6 Ideas to Effectively “Manage Up” in Your Organization

Manage UpHave you ever had someone tell you that you need to learn to manage up to your boss?  What does that mean, anyway?  Are you supposed to actually manage your boss?  Perhaps hold them accountable to their own job?  There a lot of different definitions out there for managing up.  I’ve heard it described in many ways, but I like this one from Rosanne Badowski, who was executive assistant to Jack Welch at General Electric Co.

When someone tells you that you need to “manage up,” what he or she is really saying is that you need to stretch yourself. You need to go above and beyond the tasks assigned to you so that you can enhance your manager’s work, says Rosanne Badowski, co-author of “Managing Up: How to Forge an Effective Relationship With Those Above You.”

Ms. Badowski should know. She served as executive assistant to Jack Welch at General Electric Co. for more than 14 years and spent countless hours managing up. “Doing what you can to make your manager’s job easier will not only help them do their job, but you will be considered a valuable asset to your manager and to your organization,” she says. “You want to be described as indispensable.

Source - Wall Street Journal

I think this is a great skill we can all learn better.  As a project manager, I thought about this a little bit and here are 6 ideas that might help you manage up in your organization.

Ideas to Manage Up

1. Keep Your Boss Informed with Regular Communication

Keep your boss informed by providing regular updates. Why is this important? First, your boss should know what you’re doing and accomplishing. This is good for your own career. Second, it helps your boss stay informed so they can discuss projects and work with their superiors with confidence. Set expectations for how you’re going to communicate. Some bosses may want a short email covering status, challenges and accomplishments. Other bosses like a quick drive-by their office at the end of the day or every few days.

2. Do More

I recently had a conversation with one of my superiors and directly asked him what I can do to help support his work more. You can take this a step further by proposing ideas based on your experience. Your boss will appreciate your willingness to contribute to the team and add more value to the organization. Employees who are willing and open to accept new responsibilities and happily volunteer, generally do better on the career ladder.

3. Be Open About What You Need Too

In my opinion, managing up is also making it clear on what you need to get your job done. Good bosses will even ask what you need from them. A subpar boss won’t be around to ask. Good bosses always make the time to talk. It’s a difficult situation when a boss isn’t around to help. And sometimes it requires going around your boss for help, but don’t ever do this without having a conversation with your boss first. Be clear on what it is you need and hold your boss accountable to supporting you. Do you need help with mitigating a risk for a project? Perhaps with an issue with departmental priorities. Manage up to make sure you can be successful and know this will help your boss be successful too.

4. Be a Problem Solver

As a manager, I love it when people come to the table with a problem AND a solution. At the very least, a professional with experience should come to the table with a problem and some options to consider. Having already identified some options to resolve the problem provides a good opportunity for a boss or manager to get involved. This is good problem solving versus coming to the table with a complaint or issue and no idea, or options on how to get it fixed. It doesn’t take much work to identify some options and poor options are better than none. :)

5. Propose New Ideas

Always be on the look out ot improve the way your organization does business. Think about what’s going well, but what can definitely be better next time. Identify ideas and ways to implement them. Discuss them over lunch with your boss and openly let him or her know that you have a genuine interest in growing the organization and adding value. Assuming it’s accepted, take it to the next step and request permission to manage the implementation of your idea. Implementation of value added ideas will help you and your boss succeed.

Final Thoughts

Managing up can actually make a job more invigorating and fun. It can pull you out of everyday mundane work and help you become a real contributor and value added player for your organization. It helps you operate on your boss’s level and provides the opportunity to interact with your boss and his or her peers more often.

What do you think of these ideas to manage up?  

About Jason Price

Jason Price is a family man saved by grace, passionate about faithful financial stewardship (1 Cor 4:2 NIV), soccer and the Pacific sun.