Managing Up This 2017!
By Leanne Bull
When you hear the word “manager”, you might immediately think of the senior staff member to whom you report, or the person overseeing your team. To become a manager, you generally need to put in your time and build your leadership skills before you have the authority to provide direction and feedback to a team working below you. But to get to that point, you’ll need to build up different types of management skills.
For instance, as you advance and grow in your career, you may be faced with the delicate situation of managing your manager – or, to put it another way, “managing up”. Depending on the nature of your work, or your workplace, you may also need to enact this type of management with your clients, customers or vendors, too.
If you’re not sure how to go about managing up, below are some considerations to keep in mind if you want to hone your skills and get on the management track.
What is “managing up”?
Managing up, in a nutshell, entails working with those above you to gather required feedback, adhere to deadlines, stay within budget, service clients and customers or meet goals.
By doing so, you can help make your manager look good, which can benefit you in the short- and long-term. If you’re dealing with clients or customers, it can contribute to positive sentiment for your company.
When should you start?
If you think you’re not senior enough to manage up, think again. This technique applies even if you’re a junior or mid-level staff member and is a skill you’ll want to develop as early as possible.
When you’re an entry-level staff member, this might be more applicable to a mid-level employee overseeing or assigning your work. But as you take on more responsibility, the need to manage up will only increase as you have more stakeholders to answer to, from senior executives to clients and customers.
It takes a certain level of finesse, but once you’re comfortable, it’s a great way to demonstrate your leadership qualities as you advance in your career.
Determine your level of accountability
The prospect of managing up can feel daunting and sometimes uncomfortable. If you’re worried about overstepping, a helpful gut-check can be to confirm your level of accountability in relation to the project or assignment.
It’s likely you were hired for a specific job role and set of responsibilities. In your day-to-day work, it should be clear when you’re accountable for a task. Is it likely your manager or a client would come to you with questions about the status of the assignment? If your answer is yes, then it’s likely you will be expected to manage those around you to accomplish the project.
Keep all parties informed
In other words: don’t skimp on status updates. Say you’re accountable for delivering a major assignment to a client by a specific date and you require your manager’s sign-off. Your manager should be kept in the loop proactively as the assignment is in progress to avoid last-minute surprises or missed deadlines. This can also help your manager to keep their boss up-to-speed to create a united front.
When in doubt, send a quick update via email. This will not only reinforce that you are on top of things, but will prevent your manager from worrying that work is behind schedule. You can also help to keep them organized when things come down to the wire.
Timelines should also be communicated clearly and regularly with those who have a stake in an assignment or project, even if an overall critical path was shared at the outset.
Adjust your style to suit the individual
When managing someone either junior or senior to you, recognize that different communication styles may impact how each individual reacts to you. If your manager tends to favour brief emails and quick exchanges, tailor your updates to suit this style. On the other hand, if you know your manager may have a lot of questions, providing more information up-front can help both of you to save time.
If your manager is better in person, you might want to skip an update email for urgent matters and opt for a quick phone call or drop-by to your manager’s office to address the update in person.
Don’t fear the follow-up
Most of us have busy jobs that require us to wear many hats. If your manager isn’t getting back to you and you’re concerned a deadline might be missed, a follow-up email or phone call can go a long way – but do it with tact. Your manager might have multiple conflicting deadlines on their end and may appreciate a reminder.
To avoid seeming like you’re being pushy, keep your follow-up concise and tactful. Highlight the action required and the due date. Multiple follow-ups might be required, but it’s better to be proactive than reactive if a deadline is missed.
By demonstrating an aptitude for supporting your manager, you can build tangible proof that you also have what it takes to manage down, too. When the time comes, there are steps you can take to achieve success as a new manager. Chances are, as you take on increasingly more responsibility in your career, you’ll keep managing up, so all the more reason to get comfortable doing so now.