. Even if your ideas have been met with inaction in the past, shift your mindset to what's possible. And invest time to study the current challenges your manager faces -- as well as their ideation style -- before pitching a rogue idea.

Start by trying to learn what drives your boss. "How does she prioritize various projects? In what ways does he make his preferences known to the team? Look and listen, and even from a distance, you'll learn more about them than they could ever tell you."

Time Your Wave

Just like a split-second movement knocked Chris off balance, the right idea presented at the wrong time to your manager can have the same effect.

"The key to managing up is always anticipating needs and perspectives," says Tyler Prince, EVP of Industries & Partners at Salesforce. He chose to manage his career as a Senior Executive away from headquarters well before work from home was a global mandate. He's well versed in the critical nuances of timing as a result.


Tyler Prince, Executive Vice President, Industries & Partners at Salesforce

"Timing is especially key during this time," Tyler continues. "Remember that everyone, regardless of seniority or level, is going through a unique and challenging experience balancing the demands that this new normal has placed on workload and home life. Try to be mindful that their time is limited and their need for easy to understand, direct information is essential right now. "

To make the most of the time with your manager -- and to make your ideas immediately actionable -- provide plenty of context . When recommending a change or offering a new approach, do so in a manner that makes it timely and relevant. You wouldn't want someone to toss ideas out of the blue, so why assume that anyone managing you would? Add context so that he or she will know where you're coming from, and why. 

Serve Your Spectators

Managing up effectively means converting your manager from an interested spectator to an invested ally in your career. And in your ideas.

The one-word secret to your success? Service.

"The key to personal branding, when it comes to your career and to connecting with your manager, is to focus on service," according to Chris Westfall, author of Leadership Language and Bullet Proof Branding. " The service that you can provide is the key to your value. Phrase that service in terms of the audience you'd like to reach. When you do that, the conversation changes from 'Here's what I've accomplished and here's what I can do' to 'Here's what I can do for you'."

"If you asked me to boil it down to a one-word story," Westfall continues, "The word I would choose is connection. Your pitch has to be phrased in terms of the people you wish to serve, otherwise your message won't matter. If you say how great you are, and your management chain doesn't see it, then it doesn't exist."

"Speak in terms of outcomes. Bedazzling someone with your experience or education isn't the same as serving them in a compelling way," he relays from his home office in Houston.

Westfall says that results and solutions are what make you -- and your personal brand -- valuable. As a communication coach, he's seen how the words you choose will help you convey that value proposition. But having a good story is never enough, he says: you've got to take action to bring your personal brand and the value you can offer to life.

"What is a brand, really?," he asks, rhetorically. "A brand is a promise delivered. So, ask yourself this question: what's the biggest promise you can keep?"

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

And Chris Bertish is living proof. Five years of subsequent training resulted in him earning the  Guinness World Record for being the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean on a stand-up paddlwboard, completing his journey in just 93 days. The reason for attempting such a feat? To raise money for children's charities. Over $400,000 in total.


Chris Bertish and his transatlantic solo paddle 


How could you help your manager and your organization rise simultaneously? Success begins with your story about how you can best be of service.

What are you discovering as you work from home? We welcome your insights here or by joining us on Twitter at @karenmangia and @ValaAfshar.

This article was co-authored by Karen Mangia, vice president, customer and market insights, at Salesforce

Karen engages customers globally to discover new ways of creating success and growth together. From Executive Advisory Boards to strategic consulting engagements, her insights are central to Go-to-Market strategy, product development, marketing, and branding. In addition, Karen influences industry thought leadership in her role as Chair of the Customer Experience Council for The Conference Board. Formerly responsible for Insight Innovation at Cisco Systems, she led a global team with oversight into Customer Satisfaction and Experience, Diversity Business Practices, and Global Offset and Countertrade. Karen is also the author of Success With Less and a TEDx speaker.

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