Career Magazine

How to Manage up

Posted on the 23 January 2014 by Rebecca_sands @Rebecca_Sands

At the office on Daily Inspiration Board

Working in the field of public relations, I have quite a bit of experience in managing up. There’s a million stakeholders to keep happy, and you’re having to juggle multiple things at once – all the time.

My solutions were not found through any grand training scheme – or even people telling me. Nope – I learned it all on the job, through trial and error and sometimes frustration and tears.

I’ve learnt though, that there’s some simple techniques you can employ that will make both you and your boss(es) look good to the rest of the business, and feel good while doing it.

Here’s my techniques on how to manage up – whether you work in the corporate world, or, well, anywhere where there’s a boss.

Understand what it is that you have to deliver

Sometimes, there’s ambiguity around this. It’s not always straightforward, so ask questions if there’s any doubt in your mind at all. Sometimes, when you have to deliver certain tasks for a project, or a project at large, there’s a wider picture you must be aware of before you start. Try to get your hands on as much information as possible before you get going, in order to smooth out as many unknowns before you even begin. Trust me, it can save a lot of pain later on.

Get your head around the nuances of the needs of those around you

Who does your boss report to? What is it that they need to deliver on? Generally, it works in a cascade fashion – they need to report to someone at the end of the day, even if they’re the CEO and it’s their clients that they’re delivering on. This then comes back to what you have to report to your boss on.

Work out what your boss’s style is, and deliver on what they need

Does your boss ask you every morning for an update on the project? Develop an approach so that they don’t even need to come to you – deliver it first. For example, you could create an email update in the mornings, laying out in a super-sharp, quick format any hurdles, challenges, what you’ve already achieved and what the next priorities are. They will be very impressed, and before you know it, they’ll be trusting you with more and more.

Under-promise, and over-deliver

If you aren’t sure when you can have something ready, anticipate that it will be done the day (or hour, depending on your deadlines) after you think you’ll be able to deliver on it. Then, give it to them early. Even though you’ve missed the first deadline, they’ll be so impressed that you delivered early on the second that all you’ll get is praise. When you do this though, you must provide reasons for the initial lateness. You have XYZ other deadlines, or it’s taken longer because of XYZ glitch – but you’re working on the solution, which means you’ll get it to them by XX o’clock. Then, give it to them early.

Communicate problems, along with a solution

It’s always best to present problems straight up – don’t beat around the bush. It’s best if you can foresee the problem before it even happens, and raise it then. However, often this isn’t the way events unfold. As soon as you see an issue, raise it, but before you do, think about a solution and present that alongside it. If you’re struggling with the solution, picture yourself presenting the problem to them. Think about how they’d react. That’s not to say their way of solving problems is perfect, but if you can acknowledge a solution that will fit in with their values and needs then add your own ideas and suggestions to it, it’s likely that it will be well received. You’ll get the go-ahead in no time.

Acknowledge that at the end of the day, your job is to make your boss look good

And their job is to make their boss look good, and so it goes on. Don’t take little things to heart (I learnt that the hard way, too!). If they’re demanding something of you, it’s usually because someone else is demanding something of them. Try to find out what that is when you’re not in the heat of the moment on deadline. They’re more likely to trust and confide in you in future if you show them your confidence and trust.

Then, help them to deliver what they need by going over and above. Get the report to them, then show them an extra statistic that will make the team look great. Don’t just wait to be asked – show that you can think for yourself and make the team stand out, too.

How do you manage up in the workplace? 

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