The Art of Managing Up

September 09, 2015

It is natural to try and position yourself to be looked upon favorably by those who you report to, but sometimes your manager can use a little help. “Managing up” has become a popular term that has various meanings, and also misunderstandings.  Managing up isn’t the same as “sucking up” in an effort to get ahead. So, what is managing up really and what are the best ways to be successful at it?

An article from the Wall Street Journal described managing up like so, “You need to go above and beyond the tasks assigned to you so that you can enhance your manager’s work… You want to be described as indispensable.” So managing up basically means going above and beyond the call of duty, and what is being asked of you. This can include maintaining a positive attitude, taking initiative, being an effective team player, and doing your best to help your manager do their work more effectively.

There are many things you can do when it comes to managing up, but here are a few to get you in gear.

Effective communication is essential for success in pretty much all situations. Try to learn the communication style of your manager as well as others around you that you interface with regularly. If you and your manager are not seeing eye-to-eye or have different communication styles, learning and then adapting to their communication style can significantly improve the way you communicate and work together. You may have a personality type where you need all of the details, while your manager may like to get straight to the point. It may be uncomfortable at first, but try to mirror that style as much as you can to make communication easier.

Active listening is another important component of communication. Learning when it is an appropriate time to speak versus when you should be listening is a great skill. I’m certainly not advocating for not having a voice or an opinion. However, many of us have the habit of not really listening when others speak, because we’re simply waiting for them to stop talking so we can chime in. So, active listening is really just showing respect to the other person and making sure that you actually hear what they’re saying. You never know what you miss when you’re just waiting for your turn.

Bring up potential issues, but provide possible solutions when necessary. Don’t be someone who just points out the holes, but doesn’t offer any ways to fix it. Be the problem solver, the go-getter, the one that says, “I may not have the best idea or have the answer for you, but here are my suggestions or I can find someone who knows the answer.”

Don’t criticize your manager, especially in a meeting or group setting. Be aware of how you are communicating your thoughts to ensure that it doesn’t come across as you challenging your manager in front of colleagues and clients. Criticizing and critiquing not only makes your manager look bad, but also creates a poor reflection of you.

Give your manager a compliment from time to time. Expressing your appreciation does not translate into begging for a promotion. Understand that we are all human, and certain titles just denote more responsibilities and everyone can use a compliment now and then. If you notice that your manager may have a lot on his/her plate – ask how you can help. Maybe they need a polite reminder to delegate some tasks to free up the load on their plate.

The quality of your work and how effective you are at your responsibilities will mirror you being a stand-out employee. Promoting a positive and hard-working attitude will speak volumes about your character to your management; and the way you go about managing up will be seen in a positive light. If you understand how your manager works – their goals, objectives, strengths, workstyle, etc. – then managing up will be simple.  

What are your thoughts on managing up? What do you believe is the best way to do so?

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Posted By: Anastasia Hoosman

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