Have you ever noticed, either with yourself or with others, that managing up only ever becomes an issue when things aren’t going so well with the boss. It’s only then that the hue and cry goes up and people scramble for what they should do. In reality though, managing up should be something that you do all the time. It’s your responsibility to understand your boss’s strengths and weaknesses, their priorities and their Working Style and to take the time to build a productive working relationship. Here are a few tips to help you along the way…
1. Take responsibility for your side of the relationship
No matter how thinly you slice it, there are always two sides to a story. If things aren’t going so well, take an honest look in the mirror and ask yourself what you might be doing to contribute to the current situation. If you discover that you’re doing everything right, then ask yourself what could you do to relieve the problems your boss might be facing…even if it’s just lending an ear.
2. Know your leader and their style
As mentioned in the introduction above, knowing your leader and their Working Style will go along way to helping build a strong relationship. What are their current priorities? How do they manage time? How do they like to communicate? How do they deal with stress? Are they more task focused or people focused? What are their values? What drives them? Understanding these aspects about your boss will allow you to better communicate and understand how best to influence them.
3. Help your leader succeed
You’ve heard it a million times, make your boss look good. That doesn’t mean being completely subservient and allow them to take all the credit for your hard work (if you’ve got a boss like that, you might consider having a different conversation) but it does mean supporting them and delivering quality to deadlines so that you, and they, are being seen to do a good job.
4. Keep your leader informed
No one likes surprises. It’s better to over communicate than to communicate too little. Don’t assume your boss knows what’s going on. They’re likely to be very busy so make sure you keep them up to date with progress. Always deliver bad news quickly…don’t let them hear it from someone else.
5. Build a network of influence
Regardless of where you are in your organisation take control of your career. Don’t rely solely on the relationship with your boss, this can be quite limiting in terms of exposure to other opportunities. Network up, across and in every other direction in and outside of your company.
6. Stay true to the mission
Remember why you joined the organisation. What is it that keeps you getting up in the morning to go into work? What good are delivering through what you do?
7. Build your career plan
This is an expansion on #5 above. You’ve got to own this. Where do you want to get to? What skills do you need to have? Who do you need to talk to and support you? What are the steps you need to take to get there? Once you’ve fleshed this out, systematically go and do it.
8. Learn to push back
Pushing back is an important skill to have. I believe that you can deliver any message as long as you have both the courage to give your point of view and the consideration for the other party’s needs. When you take this approach and use good dialogue skills, a solution that works for both parties is the likely outcome.
9. Maintain respect for your leader
It is easier to respect some people more than others but it’s necessary to maintain respect for your leader. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, we’re all human and perhaps if you were the boss you’d do things a different way. If you don’t respect your boss, for whatever reason, it will eventually show through in your behaviours…that’s when you’ll really need to manage upward! Look for things that you do admire about your boss, focus on their strengths and what you can learn from them. Like I said, we’re all human, we all have challenges in our work and in our personal lives that may be influencing our behaviour. Tolerance and understanding are important skills to master.
10. Act grown up
This last point pretty much speaks for itself. Always be professional and take responsibility for how you act, what you say and who you say it to.
If you find it difficult to manage up, here are 3 questions that will help you explore the reasons…
- What are your blocks to managing up?
- Why do you need to manage up in your role?
- What are 3 ways to rethink the need to manage up?
If you’d like to know more about how to achieve more in life or business, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.
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