How To Manage Up
This month for “In Case You Missed It” we discuss a sensitive topic that many struggle with. It comes up EVERY leadership course I teach. “How do I manage my boss?” or “I know what good leadership is now…but my boss is terrible…what do I do?” So here are a few good articles I dug up on the topic.
The main thing to remember is that leadership is NOT about position or title or authority. True leadership is about influence. While clearly a more complex a relationship – you can in fact do so much more than just “manage up” or “manage your boss”. You can truly go beyond simple tolerance and LEAD your manager and people at all levels of the organizations. It all starts with values, mission focus and setting the example.
One thing is certain. It CAN and MUST be done if you want to be successful. You can’t ignore it or avoid it. Think through your approach and careful communication – but then dive in. You will be glad you did – your team will be glad – and oh by the way, so will your boss.
A quarter-century ago, John Gabarro and John Kotter introduced a powerful new lens through which to view the manager–boss relationship: one that recognized the mutual dependence of the participants. The fact is, bosses need cooperation, reliability, and honesty from their direct reports. Managers, for their part, rely on bosses for making connections with the rest of the company, for setting priorities, and for obtaining critical resources. If the relationship between you and your boss is rocky, then it is you who must begin to manage it. When you take the time to cultivate a productive working relationship—by understanding your boss’s strengths and weaknesses, priorities, and work style—everyone wins.
Recent studies suggest that effective managers take time and effort to manage not only relationships with their subordinates but also those with their bosses. These studies also show that this essential aspect of management is sometimes ignored by otherwise talented and aggressive managers. Indeed, some managers who actively and effectively supervise subordinates, products, markets, and technologies assume an almost passively reactive stance vis-à-vis their bosses. Such a stance almost always hurts them and their companies.
1. Decisions: If you do not want a ‘no’ or procrastination
2. Manage her time: You may represent only 1% of her problems, don’t make it as if it is 100%
3. An opinion: If you ask for her opinion, she will always have one
4. Information: It is not data
5. Problems: Don’t just come with problems, come also with solutions
6. Assumptions: Do not assume she knows as much as you do, but assume she can understand; so educate her
7. Delegations: Constantly test the waters
8. Promises: Do not promise what you cannot deliver, and avoid surprises, trust is at stake
9. Differences: Manage differences in culture
10. Trust: Don’t be sloppy in your documentation. It undermines trust
Anyone who wants to influence their boss has to start by accepting that the manager actually does want to do better…The best approach, the kind truth method, involves honestly empathizing with the manager’s situation, and expressing that empathy. By appreciating what the manager is facing and why he might be struggling, you open him up to hearing a well-intentioned suggestion about how he can do a better job.
1. Ask: what’s the problem?
2. Have regular meetings
3. Toot your own horn
4. Learn from it
5. Know when to bail
Your success depends not just on how well you do your job. It also depends, a great deal, on how well the person to whom you report does his or hers. And that means you must become adept not only at managing yourself and those who work for you but also at managing the boss. “Few managers seem to realize how important it is to manage the boss or, worse, believe that it can be done at all.”