How to Manage Up
Managing up is about creating a symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationship with your manager. Your manager manages you, yes, but management is a two-way street. It would be a mistake to leave the success of your relationship solely up to your manager. In that spirit, we’ve put together a few tips on how to make sure the manager-managee relationship in your life is working effectively.
Understand Your Manager’s Goals, Objectives and Problems
The foundation for success here is empathy. You will be able to create that healthy relationship with your manager if you can understand her – her goals, objectives, and perhaps most importantly, her problems. What keeps your manager up at night?
Understanding these things about your manager will allow you to anticipate her needs and proactively suggest solutions to her problems. Employees are, after all, hired to solve problems for their employers, right? So, first work to understand your manager’s problems and then focus on solving them. Make that your North Star.
Align Your Goals with Your Manager’s and Company’s
Resist thinking about managing up as solely a way to further your own individual goals. Take the concept of empathy a step further and consider the goals and objectives of your company at large. Everything you do should ladder up to your manager’s objectives, and then her manager’s objectives, and so on and so forth until you reach the top of the pyramid, i.e. the CEO who’s setting the overarching goals and vision.
Ultimately, it’s about aligning your own goals with your manager’s and the organization’s – to always be in tune with how your own work contributes to the larger success. If you can consistently operate in that way, the support you’re seeking as an individual will naturally follow.
Your Manager’s Style
How Does Your Manager Absorb Information?
You’ve heard of the different learning styles, yes? Visual, auditory, tactile. It’s the same for listening – we all have our own way of listening and absorbing information. Some listen more actively than others, some are more easily distracted, etc.
Figure out how your manager best absorbs information. Is it via Slack? Is it through a particular way of talking to her? Emails in bullet form? Pay attention to the best way to keep your manager’s attention and to communicate with her so she’s actually retaining what you want her to retain. Learn to change and experiment with your messaging so the priorities you’re communicating can really land.
Adjusting to Management Style
Just as you should adjust your communication style to your manager’s listening style, you can also calibrate to her management style. Some managers micromanage, some are completely hands-off, and many fall somewhere in between. Find out how your manager likes to manage and adjust accordingly when possible. For instance, if your manager is really hands-off, you might want to supplement your regular check-ins with periodic updates to keep her in the loop.
All that said, it’s also important for your manager to understand how you like to be managed. Give her feedback about what works best for you too – regular reminders, weekly 1:1s, etc.
Communicate Early and Often
There is (almost) no such thing as over-communication – it is a way to be proactive, a trait almost any manager will appreciate. At the very least, it’s better to start off by over-communicating with your manager, particularly early on in your relationship, and then adjusting from there. Most managers will tell you if your level of communication is too little, too much, etc.
Leave a Breadcrumb Trail
Let’s say you’ve got a big idea, or a big ask for your manager. It’s generally not advisable to simply drop it all on her at once. In fact, you’re hardly ever going to get anything across by saying it only once. Drop some snippets of information more casually first before following up with more details later on. Make sure whatever you’re working on, you’re constantly mentioning those things, whether it’s in small chunks or big chunks, to make sure you’re keeping them top of mind.
Start With a 10,000-ft. View
Sometimes there is a tendency to get into the weeds with managers, but that’s not always effective or preferred, from your manager’s perspective. The more tedious or in the weeds you are, the less your manager might think of you as strategic or consistent with her level.
Instead, take an inverted pyramid approach. Start with a high-level view of what needs to be done and then drill down into specifics as your manager sees fit. This way, you can figure out what needs to be examined further or what your manager requires more detail about. Starting out high-level with your manager also allows you to cover more ground in your 1:1s. If she has specific questions, she’ll ask.
Set and Maintain Boundaries
Respectfully setting and maintaining boundaries is important in all aspects of your professional life, but perhaps most importantly in your relationship with your manager. Your manager sets the tone for how you should be working with her, so you should also set the tone for how you want your manager to work with you, especially in the beginning. That might mean being really forward about when you’re going to answer emails, how often or if you’re going to respond on the weekends, or anything else that might improve the way you work together.
Start Building Your Relationship Early
You want to achieve a solid relationship with your manager, one based on trust and respect. Not only will that make your working relationship productive and harmonious, it will also help your manager become your ally – someone who has your back when you need a raise, a recommendation, a switch to a different team, etc.
Of course, getting to know your manager and building that relationship takes time. Lay the groundwork early on by making an effort to get to know her. Ask questions about her personal life and background, but take care not to dive too deep too quickly. Ask if she has kids, or how her weekend was – those types of surface-level questions, dropped in here and there, can help build your relationship over time.
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Remember, managing is a two-way street. Managing up simply means doing your part to ensure you and your manager have an efficient relationship that benefits you both, and the company.
Highrise coaching can help you learn how to effectively manage up. Schedule a time to learn more here.