Tips for managing your manager without looking like a master manipulator
This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Management Today
Even before you’re in a position to fire or hire, most roles include an element of relationship management. We all manage relationships with a variety of people from co-workers to clients, the post person to the boss.
When it comes to the latter, managing up may sound like a lesson in manipulating but being able to influence leaders is about more than personal gain. You know yourself better than anyone else – especially when it comes to a newly appointed CEO or board member – and so communicating your strengths, weaknesses and how you work best makes both your jobs more efficient.
In reality, managing upwards is often the surest route to achieving the best possible results for you, your boss, and the company. However, doing it without looking disingenuous is another matter. So, we asked a panel of leaders to look back at how they successfully managed their managers.
Carolyn Van Den Daelen, managing partner and chief of staff, Quorsus
Managing up is simple – make your manager look good. Ensure that they are prepared for their meetings by briefing them in advance with organised notes and materials, offer to lighten their load by doing some projects on their behalf and try to solve problems before they get to your manager’s desk. These efforts are mutually beneficial; you will get more exposure and opportunities, and your manager will be grateful to have you on the team assisting them. I was once criticised by a peer for managing up…well, guess who got promoted?
Grace Hartnett, operations director, Kaizen
Managing your superior is all about setting clear boundaries and having open lines of communication. I’ve always approached my bosses with confidence but, most importantly, with transparency. I like to provide thoughtful solutions that I believe will work best for them and, if I don’t have a solution to offer up, I’m not afraid to admit that. The healthiest thing that you can do is remember that your manager is also human. They will make mistakes just like you. Hold them accountable but also be their advocate and supporter.
Ete Davies, CEO, Engine Creative
Be proactive in thinking about how you can solve a problem before getting your manager involved to help you or, better yet, where you can help them to solve a challenge they are facing. Managers tend to have a broad view across many responsibilities, so try to be specific, clear and direct when asking something of them. Is it help, or a decision you need? Accountability is key. Admit to your mistakes – don’t blame others; take ownership of the good and the bad stuff, don’t just pass all the bad stuff upwards. Honesty is paramount. Remember that this is a two-way relationship and, like all relationships, it’s built on trust and honesty. Your manager should be striving to encourage this and being honest with you; that honesty needs to be reciprocated so don’t agree when in the presence of the manager and then do the opposite when they’re not around – you will get found out.