If you’re looking to grow as a leader, expand your responsibilities, or create a better framework for your job, you may want to try managing up. Especially if you’re working for a boss who doesn’t invest much time in leadership, it’s a good idea to take the initiative to build leadership responsibilities into your current role.
What, exactly is managing up?
The Harvard Business Review defines it as, “being the most effective employee you can be, creating value for your boss and your company.” But it goes beyond that. Rosanne Badowski, co-author of Managing Up: How to Forge an Effective Relationship With Those Above You, says that when someone tells you to manage up, they are encouraging you to stretch yourself and go “above and beyond the tasks assigned to you so that you can enhance your manager’s work.”
When done in the right spirit, managing up aims to benefit you, your boss, and your company. It’s not about manipulation; it’s about filling a gap in your company’s framework and providing valuable services.
How do you start managing up?
First of all, start thinking in big-picture terms. Reflect on the company’s needs and how you can help fill them. This kind of thinking is akin to “CEO thinking.” As author John Baldini says, “You’re looking at the holistic point of view for what your department does and how it relates to the rest of your firm.” Pay attention and start to understand the processes and people that make your company successful and what obstacles are blocking potential success.
But careful not to step on any toes! Managing up does not mean taking over your boss’ responsibilities. Nor does it mean telling your supervisor what to do. It means educating, rather than intimidating. Strive to create an open dialogue with your boss and share your ideas.
Get to know who your manager is and what’s important to him. What successes led to his current role? What is his vision moving forward? What does he struggle with, that you may be able to help fulfill?
Part of managing up involves building trust between yourself and your superiors. This goes beyond simply turning in assignments on time or reaching sales goals. It means anticipating your manager’s needs and acting accordingly. It also means tracking your time, projects, and progress.
When you measure your efforts, it’s easier to report them to your boss or your work team during a meeting. It also demonstrates your willingness to carve out your own work experience by setting and achieving goals.
Remember: managing up isn’t always about leadership. Part of your responsibility as a valuable employee is to be an excellent follower when the situation arises. Carefully follow directions and ask clarifying questions, if need-be. Make sure you fully understand a project’s goal and the timeline. If you happen to disagree, for whatever reason, with your manager’s decision, make sure to voice your concerns tactfully. Ask questions to understand her reasoning before expressing disagreement.
Take initiative and aim to add value to your current position. Demonstrate your leadership and self-starting tendencies by effectively managing up. Remember to keep your heart in the right place and strive to enhance the workplace and support your boss, rather than manipulate.
Need help with your managing up strategy? Feel free to contact me and let’s figure out how to take your leadership to the next level.