Sometimes it’s more difficult to ‘manage up’ than it is to ‘manage down.’ No matter where you are on the food chain in your organization, if your relationship with your boss isn’t working, this impacts morale, effectiveness and influence – for you, your team and your boss.
Here are some tips and reminders for managing your relationship with the one who manages you:
1. Get time regularly with your boss.
I hear the same reasons (excuses?) from both senior leaders and entry level professionals who don’t get consistent time with their bosses:
- “He should take more initiative to get time with me.”
- “He always cancels our meetings and doesn’t reschedule.”
- “I don’t need his input; I know my job better than he does.”
- “I don’t really like him, and it’s a drain to be around him. So I avoid him.”
All these are understandable. But the problem is that if you don’t get regular time with your boss, you miss out on…
- The potential help he might offer.
- The likelihood that you and your team will be recognized for your accomplishments.
- Opportunities to influence him and his priorities.
- Learning organization or strategic information that may be important for your work.
Like it or not, if you wait for your boss to take the initiative with you, it may never happen. So be persistent and creative. Get a standing call on the calendar, get some occasional face time, and send an agenda in advance with items you know he cares about.
2. Get to know your boss.
Getting consistent time with your boss is essential but not sufficient. Likewise, it’s critical to know your boss’s work priorities, performance objectives and expectations of you. But this is still not enough. If you want to be as effective as possible for and with your boss, make the extra effort to learn the answers to questions like these:
- What’s your boss’s background and how does this affect how she approaches the job?
- What does she most enjoy about her work? What is important to her outside of work?
- What drives her?
- What are her strengths? Weaknesses? Blind spots? Pet peeves?
- What’s her leadership and communication style?
- How does she best receive constructive feedback?
- Who are the people at work that she likes and respects and what are their traits?
Get to know your boss by asking her directly about these things, observing her in action, or asking others who know her.
3. Make your boss’s life easier.
Take the initiative to bring solutions and ideas – not just problems. Prepare for your meetings with your boss by having goals and getting him info to review ahead of time – especially if he likes to process info and data before making decisions. Ask for the help you need. Doing all these things makes it easier for your boss and easier for your boss to help you. You can be ‘low maintenance’ and remain ‘highly visible.’
4. Be willing to have difficult conversations when needed.
All leaders appreciate cooperation, support and willingness to follow instructions. Good leaders also appreciate and respect a team member who will respectfully push back, set limits, offer a different viewpoint or challenge a direction – when appropriate.
‘Managing up’ is not something just for ‘political types.’ Striving for an effective working relationship with our bosses is a good investment for all of us who want to be effective, influential and engaged in our work.
Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. In his work as a leadership consultant and executive coach, he helps leaders manage up, down and across to be as effective as possible. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.