The Daily Challenge: Managing Up
What does "managing up" actually mean and why is it important?
Time to Read: 4 Mins
Managing up is an “ability that can shape your career more than almost any other [skill]—but many employees don’t know how to do it” (WSJ).
So what is it? The ability to "manage up" isn't one skill, but typically a combination of skills. It's about anticipating your manager's needs, understanding how best to work with them, and understanding how you can become a great resource for them.
Put differently, managing up is about determining how you can become the most valuable asset to your manager and company. When you manage up, you're able to increase your impact and become more effective in your job.
People who are great at managing up typically focus on building strong relationships with their managers. When you have a strong relationship with your manager, communication tends to flow more smoothly.
And when communication flows smoothly, you're able to become a master at clarifying expectations, setting boundaries, and ensuring that everyone is working toward the same goal.
When you have a strong relationship with your manager, you're more likely to understand how they work and how they think. You can make smarter decisions when you know what your manager values. For example, you'll know how they prefer to be included in decisions, how often they want to be updated, and what time of day they want you to interrupt them (versus the time of day you better not interrupt them!).
Today, do a quick audit of your ability to manage up.
Step 1: Identify your manager's workstyle. Lauren Mackler encourages you to get to know your manager's work style and communication style. Take a moment to consider if you know how your manager likes to communicate, do you know how your manager likes to set targets and goals and follow up on them? Read through this list of questions and consider how you would answer the questions.
Step 2: Identify any boundaries or expectations you need to clarify. Managingup is about setting boundaries and asking for clearer expectations. Consider whether you feel the expectations around your work are clear. List any areas where you feel the expectation is unclear to bring up during your next 1:1. Having a clear vision of the expectations and setting boundaries will not only help you define how to spend your time but also help you maintain a better work-life balance.
Step 3: Advocate on your own behalf. Mackler also encourages keeping a record of your accomplishments and to “toot your own horn”. You need to be able to speak for your wins, interests, and skills, otherwise, you might miss out on opportunities. List your most recent accomplishments and keep the list going moving forward.
Pro Tip: “Perhaps the most important skill to master is figuring out how to be a genuine source of help — because managing up doesn’t mean sucking up.” (HBR)
More on managing up:
What Everyone Should Know About Managing Up (HBR)
Relationship-Building: Managing Up (UC Berkeley)
Lauren Mackler at Harvard Business School - Managing Up (YouTube)
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