- Wise Words -
To Move Up, Manage Up
by ilene rapkin
Hello up there!
No, it’s not the sky, it's not outer space and it’s not heaven. But up’s the place you have to manage if you expect your career to take off.
Ever see anyone’s job transform itself into a promotion on it’s own? Probably not. But you may have noticed that workers who engage with the "levels up" in positive ways, with knowledge, actions and genuine enthusiasm tend to rise in their companies.
Think about it.
Managing up means creating a winning strategy. To do this you will need to understand your manager's priorities and work style. What does she want to see in your behaviors and attitude? What does she expect you to achieve? How can you be most useful in your department while putting yourself on track to succeed in the company?
It’s not just You. It’s your Manager. It’s your Company
You should be essential to helping your manager support your company’s vision. To do this you must be clear that reaching your own goals are the key to success in your job.
So how do you reach your goals? You can start by being an active listener.
By listening to the experienced workers in your company, you can learn about the culture and vision of your company. You will quickly see who are the stakeholders and who are the people who make decisions. After a few months of learning and listening, seek out a mentor and realize that your career path is NOT yet set. Be open to a direction that may not have been in your plan or that you had not even thought about!
This is the time for you to expose yourself to many different business disciplines and figure out your strengths and where you can contribute and also be happy at work.
Listening to skilled workers and taking the time to learn from a mentor by asking a lot of questions, are key steps in managing your boss’s needs and creating a smart career track. They will all help you understand what works and what doesn’t in the workplace, and how you can become a valued team member.
So now that you have become a good active listener, communication is the next step to achieving in your job.
Speak with your manager about her expectations, deliverables and timelines and then be accountable for your agreed upon workload, and your responsibilities as a proactive team player. Remember also that this is not about being a "yes-person"; this is about helping you succeed by supporting your manager's business goals.
So Managing up = Partnering for success with your manager by creating an action plan. A lot of the below is likely new to you, so take some time and think about what I am saying. Then build towards adopting this best practice by the end of six months in your first job.
In your next jobs, with an understanding of this process and experience doing it, set a goal to manage up successfully within the first two months.
Managing Up - Key Activities
We all have a combination of personality traits that affect productivity in our jobs, so start by identifying your manager’s working style AND your own.
You will either please or frustrate your manager with your working style when you interact.
So find out early in your relationship: Is she a people person? Are ideas a priority? Or does she primarily seek information to act on?
Once you figure out her key personality traits and your own, you can avoid conflict if your styles differ and you will be able to deliver on your goals and her expectations.
If your boss is searching for information, provide it. If your manager likes ideas, be creative and share innovative solutions. If your boss is very action oriented, be clear and show her a road map to get from point A to B.
Ask! While you may think you have the right way of doing things, this doesn't matter
Always ask for feedback to focus on growth areas. Then self correct behaviors and attitude. This will impress your manager and others and get you noticed in the workplace.
Ask how your manager wants to receive information and status reports. This may differ from how you get work done, but your job is to make a positive impression, not to hold onto a way of doing things that makes you feel comfortable.
Other Tips for Managing Your Manager to Promotion
Think Ahead. Stay on top of your manager’s needs by anticipating issues and understanding what is helpful and what is not. Don’t waste her time. Be concise, proactive and share creative solutions
Enhance Your Manager's Reputation. Help make your manager look good to her superiors (everyone has a boss. Even the CEO reports to a board). While you may think that your career is all about you looking good, the sure fire way to building a relationship with your manager is to make them look good. That’s right. Instead of complaining about your manager, focus on making them look good and not bad.
Schedule regular 1:1s and be responsible for rescheduling when your manager is not available; your act of asking for continuity and regular communication will impress your manager. Prepare agendas, and create next steps for follow up during 1:1s.
Develop a professional AND personal relationship to build trust and mutual respect; Developing a personal relationship does not mean asking your manager to go have drinks or inviting her to your birthday event. Rather, it means letting her know YOU by listening, asking questions and performing: she will be observing how you act and function in a professional environment as well as your relationships with family and friends. If she sees you are a balanced worker, she will respect you, grow to trust you, depend on you and leverage your skills.
Ask your manager about cross-functional responsibilities. If you can champion your manager with your colleagues and with one level up in other departments, you will prove to be an important asset for your manager.
Learn who the stakeholders are in your company, so you can establish good working relationships to help your manager and department deliver on agreed upon business goals and be part of executing the company’s vision. It might even make sense to choose a mentor from another department so you can understand and participate in cross functional strategies and activities and provide useful information and updates to your manager.
Managing up can be challenging. Your immediate boss has a lot of work to get done, and you are just one relationship she manages.
During very busy times when the office might feel stressful, take a pause and understand how much activity is going on. If your manager seems short or tense, and If you are having a tough time handling your emotions, then start thinking about her as one of your “clients”. You will find that you are more in control and then you can focus on delivering results for her. Your manager will notice your maturity, she will rely on you more and reward you down the road.
When your manager depends on you, and respects you, she becomes a positive force in developing your career growth, profile, and increased compensation at your company.
Managing up is one of the most important components of your career development. So genuinely support your manager to become a collaborative, productive, indispensable and efficient team player in your company.
About the writer: Ilene Rapkin is one of the first ever female VPs in the media publisher business, Ilene held senior management positions at Ziff-Davis, American Express Publishing, Condé Nast and Primedia. She is the founder of IOpeners, Executive Coach as well as Mentor of Early Stage Professionals. Find Ilene @ IOpeners.net
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