Mastering the Art of Managing Up: A Guide to Enhancing Your Value & Expanding Your Influence in the Workplace
Much has been written about making yourself more valuable in the workplace, but too often I’ve found the advice is incomplete: Get more skills and more certifications — then, get more responsibility. We tend to focus on the practical side of work, ignoring the emotional intelligence and soft skills required to truly excel. In today’s workplace, the best way to demonstrate your value as an amazing employee is to manage up.
“Managing up” is a working style in which you use empathy and strategic thinking to consciously enhance your manager’s work and add value. In short, it means going beyond your day-to-day work to interject additional value into the equation. This added value can produce a better relationship with your boss, a more productive working environment for everyone and better advancement opportunities for you. Who would say no to that?!
Managing up involves four primary areas:
The proverbial shit will eventually hit the fan. How you handle these moments with your boss is what will set you apart from others and add value to the equation. Here are some suggestions:
- Set the scene – Present an overview of the problem and its impact. Share the solutions you’ve already tried and what you learned from them. Remember: You’re presenting facts, not feelings. Keep your tone professional and calm.
- Propose solutions – Use your expertise to outline your best ideas for the path forward. Explain the impact these options will have, then provide your best recommendation(s). You don’t have to decide which path is best, but you can make it easy for your supervisor to make an informed decision.
- Implement the new strategy – Take responsibility for implementing the chosen solution and close the loop with your supervisor. Make sure they’re clear on the outcome and its potential impact.
Managing up can make everyone’s day easier because it increases the efficiency of our work. Empathy and observation are key here. Learn your manager’s communication style, understand their wants and needs and be dependable and reliable with your word. If this sounds like you’re in a relationship, it’s because you are! Your relationship with your manager is critically important for your day-to-day satisfaction (and theirs), and it’s not only their responsibility to improve it. Actively invest in the relationship by asking questions to better understand their needs and what they’re going through. The more knowledge you have, the more you’ll be able to anticipate what your manager needs and deliver it.
To truly manage up, you must learn to both take and give honest feedback. It’s essential to your success, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. To start, focus on strengthening your relationship with your supervisor; the better relationship you’ve developed, the easier the process will be. Remember to actively listen, picking up on subtle cues and how the person’s personality affects their communication style, and ask for clarification as needed.
If you need to provide feedback to your supervisor, consider the timing and delivery of the message. Avoid high-stress times or passing time between meetings. Ask if they’re ready for feedback and how they prefer to receive it. Communication is a two-way street, so be honest — but also respectful.
Managing up can also be an invaluable skill in your growth, so apply it to help gain influence. Your manager is responsible for your work and the projects to which you’re committed, so be proactive in closing the loop with them on key tasks and project components. Let them know that they can remove “following up with you” from their mental to-do list. Foster relationships outside of your team by asking another leader or manager to grab coffee. Pick their brain about what’s helped them achieve their goals.
As you build these relationships in and outside of your team, start to branch out with your work responsibilities as well. Use your prior demonstrated success to ask for more responsibility. If you see a job going undone that you have the skill and capacity to do, volunteer to add it to your task list, even if just for the short term. Use these projects to advocate for yourself and demonstrate your growth.
However you tackle these principles, remember that it should all begin with empathy and understanding. Take the first step by mindfully incorporating these practices into your day, and you’ll be well on your way to managing up and adding value to your workplace — and your role within it.
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