Yesterday, we’ve talked about how leaders should manage their subordinates, today let’s switch it around and talk about how a worker should manage their manager.s
A good relationship between bosses and their workers can mean the difference between a successful company or a failed one. On a personal level, it can be the difference between having an enriching tenure at a company or feeling like you’re just punching the clock. And there’s one skill that you need to master to achieve a well-balanced, dynamic communication with them. It’s a little skill called managing up.
Something most people don't know (or assume) is that when you have a meeting with your bosses, it's actually you who should be in charge and driving the conversation. Even though it sounds paradoxical, the truth is, it’s on you to set the agenda for the meeting and to push it where you want to go. You may think it's manipulative, but your boss is running a company and you're most likely just a small cog in it. You can't expect them to show up every time with a detailed task list for you - in that case they might as well do the job for you. As we've talked about, a great boss delegates problems, so when it comes to meetings you need to be ready with a couple of talking points you want to hit, and lead the meeting.
Managing up is the process of being an active participant in the communication with your boss, and in a way set the agenda for yourself. It doesn’t mean that you should try to jump over your boss or and take over their role, but you should have a mind of your own and communicate in a way that your interests align.
The first step to managing up is developing an understanding of what your boss wants to achieve. Pay attention to the projects they prioritise, the deadlines they set and the way they allocate resources. This will give you a good sense of what’s important to them and where their focus lies.
Secondly, once you have a handle on their goals, you can start to anticipate their needs. By being proactive, you’ll make their life easier and you can position yourself as a valuable member of the team. It’s also important to keep your boss in the loop. Regular updates on your progress (or lack thereof) will help them stay informed and alleviate their urge to micromanage you.
And finally, you need to create a relationship that incentivises your boss to have full trust in you, so they can retreat to a role where they can approve your requests and remove obstacles for you. Because essentially a great boss makes your job easier, and you can help them do it by managing the relationship. For example no boss can be expected to identify the obstacles for each and every one of their subordinates. It’s on you to communicate what obstacles you face and present solutions on solving them. This way, you take on more responsibility, appear more capable, and ultimately they'll grant you more authority so both of you and the business can thrive and flourish.