- Wise Words -
The no longer secret skills
for managing up!
by rachel forsyth
“You need to manage up.”
Most employees have likely heard this advice, but what does the elusive term actually mean? After completing a handful of internships and rising beyond an entry-level position, I can report that managing up is among the most important concepts I’ve learned in my career. When done correctly, this magic skill can help your team run more efficiently, while also expanding your capabilities and responsibilities.
Upward management means proactively building a healthy working relationship with a supervisor, manager, or other superior. As with any relationship, the key ingredient here is communication. The following are a few upward management tactics that I’ve learned along the way:
1. Set expectations before crossing the starting line
Before you begin working on a new project, account, etc., make sure you’re clear on what your team’s exact expectations are of you. It’s okay to ask them point blank what they expect your role to be, as well as the results they’re seeking -- they’ll appreciate the clarity.
Once you know what they expect, take note of how your project lead communicates with you. Does she opt for IM, email, a phone call, or a good old-fashioned in-person chat? Does she check in daily or weekly? Once you’ve observed what she likes (and what she hates), cater your communications style to her preferences.
2. Stay one step ahead
There’s nothing worse than the feeling of constantly playing catch-up. One of the secrets to successful upward management is stretching yourself (in a good way). Try to look at the bigger picture, and think of what next steps your manager might assign you after you complete your current to-do’s. Think: Why are they assigning you this task? How does it fit into your team’s overall goals? Asking yourself these questions helps you provide more value to your project lead. If you hit a roadblock, always have a solution (or two) ready to go before presenting the issue.
Ever hear the term “JFG?” It means, “Just freaking Google it!” When you find yourself asking lots of questions, make sure you’ve done your homework first. While asking smart questions is important, there’s a fine line between the right level of communication and wasting your manager’s precious time.
3. Own it
Confidence is everything. It may feel intimidating to follow up on an action item or proactively set meetings, but it’s all in a day’s work. An example: A while back, when I expressed that I was struggling to confidently manage my to-do list, a mentor of mine advised: “Just own it, until someone tells you you’re wrong.” The worst that can likely happen is that you’ll be asked to do it differently -- and is that really so bad? Your manager knows that you’re learning, and one of the best ways to learn a new task is to just do it until you have it down pat. And what if you make a mistake along the way? Own it by acknowledging it and moving on.
Overall, the most important aspects of managing up are communication, confidence, and challenging yourself. While there isn’t a perfect formula for being a perfect employee, these are stepping stones to keep in mind as you eye the next level in your career.