Managing Up, a Skill Worth Developing

Man managing a woman in an office.

Why develop skill in managing up? They’re the ones who should be managing us better! They get paid more! And further, who wants to be a “suck-up”?

One of the most valuable skills you can have is being able to manage those you report to.

So how do we best do that? Here are a few ideas:

Build strong lines for communications.
Doing a good job at work means being able to first understand what’s expected of you, getting help in solving tough problems along the way and letting your boss know what it is you have done. Forget the fences which can develop. Don’t take that road. Stand back, be objective about your work and communicate what’s needed in a professional, direct and friendly manner.

Clarify the mode.
For simplicity and best results, determine the most valuable methods for making contact with your boss. Is e-mail best for certain things? Voice mail? Quick chat before 8 a.m.? Or is he or she non-responsive before that first coffee? Optimize your and your boss’ success by taking on the task of learning what works most effectively. Start by asking.

Understand personal style.
Does your boss tend to focus on details, accuracy and procedures or getting it done “now” with no questions asked? Is “connection” and people the first focus or keeping the routine and stability?

Knowing your boss’ style will help you understand how he or she approaches problems and how you can best approach him or her. The Golden Rule states we should treat others the way we want to be treated. The Platinum Rule tells us to treat others the way they want to be treated. In managing up, it is platinum that rules.

Identify their problems.
Excellent employees will figure out what the boss is up against and try to help. Set aside the “us” against “them” mentality to carve out a new relationship that can increase your overall value.

This is especially true if you are looking to advance within the company, since it increases your opportunity to learn new skills.

Don’t run into pointed spears.
We all know that everyone has limitations, yet when it comes to our bosses, most of us can’t or don’t want to recognize them. Many of us want them to be perfect and all-knowing and are cynical when they are not (”He doesn’t know as much as I know about what I do.”).

Bosses are human and their limitations can be your opportunity to increase your own value. At least, try to work with them. For example, someone waiting to hear on her raise from a disorganized boss may not just resign herself to “no results.”

Instead, it may be good to try to pin down a time frame for their next meeting including when her boss would make a decision and get the raise approval.

We all manage the people around us to some extent, but managing your boss, or any of the people you report to, is a skill worth cultivating and just good business sense.

Reprinted, with permission, from the Chicago Tribune.