The Ultimate Guide to Managing Up

In this article, we share the main principles of managing up and actionable strategies that will enhance your abilities to contribute to the overall success of your organisation.

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If you are a professional who is seeking career advancement alongside the successful performance of your organisation, managing up is a soft skill you need to know about and continuously develop. It means that you have to collaborate with your superiors effectively and align your goals with those of the company. Building strong working relationships with higher-ups and understanding their communication styles are essential.

We want to focus on the main principles and nuances of managing up to offer actionable strategies that will enhance your ability to communicate, influence, and contribute to the overall success of your organisation.

What Is Managing Up?

There is a straightforward definition provided by the Harvard Business Review, which says that managing up is "creating value for your boss and your company." It is not about the intrusions and interferences into your manager's schedule to have your ideas heard and accepted. Neither is it about trying to manage your boss and shape them into somebody you want to see. You are not expected to judge or evaluate your boss's behaviour or abilities, either.

Instead, managing up is understanding your manager's goals and ideas, developing efficient relationships, and adapting to their working patterns and communication styles. You must learn to anticipate your manager's working needs and understand their ideas. The main principle here is understanding. Managing up can be strategic, and its key elements include:

• effective communication;
• anticipating needs;
• aligning goals;
• initiative and reliability;
• understanding perspectives;
• seeking feedback and learning.

Managing up is pretty important because it makes both your manager's job and your working performance easier. Demonstrating that you care won't go unnoticed.

1. Understanding Your Manager

Understanding your manager is crucial. Gain insight into their preferences, priorities, and communication styles. Consider the key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter to your boss. For example, if customer satisfaction is a priority, your project should contribute to that goal to be effective.

Observe how your manager makes decisions - data-driven, collaborative, or self-generated. While knowing that you can present information in the most resonating way. For instance, if your boss values data, present your proposals supported by relevant analysis.

You can also consider your manager's working preferences, communication preferences and feedback, stress triggers, and behaviour in high-pressure situations. You can proactively offer support and demonstrate resilience in this case.

Lankitha Wimalarathna, CEO of Hiveage, advocates for strategic alignment, stating, “Efforts synchronised with your manager's key performance indicators, particularly in areas like customer satisfaction, pave the way for impactful and successful projects. Understanding their decision-making approach allows you to present proposals in a resonating manner, ensuring your contributions are valued and supported.”

2. Effective Communication

This is a cornerstone here. You need to understand your manager's communication style pretty well. If they prefer visual presentations, use charts and graphs. If they want more concise information, deliver key points succinctly.

Communication with your manager should be proactive. Before starting a new project, discuss expectations, timelines, and desired outcomes to avoid misunderstandings.

Provide regular updates, for example, by sending weekly summaries of the progress and challenges with the upcoming milestones. Adjust your communication style to that of your manager. You can provide quick updates in an easily-scanned format if your boss is pressed for time.

You need to be honest and transparent about what can and cannot be achieved within given timelines. Consider unexpected delays and communicate them promptly alongside the revised timeline.

Choose versatile communication channels: face-to-face meetings, collaborative platforms, and email. Actively seek feedback on your communication style and adjust accordingly. Demonstrate your willingness to learn and improve.

3. Anticipating Needs

If you want to anticipate your manager's needs, you have to understand their preferences, priorities, and potential challenges. It is a proactive approach that involves:

• observing patterns and preferences;
• staying informed about organisational challenges;
• offering assistance when you understand that your manager needs support;
• strategic planning, thinking ahead about the upcoming projects, deadlines, and potential challenges;
• recognising time-sensitive situations and prioritising tasks accordingly;
• aligning your work and contributions to support the achievement of your manager and team's goals;
• having a thorough understanding of the projects and tasks your manager is overseeing;
• being adaptive, flexible, and responsive to changes in your manager's priorities or preferences.

All these techniques require a combination of observational skills, a proactive mindset, and strategic thinking.

4. Aligning Goals

This involves understanding your manager's goals, profound knowledge of the organisational objectives, straightforward communication of your individual goals, and finding common ground between your personal and professional goals related to those of your manager.

You need to review your goals and ensure they are aligned with organisational priorities. Connect your daily tasks and responsibilities to larger organisational objectives. Seek your manager's feedback on how well your goals correspond to the team and organisation's objectives and make adjustments to refine your approach.

5. Managing Expectations

This helps reduce misunderstandings and create clarity. Communicate your capabilities and limitations. Always clarify your manager's priorities and expectations. Set realistic milestones.

You need to be adaptable to changes in organisational priorities to realign your efforts. If you foresee potential delays, report them as early as possible.

6. Seeking Feedback

Receiving feedback from your manager is a valuable practice in managing up. Tell your manager immediately that you are open to feedback and value their insights. Ask specific questions about your performance, the project's quality, and areas you want to improve.

Make seeking feedback a regular part of your interactions. However, be prepared for both positive feedback and constructive criticism. Provide specific examples or scenarios to help your manager understand the context of your inquiry and reaction to critique.

7. Navigating Challenges

When you want to address challenges effectively, communicate openly and express concerns proactively. Seek clarification from your manager to avoid making assumptions. If a sudden change in strategy occurs, adapt your project or task to align with the new priorities. Offer potential solutions and alternative approaches.

If conflicts arise, address them professionally and constructively. Be mindful of your workload and set realistic boundaries. Discuss workload management strategies with your manager to ensure a sustainable pace. After the completion of a challenging project, reflect on the processes and outcomes.

Seek out training, mentorship, or resources to enhance your skills. Mentoring can be a great instrument in navigating challenges when managing up. It can help with skill development, provide constructive feedback, help build confidence, and may be crucial for problem-solving as well. Consider your mentor's insights based on experience, feedback, and guidance. Observe how they interact with their superiors and role-model the most effective practices. Mentors usually have extensive professional networks so that you may gain exposure to new opportunities.

Final Thoughts

As we have discussed, mastering the art of managing up can significantly enhance your professional success and contribute to a positive work environment. It involves understanding the needs, preferences, goals, and work style of your superior and aligning your efforts to overall objectives.

Effective managing up requires straightforward communication, proactive problem-solving, and a commitment to continuous improvement. Managing up is a two-way street that fosters a collaborative relationship where both you and your manager contribute to mutual success.

Author Bio

Roman Malfoy is a seasoned writer with a passion for exploring diverse topics, with a background in journalism, Roman brings a unique blend of creativity and analytical thinking to his articles, aiming to engage and enlighten readers with compelling narratives and insightful perspectives.

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