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A Guide to "Managing Up"

I recently had a conversation with a colleague regarding the “managing up” concept.  As I was speaking with her, one of the most insightful things she said to me was, “Once I learned what I expected from my employees in how I wanted them to manage up, it changed everything even down to how I hired.  Even my questions in the interview process were partly focused on their approach to managing up.”

Of all of the definitions I have seen for the phrase “managing up”, the one that related most to my thoughts about the process explained managing up as “consciously working for the mutual benefit of yourself and your boss.  Understanding your boss’s position and requirements and making yourself known as a stellar employee by exceeding her expectations and needs” (Idealist Careers).

Working with senior living communities across the United States I have had the opportunity to see many different types of management relationships: Department Heads with an Executive Director, an Executive Director with a Regional Director or VP, an Executive Director or Regional Director with the C-Suite.  Whether discussing budgets, product positioning, outsourcing or market changes, your ability to manage up can drastically change how receptive your audience is to your findings and recommendations.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when determining how to manage up:

  • What is your boss’s communication style? Do they prefer talking in person or over email?  Does this change when the conversation is more sensitive?
  • How have past experiences shaped the way they prefer to be communicated with?
  • What goals, dreams and visions does your boss have? How do you play a part in those?
  • What is the best way to communicate concerns or recommendations you may have?

In addition to getting to know your boss very well, identify areas that you can anticipate needs and jump in.  No one likes a, “well you never told me that” kind of attitude.  Remember that your boss doesn’t have the time to micromanage your every move.  They hired you in hopes that you would take some weight off of their shoulders.  Assess situations around you and anticipate needs.  If there is a problem, communicate not only the problem but some potential solutions that you have identified.  Assessing and anticipating can be two skillsets that help you manage up in even difficult situations.

Michelle Nessman

President and Founder

Elite Business Systems, LLC

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