How you relate with your boss may be the most important factor to your effectiveness and engagement at work and to career growth. Here are some tips to help ‘manage up’ and strengthen this essential relationship.
1. Be a good follower.
Are you working with your manager’s priorities and objectives top of mind? How well do you strike the balance between voicing your opinion and pushing back, on the one hand, versus aligning to his decisions and direction, on the other hand? Would your manager say you’re ‘coachable’ and receptive to his and others’ views? Being a good follower is not about being a ‘yes-man’ or ‘yes-woman.’ It’s about sharing your talents and perspectives directly and respectfully while letting your manager know you are committed to following his lead.
2. Get to know your boss.
The better you know your boss, her strengths and her style preferences, the better you can tailor your approach to working with her.
- Is she more introverted in her style? If so, you may need to take more initiative to get the time you want or need. And you may want to keep your meetings brief.
- Does she tend more towards a hands-on and detail-oriented approach? Then lean in and be proactive to share more rather than less about what you’re doing – at least until you build trust and alignment with expectations about the level of detail your manager needs and the amount of autonomy you have in decision-making.
- Is she structured, focused and organized? If not, and if that’s important to you, then you may need to be the one to bring more of a cadence and agenda to your meetings.
3. Advocate for yourself.
Sometimes it’s not enough to let your good work and your team’s work speak for itself. If your work and ideas are not noticed – or if you are not noticed – then your impact and influence may fall short. With this in mind, one leader I know went into a meeting with her boss where she pitched a proposal. She thought in advance about 1) what she wanted her boss to think, feel and do in relation to her proposal and 2) what she wanted her boss to think about her. Answering these questions in advance helped her tailor communication to advocate more effectively for her idea and herself.
4. Make the best of it.
Some bosses are more challenging than others. If you find it difficult to work for someone, it’s easy to get frustrated or resentful. Instead of expecting your boss to change – and before leaving your job – try changing your approach. Focus on remembering your boss’s strengths in order to help shift your perspective and to stay positive. Be direct in expressing your thoughts and requests sooner rather than later to avoid a build-up of frustration, resentment or unhealthy back-channeling.
Investing focus and effort to strengthen your relationship with your manager by following these tips will likely pay big dividends.
- Book: MANAGING UP: How to Move Up, Win at Work, and Succeed with Any Type of Boss, by Mary Abbajay
- 3-minute video: Lauren Mackler – ‘Managing Up’ – Harvard Business School
Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. As a leadership consultant and executive coach, he helps leaders and teams stay energized while achieving extraordinary relationships and results that matter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.