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How to Harness the Power of Your Insight and Manage Up


How to Harness the Power of Your Insight and Manage Up

Despite what many people believe, managing up is not the same thing as sucking up. In fact, they couldn’t be more different. Managing up, or influencing up, is done in the spirit of moving your organization forward. Sucking up is selling yourself, and your organization, short.

Managing up is the practice of providing insight to your boss to help him or her be more effective. The net benefit is that you too, are more effective.

Anyone who understands how to manage up has a leg up on getting results.

Good managers expect you to manage up

If you are effectively managing up it’s a good indicator that your relationship with your manager is strong and that you both understand that your goals are aligned. Success for one of you is success for both of you.

It’s important to understand that managers rely on their staff to see details and opportunities that the manager cannot. If authority is properly delegated and roles clearly defined, a manager will expect you to have deep insight into the inter-workings of your team, work group and business unit.

Good managers expect you to manage up and are seeking details that they alone cannot see. When you manage up effectively you are assessing both technical and interpersonal aspects of your work, connecting the dots and providing your manager highly valuable insight.

None of us is perfect   

One hurdle to managing up is to first accept that none of us is perfect. We all come with flaws, managers included. It’s important to acknowledge that and then work to understand what makes you and your manager tick, from two perspectives.

  • Personality – How are you and your manager alike and how are you different? What is your work style and what is your boss’s work style? Seek to develop a working relationship that is effective for both of you.
  • Responsibilities – Understand your boss’s role and responsibilities within the organization. This requires that you step back and attempt to see things from their perspective. What challenges do they face? Are there resource constraints, political roadblocks, or other factors that impede their ability to fulfill their responsibilities? How can you help?

While you might not think you should have to figure out what’s going on in your boss’s head, you’ll be much more effective and will have a leg up within the organization if you do. When you get right down to it, managing up is about developing and fostering a good working relationship with a superior and THAT is a very powerful tool.

Communication is the kingpin to managing up

Open communication in the spirit of understanding will go miles when managing up. Unfortunately, one of the biggest breakdowns between managers and employees is miscommunication usually due to lack of common understanding.

To better understand your organization and your manager’s responsibilities ask questions that will help you grasp the bigger picture. The more you understand the more effective you will be. Here are some examples of questions that will increase your understanding.

  • I’m looking to better understand our business unit goals and how they fit into the organization’s broader mission.
  • Where do you see pitfalls in our current structure and how would you change them?
  • I just want to be sure I am on the right track, is this what you’re looking for?
  • I have noticed some politics with business unit B. Can you help me understand what is happening there?

With this new-found knowledge and insight, pre-anticipate what your boss needs, and for that matter what your boss doesn’t realize he or she needs; and deliver!

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