Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host, Tim Simmons, and today, we’re going to wrap up our lesson on how to manage up.
Many of us silently yearn for an easy relationship with our boss, one in which he can understand us intuitively. But managers are human. They can’t read minds any better than you can. And even the best ones make mistakes. That’s why today I want to talk about how to “manage up.” I’m talking about using strategies for enhanced collaboration between you and your boss. I want to show you how you can initiate these strategies, rather than waiting for your boss to become a better manager.
The right attitude is critical if you want to learn to manage up. Start by de-escalating any resentment you have toward your boss. Open yourself up to the idea of collaborating with your boss. And cultivate a spirit of learning. Even if you don’t see your boss as a mentor, there’s lots you can learn from him.
With the right attitude, you can then go about trying to understand your boss better. Reflect on what you know about the person. Ask yourself: what is this person’s experience and background? Then, how does this experience and background inform his core values? Core values are about what we think is most important in life. Does your boss value family, security, and hard work? Or is it more about adventure, risk, and competition?
If you understand these fundamental values, then you can better understand his goals and what he’s hoping to achieve. It will also help you understand his work style. How does he like to communicate? Does he prefer to send an email or pick up the phone? How does he deal with timelines? Is he a procrastinator, or is he highly organized and always one step ahead of everyone else?
Now, take those same questions and turn them on yourself. Have you considered, in clear terms, your own values, goals, and work style? If you don’t have a clear understanding of these things about yourself, then it would be ludicrous to expect your boss to understand them.
With this understanding of your boss and yourself, you’ll be in a great position to manage up. This involves strong communication about how to work together. Use your one-on-one time to help your boss understand you better. Make polite requests, rather than complaints. Say “if it’s all right, I’d prefer to do these meetings in the morning because I’m sharper,” rather than just “I don’t like meeting in the morning.”
Giving good feedback is a skill, and you’ll need to learn how to give your own boss feedback. And remember, that should be a mix of constructive and positive feedback. Lots of people want more praise, even though they themselves never give it!
And it’s not just about praise but also about help and support. Your boss will support you better if he sees that you are willing to support him. So step up for that extra responsibility when nobody else will. If you never go the extra mile for your boss, why should he go the extra mile for you?
Another trick to managing up is being proactive. Don’t wait for your boss to ask for updates. Keep him up-to-date, especially when you are behind or you foresee obstacles. Name those obstacles so he can understand the situation fully. The more information he has to work with, the better he can do his job. And that’s a lot of what managing up is about: helping your boss do his job better.
So, what are the consequences of teaching your boss how to be a good manager to you? Well, for one thing, you’ll enjoy greater trust and a better relationship. Not only will your boss value you more highly, he’ll go to bat for you when you need an advocate. And that will help you achieve more of your goals and open up new avenues for success.
If your boss knows how to manage you better, then you’ll be more productive. You’ll also have more control over your own workload and possibly be given more autonomy. These are all things that most people say are related closely to higher job satisfaction.
So stop waiting for the impossible. Stop wishing silently that other people will suddenly change. Take control of your own situation, and through a collaborative approach and a willingness to understand, manage up. Whether you have a difficult, negligent, and demanding boss or a kind but distractible visionary boss, you’ll both benefit.
That’s all for today. So long. And see you again soon!