Great Leaders Know How to ‘Manage Up’

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Good leaders can manage operations smoothly and predict and overcome problems. They do a good job managing others. I call this Managing Down.

Great leaders can do all that, and also Manage Up: they know how to interact with their boss in order to help keep their boss efficient and productive.

Leaders and managers at all levels need this skill, in order to grow their own career and to speed up your company’s growth.

Here are six tips for Managing Up (inspired by the recent WSJ article by Sue Shellenbarger, The Right and Wrong Way to Manage Up at the Office, April 10th, 2018)

  1. Learn your boss’s communication style so that you can convey information in a way that they can best absorb.
  2. Confirm with your boss what your priority is; don’t assume. Get on the same page.
  3. Find out how your boss wants to be kept updated: how often, and by what method. (The best companies already have a system for this, does yours?)
  4. Bring two possible solutions when you want your boss’s help in solving a problem. This makes you smarter and eliminates your boss’s frustration.
  5. Protect your boss behind his or her back. It’s ok to disagree with your boss, but do that to their face. Do that in private unless it is a situation of open debate.
  6. Know what keeps your boss awake at night. This will help you understand the big picture from your boss’s perspective.

Challenge for you: Do all your leaders know how to Manage Up? Share these tips with those you want to mentor. When the time is right, have an open conversation on the most important ones, or just pick one to drill down on.

Kurt LaButte (President of Todd’s Services, MI) has built one of the most successful firms in the US. I have worked with him and watched him grow for years. Very impressive. His tip to making this work: “Have a culture that allows and supports open speaking and thinking”. He says “It’s easier for them to do great things when you minimize the risk of them doing wrong. And when they feel this way, they will pass this open culture down through the organization.”

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