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Why Every Manager Should Learn to Manage-Up & Six Things to Do to Effectively Manage-Up

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Quick Question.

If you have been super busy with work and giving it your all, but what you’ve spent hours on isn’t what your boss or the organization is prioritizing, should you continue working on that project?

If you do not seem to agree on an approach to a project with your boss, is there anything you can do about it?

If you create a lot of value and results for your team and organization, but no one seems to recognize that, are you really creating value?

How you handle situations like these will determine how effectively you manage-up and how you lead your career.

Managing up is not just necessary but vital in today's dynamic work environment. Professionals who demystify the concept of 'managing up' and master this essential leadership skill are the ones who will accelerate their career, influence decision making, and inspire others to action (even without a title). They positively impact the wider business, fostering a more harmonious and productive work environment.

Let's start with defining the term.

What is managing up?

Harvard Business Review defines managing up as “being the most effective employee you can be, creating value for your boss and your company.”

Even though this is a great definition, at N-BAC we would like to add to this definition. We define managing up as “being the most effective employee you can be, creating value for your boss and your company.” and “making sure the value you and your team add/create is recognized, appreciated, and compensated”.

What can professionals do to effectively manage up?

Managing up involves developing a proactive and constructive relationship with your managers to enhance communication, align goals, and foster a positive work environment. Here are six things you can do to manage up

1. Know where you are and how well you manage-up

Managing up is a broad skill, and there are several myths associated with it. The more professionals learn how good they are currently managing up, and which areas of managing-up they need to work on, the better they can tackle the challenge. There are five core areas of managing up and an assessment will give you an idea as to where you are in the scale and details of your current weakness and strength when it comes to managing up.

2. Develop a mindset that managing-up is a win-win

Once you know how well or maybe not so well you are managing up, set the mindset foundation that would enable you to effectively manage-up. Develop the mind-set and belief that managing up is a win-win, and then actively develop a proactive and constructive relationship with your manager/s to enhance communication, align goals, and foster a positive work environment.

There are myths associated with managing up and most people assume that managing up is going to require them to brag or arrogantly share their achievements, or toot their own horn, and maybe kiss-a** their boss. The reality is that effectively managing up does not involve any of these things and the sooner you can realize the myth the faster you can accelerate your career.

3. Understand your manager’s priorities

Take the time to understand your manager’s goals, objectives, and expectations. By aligning your work with their priorities, you demonstrate your commitment to their success and build a strong foundation for collaboration.

4. Master high impact communication

Clearly and concisely convey information, ideas, and updates to your manager. Tailor your communication style to their preferences and adapt as necessary. If you have not taken an assessment to know your leadership and communication styles, it's a great idea to start there. Once you know your styles, you can communicate your styles, and get to know your boss's communication as well as leadership style. Through a productive communication, learn your manager's communication preferences and create a mutually agreed upon communication means and methods.

If you have waited to be asked for an update, you have already failed.

Present solutions along with problems unless you genuinely can’t think of any solution; in which case mention that you couldn’t think of a solution but still wanted to be proactive and bring the problem to their attention.

5. Practice perspective taking

Recognize that you and your manager may not see projects, ideas, and actions the same way. You may come across situations where you may not agree with the approach your manager wants you to take, or the projects your manager wants you to prioritize. In such cases, instead of disagreeing and assuming your boss is asking for what does not make sense to you. pause and try to see things from his/her perspective. Try to see things from a bigger perspective and seek clarifications with curiosity.

6. Show a genuine interest in your own professional development

Seek feedback. This is key - great leaders always ask for feedback), ask for opportunities to learn and grow, and take advantage of training or mentoring programs. By investing in your own growth, you become a more valuable asset to your manager and the organization.

Managing up is a very broad skill and impossible to cover in such a short blog. If you want to master this skill and advance your career, here is a self-paced course you can take.


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