Fri, 05 Oct 2018
Not only can it put you on the path to promotion, it can help your boss shine while also boosting organisational effectiveness, innovation and engagement.
And managing up – which can mean anticipating needs and coming up with solutions without being asked – has never been as important as it is now, as workplaces are under increasing demand to adapt to rapid change.
Workspaces are increasingly fluid, with more people working remotely, on contract, and consultancy bases – a phenomenon tied to the rise of the gig economy. The old ladder-style hierarchy, with its clear structure of leadership, is changing.
In the gig economy, people will increasingly find that they must work with a large variety of leaders at different times, some above and some below them; this constant rotation means that an ability to manage up is that much more important.
So how can people prepare themselves to be more effective at managing up?
1. Learn to anticipate
Figure out what issues your boss is most stressed or concerned about. If you can anticipate a deadline ahead of time, come up with a list of solutions and/or an update of where the team is with the current challenge, you can help a boss move through challenges by providing information timeously.
There are many traps that one can fall into in the bid to make a boss happy – but essentially managing up is understanding where the stresses lie and taking. As the Harvard Business Review commented, managing up does not, and should not, have to entail sucking up!
2. Solve problems effectively
If you are going to say you have everything covered, make sure that you do. Have a multi-point plan in place to move an issue forward, demonstrating that you know the issue and have a well-considered solution.
Managing up may have moments of grand ideas or big money insights, but it’s primarily about understanding the bigger picture, recognising issues or opportunities, being able to prioritise information, and coming up with well thought out ways to take things forward. If you can provide this type of approach for your boss, you will be worth your weight in gold.
3. Get buy-in
Even if your plans are impeccable, you won’t get anywhere if your boss is not open to your suggestions. Their buy-in is something you may have to manage carefully, particularly if it involves potential criticism. A good rule of thumb is never to challenge leadership in public, as it’s likely to lead to defensive pushing back (part of all leadership is managing egos, after all).
It is usually better to reserve disagreements or criticism for discussion in private. Along with this, it is usually most effective to couch these critiques in a clear understanding of the pressures or realities your boss is facing. In other words, it is much more likely that your input will be appreciated if you start with something like: “I know that the biggest pressure you have on you at the moment is the recent drop in the Rand value, so I thought it was [...]