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3 ways to manage up

November 4, 2012 - Featured, People Management, Professional Development

I have many close Leadership Development Program colleagues. And, at least in our organization, LDP candidates have the unique challenge of getting a new boss every twelve months. The good news: If you don’t like your current boss, all you have to do is survive twelve months. The bad news: If you like your current boss, you only have twelve months with that person, so appreciate the time.

But the same fact remains in all situations: You have to learn how to manage up in each rotation.

And I don’t say “have to” lightly. You have to. Managing up isn’t something you have to do with only some managers. In order to achieve outstanding results year over year, you will inevitably need to manage up to ensure you and your manager are constantly in lockstep with one another. (One never achieves outstanding results without also having alignment with one’s manager and higher level organizational objectives.)

1. Prioritize objectives

While some managers are great about keeping close track of their team members’ current workload and bandwidth, many managers may not fully understand the complexity of some in-progress tasks or new ad hoc requests you’re working on. Keep a list of all your in-progress (and soon to start) work, and when you get too stretched and begin feeling ineffective due to an unmanageable workload, have a prioritization conversation with your manager. Help her understand what’s on your plate, recommend priorities, and make it clear that something needs to be put on hold (or transitioned to another team member with more bandwidth) in order to be successful. Your manager will respect and appreciate the visibility to your workload and will help make those prioritization decisions based on organizational objectives.

2. Take responsibility for decision-making

When an important decision is in front of your team and manager, don’t sit back, even if it looks like your manager feels he can “go it alone” on this one. Don’t let cynicism or any negative feelings of whatever-they-don’t-want-my-opinion-anyway get the best of you. Leadership is having a sense of responsibility for the organization’s best interests. Make sure your manager knows all the important facts in front of him and the team, and influence the decision. Your knowledge and experiences are critical. Make sure he’s aware of all the relevant facts on the table, so he can not only make the right decision for the team, but also defend the decision (whichever way the decision may go).

3. Address the gaps

It’s important to not only be aware of what you and your fellow team members have going on, but to also be aware of what you don’t have going on, that may be a critical gap for the team. Are you receiving similar questions from colleagues outside your team, which may indicate the need for more communication? Is a recently deployed solution being “misused,” which may require publication of application usage standards? Keep an eye out for gaps such as these, raise the team’s awareness of them, and take responsibility for them. (But don’t forget Managing Up step 1 above: Keep your tasks prioritized so you remain effective.)

According to Rosanne Badowski, co-author of Managing Up: How to Forge an Effective Relationship With Those Above You, “Doing what you can to make your manager’s job easier will not only help them do their job, but you will be considered a valuable asset to your manager and to your organization.” Start today.

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How has managing up helped your job and career?

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