Yes, it’s true. Your boss needs to be managed and, if you’re not already doing it, YOU are the one that is dropping the ball. “Managing Up” is an art. It is rarely taught, and I have seen very few people do it well. That said, it is a skill that the best employees seem to excel at. Here are a few thoughts on how to do it successfully:
- Proactively communicate – make sure to let your boss know what you are working on. This can and should be done in a myriad of ways. From annual and quarterly objectives down to weekly meetings and casual conversations, each has its place. Try to keep the conversations brief but informative. Do this by focusing on the “what,” not the “how.” Besides helping to keep your boss out of your weeds, this communicates confidence and aptitude and shows an appreciation and respect for his or her time.
- Demonstrate your work ethic and commitment – once you communicate what you’re working on, make sure you drive it to completion. Instill confidence in your boss that he or she doesn’t have to second guess anything he assigns you or you take off of his plate. Find ways to subtly communicate your commitment to success. Working over the weekend may help drive a project to completion, but finding a way to make your boss aware that you’ve done it communicates that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Another easy way to communicate your dedication is by being responsive. Even when you can’t get to something right away, make sure to acknowledge the request and set expectations as to when you can follow through.
- Prevent surprises, especially unpleasant ones – make sure you’re the first to know, and the first to communicate, when something goes awry. Present issues in a matter-of-fact way and make sure you have a plan for moving forward. Bad news never gets better with time. Proactively cut off any issues by handling issues with grace. A strong leader will respect your honesty and proactive handling of the situation more than they will be angry about the mishap. Trust me, your boss has had his fair share of struggles and failures.
- Know your boss’s priorities and align yourself to them – make sure you understand your boss’s strategic objectives and how he or she is measured. Quickly align your objectives to theirs in order to ensure that your performance is participating in the success of your organization.
- Develop a collaborative relationship – develop rapport with your boss by learning to collaborate in an open, respectful, and honest manner. Don’t be the employee that always agrees with, or simply takes direction from, your boss. Your boss will value insightful feedback and creative ideas, even when they differ from his or her own thoughts. Providing a different perspective will help empower your boss to make better and more informed decisions, and it will allow you to begin to influence a broader scope of the organization. Too often, the boss doesn’t know what’s going on in the trenches; it’s easy to lose that perspective when you’re not the one who’s actually at the controls. Remember, two minds are better than one, but in those instances where your boss decides to move forward in a way you disagree with, be prepared to get totally behind the decision.