If your personal brand is your perceived business worth, then your ability to manage-up is critical. The most relationship you have is with your boss.
Managing upwards well is a function of the spheres of influence you have.
The more you are perceived to be accomplished, capable, and trustworthy, the higher degree of influence you’ll have.
Mary was a high achiever and her team loved her. To them, she was a confident and empowering leader. However, Mary felt disconnected with her new boss. She felt undermined and worried when they couldn’t align on the big-ticket projects. Things had to change. But how?
How are you perceived at the next leadership level? What could you pay more attention to build the level of trust and influence you want?
Use these tips to improve how you manage up.
1. Understand what’s important to your boss
- What are they ultimately trying to accomplish?
- What do they value most (personally and professionally)?
- What are the organisational priorities and are you aligned to them?
- What role do they envision you playing in future plans?
You need to understand what makes your boss tick (and what ticks him/her off) if you want to get buy in on your ideas.
2. Know what your boss expects of you
- What does success with your boss looks like? It matters.
3. Adapt your communication style
- What is their style for communication? How can you frame your messaging in line with what motivates them into a conversation?
- How do they make decisions?
- What non-verbal cues do they give that can help you tailor your communication?
Link your ideas with their concerns or their thinking set. In other words, start from where they are and bring them with you as you influence, rather than starting from where you are and expecting they’ll want to shift.
Speak succinctly, know when to cut to the chase, and don’t let your emotions get in the way.
4. Don’t put off telling bad news
When something goes wrong, don’t blame others or try to make excuses. Knowing the right way to bring a problem to your boss can help you navigate sticky situations even if you haven’t figured out the solution yet.
Over communicate in times of crisis. Always get ahead of the story and frame it in your own terms. Richard Branson.
5. Don’t get fixed to an outcome
Ask yourself how open your boss is to changing and learning. If your boss isn’t open to listening, he/she may not take you seriously. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share your thoughts — just adjust your expectations of the outcome.
Try to remember that your perspective and opinion may not be as complete as you might think. Being passionate and committed is one thing, but don’t be so attached to your outcome that you become difficult to work with.\
6. Know how to disagree with your boss
- Acknowledge their point of view. It’s not a good idea for your boss to perceive he/she is being made wrong
- Remember where you have common ground
- Ask permission to give a different perspective/opinion
- Beware of the language you use and ensure it’s not confrontational. For example, “I’m curious about whether we could…”
- Find ways to assert your position through the strength of your ideas
- Gain support for your ideas beforehand so it’s not just coming from you
If a conversation becomes really difficult – listen more than you talk
Bringing it all together
At the heart of managing up is trust and influence. If both of these are lacking it will be difficult to get traction on your ideas and opinions. Building influence is a skill-set that is built over time. Trust and respect are the foundations for any relationship so make sure those are in place as a starting point.
Which of these tips might give you a leg up when it comes to managing up?