What You Should Know About Managing Up

In the majority of my jobs, I have had great relationships with my boss and other senior leaders.

I approached work with an attitude of “I don’t work for you, I work with you” with a conscious approach to working with them to achieve organizational goals. Thus creating a productive, mutually beneficial relationship, in other words I became very comfortable at managing up.

‘Managing up’ isnt political maneuvering, sucking up to the boss, or being manipulative, it refers to the ability for some individuals to positively influence their supervisors whilst maintaining their relationships and rapport.

It doesn’t mean, disrespecting or challenging their position, it means you understand how to get the resources and acceptance needed to perform your best work for your boss and, in turn, your company. All three of which — your boss, organization, and you — are interdependent.

No doubt, It can be a delicate balance and it requires certain skills but once you hone them you’ll totally see the benefits and cultivate a strong, trusting relationship with your manager that allows you to get things done and in turn positively impact your career.

Perfecting the art of upward management.

Here are my top tips for practicing upward management;

  1. Actively provide information that is relevant, accurate, timely and supports the overarching strategy without being a “know it all”
  2. Adjust your communication to suit that style of your boss (as required) for example when providing updates/ presenting an idea — if they like detail, provide data. If they prefer a high level overview, provide the key bullet points.
  3. Let me add — know their foibles! That is their eccentricities, pet peeves etc. I had a Boss who was a stickler for formatting in excel — no varying fonts or cells with missing borders. Once he spotted these they detracted from the information I was trying to present and made it harder to get my points across. I can only assume that he felt sloppy presentation equated to sloppy information!
  4. Seek to identify the pressure points that are influencing their leadership in order to relieve them of unnecessary stress. Depending on your own position, there are probably decisions you can take that don’t need to end up on your boss’s desk.
  5. Provide recommendations to problems, instead of just providing more problems.
  6. Give as well as take -it’s a two way relationship.
  7. Understand that they are human and can and will make mistakes or poor decisions at times.
  8. Understand strategy is as important as operations.
  9. Represent your boss favorably in forums where they cannot represent themselves.
  10. Respect the boss/employee dynamic — your boss is not your friend. Yes, you want to have a good relationship but it’s not the same as having a relationship with your BFF. Remember, if they have to choose between what’s best for you and what’s best for the company, they’re likely to choose the latter. It’s not personal — it’s business and if your boss thinks that you’re getting closer to advance your own career, it could get messy! .

If you consider strategic managing up as a way to look beyond your own needs and perspectives, considering those of others and not manipulation, you will learn what kind of leader you want to be and the kind you don’t!

It’s a smart career move.

Registration for Purpose|Power|Presence — The Leadership Program for Female Game Changers is open — specially developed to help women build their leadership capability and presence, develop their strategic thinking, enhance professional influence and harness their skill set. Talk to me about how the program can support you in your leadership career by clicking HERE.

Janice Sutherland is an award winning women’s leadership expert and founder of This Woman Can an online community for professional women. She provides coaching and training specializing in helping women and organizations build leadership skills through Executive Mentorship, Leadership Training and Executive Team Facilitation for both corporate executives and entrepreneurs globally. She is a sought after keynote presenter for corporate and nonprofit environments and speaks on issues relating to leadership, women’s advancement, professional success and work/life alignment. For more details, visit www.janicesutherland.com

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