The Business of Managing Up
We focus a lot on leaders and leadership around here. True, we specialize in training leaders, and we don't often focus on the rest of the team. So, let's take a few and work on that. "Managing up” could easily be one of those phrases everyone says but no one really knows what it means. It’s not a sneaky tactic or vague concept. It is a real and useful tool that can yield amazing results if taken seriously and executed correctly. Even the very best bosses, managers, and supervisors may need – and appreciate – a hand sometimes. If you think you and your team could benefit from a quick lesson in managing up then spend a few minutes here.
In Real Words – What is “Managing Up”
Let’s start with what its NOT. Managing up is not a forum if you have an ax to grind with your manager. That's a topic for another day. It’s also not meant to be a guidebook for 'kissing up.' If your intentions fall into either of these categories, you should probably stop reading here. Managing up IS a positive way to align yourself with your boss's goals and to become a trusted ally. You still have a job to do, but also, you are taking extra steps to make sure your manager (and your team and your organization) is successful. Build this relationship with intentionality, and it will pay off. Trust us.
Take an honest look at your level of contribution and your skill set. Make sure you can say without hesitation that you are putting forth your best effort at any opportunity. If you’re not, take a step back and figure out why. What is holding you back? Think about this before proceeding. Once you understand your strengths and can speak honestly about that, do it. Don’t wait to be discovered. Start a dialogue with your manager about how your organization can best use your talents.
Communication is so essential to so many initiatives, but the delivery of that message is just as important. Become a master of delivering your messages to your manager. Do they hate phone calls? Stop calling. Do they like to be updated every day? Make that part of your routine. It’s a simple act, but can be so meaningful, especially when many are inundated with all sorts of messages all day long. Also, you should understand that your manager may not be accessible to you all the time. Be respectful of demands on their attention and time your communications to best fit.
Everyone has a boss. And as much as we talk about leadership, we should also talk about “followership.” It's not a bad concept, and it doesn't mean you'll never be a leader. Followership is a critical concept in managing up. This consists of many vital skills; maturity to know and accept your place within the organization, ability to adapt and work well on a team as well as a healthy dose of emotional intelligence. Know that your engagement in followership will likely lead to better relationships and a higher level of trust from your manager. And in the end, learning these skills can set you up to be a better manager down the road.
Don’t be scared off by the term “managing up” even if you are already a leader. Encourage your team to manage up. Imparting this knowledge could lead to a better working relationship all around.
And don't forget...
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