What it really means to “manage up,” and how to do it effectively
If there’s one person at work you have to get along with, it’s your boss. But for a new manager, the concept of “managing up” can be daunting. Not only does it require an understanding of what your boss cares about and what style he or she prefers, but you also must take into account the needs of your own direct reports. I asked a few of my favorite experienced managers what advice they would give. Solid, two-way communication regarding challenges, successes, and everything in between, was the front-runner.
“As much as we try to stay on top of the day-to-day of our teams, your leader is not always aware of all the amazing things that you are doing in your job,” says Glassdoor VP, Anjanette Hill-Mendoza. “It’s not tooting your own horn or being pretentious, it's downright important that you celebrate your successes with your leader by letting them know what you've been up to and by letting him or her know what you need.”
Informatica’s Simon Cooper also emphasizes that new managers are their manager’s conduits to their team’s successes and challenges. “It is imperative that you publicize your team’s successes with your boss and always give full credit for the work that team members have done in delivering that success. Remember, you are no longer being judged on the work you do as an individual contributor – as a manager, you are now being judged on the work your team delivers.”
From day one, new managers should work to establish clear communication criteria for both good and bad news. Lytics’ Elizabeth Robillard suggests setting up a regular meeting time and sticking to a set agenda. “Run that meeting to get what you need to be successful. Make sure you cover results of projects, priorities for existing work and any issues you are running into.”
“When direction is coming from above that you disagree with, it’s okay to challenge and to try and shape your boss’ thinking,” says Cooper. “However, once a decision has been made, it is vital that you support that decision fully, especially when communicating it to your team. If you ever hear yourself saying, ‘I don’t agree with this, but my boss says we need to…’ then you are doing your boss, yourself and your team a disservice.”
There are numerous ways HR can help new managers better manage up, but if the new manager is also new to the company, the first step should always be introducing him or her to insiders who can speak to their new boss’ management style and quirks. Even if the manager is rising from within, recommend that the new boss put regular 1-on-1 time in the calendar to keep the dialogue going.
By communicating early and often, new managers can ensure that they, their team, their manager and ultimately their organization are all set up for success.