We hear a lot about how to manage those below you, but how do you successfully manage your boss? You don’t want to be labeled as a suck-up, but you still need to be able to effectively optimize the situation you’re in. Without support from your boss, that’s pretty difficult!
The dynamic you’re trying to create when managing up should be to enhance organizational performance, not to feather your own nest; it should never be simply a tool to ingratiate yourself with the boss.
Here are three surefire strategies to help you master managing up:
Know whom you’re working for. Before worrying about how to manage your boss, you need to know your boss. What type of culture do they create? How do they set the tone, the pace and the standard? You need to look past what they say to understand what really matters to them, which is demonstrated in the way they do things.
Next, what signals does your boss send to you about their expectations of you? Ask any boss and they’ll tell you that they want challenging and innovative people. But the reality is that there are plenty of bosses who don’t like to be challenged; instead, they’re drawn to people who confirm their own greatness. Which one do you really have?
It’s your assessment of your boss’s own performance and behaviors that will guide you in how to approach the relationship.
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Do your job. This is the number one thing that you can do. Realistically, managing up has nothing to do with your boss and much more about what you need to do to achieve results. Delivering value is a prerequisite for a great relationship with your boss: Your goal should be to leverage your boss’s strengths and accept whatever help they’re prepared to give in order to improve your team’s performance.
If you’ve got a good boss, you’ll be able to supercharge the outcomes they would have been able to achieve without you. With a not-so-good boss, you’ll at least be able to deliver results, regardless of what they’re doing to interfere or sub-optimize the situation.
It’s extremely rare that delivering exceptional results is frowned upon, and for the most part, doing your job well will trump any downsides of your boss’ nuances and quirks.
See the world from your boss’ perspective. Your goal is to cut through the power dynamic to set a relationship on a more even footing – to become a trusted advisor.
Think about how you might be able to add value to your boss with your knowledge, capabilities and the resources you have at your disposal. It means always asking yourself, “What can I do from my position to optimize the organization overall, not just deliver my own stuff?”
If you’re astute in your knowledge of the company strategy and how your team fits into that, it can open up many fruitful conversations with your boss. It’s far better to be a trusted advisor than a workhorse. But remember, you can only do this if you’re delivering on your own accountabilities first.
These three strategies are not only foundational for managing up, they are no-regrets moves. They’ll position you as a stand-out leader and place you firmly in the frame for your organization’s talent and succession process. Ultimately, you’ve got to lead your team well enough that your boss doesn’t become a factor. That’s how you get results.