How (& When) to Manage Up
Happy Friday once again! 'Managing up' is a technique frequently suggested to those dealing with difficult bosses (and sometimes clients). The idea is to take control of the ineffective management you're receiving, and manage upwards to get the guidance you need instead.
Why we should all manage up
In my opinion, everyone should be managing up to some extent. It shouldn't just be a technique to make up for a lack of leadership being shown—instead, managing up should be used to strengthen and focus relationships between employees and managers, bosses, and clients. By focusing on the ways we can refine our communication upwards, we also make our own management interactions far more effective.
Understand your boss
Learning how to work with anyone effectively requires understanding them. Observe how your boss speaks to you and others in meetings, listen to the questions they ask you, and notice their preferred communication method and styles. Noticing your boss's communication styles will give you a clue as to how to most effectively communicate with them.
Throughout your projects, choose to communicate red flags, risks, or questions in a way that resonates with your boss in order to get the answers you need in the way that you need them. That might mean addressing issues head-on, coming up with solutions-oriented points first, or documenting everything over email. It doesn't mean you should ignore your own methods and preferences in how to communicate—just supplement with the route you know is most effective.
Reiterating expectations is one of my favorite 'tricks' (if you can even call it that) in project management. In meetings or long-form communications, explicitly state your understanding of the takeaways, next steps, and repeat any expectations back before leaving or signing off. As we've all experienced on projects, issues arise when expectations are not aligned. Stave that off in project and career development work alike by reiterating next steps and goals rather than making assumptions with your boss.
Be intentional in how you approach questions, improvements, and professional growth within your role. Ask your boss for feedback if you're feeling pressure and need guidance within your position. Make it easier on them by bringing up issues and needs before those become a big blocker—and frame what you need out of the conversation. Similarly, understand (and ask about!) the larger goals of the team and work you do, and how you specifically fit into that picture.
Being intentional means you can see the greater opportunity or benefit from the work you do and how you do it. It gives you the leverage to be able to make smarter decisions on your projects, while growing your role in a way that benefits your team and your boss's vision.