I did a search for articles and blog posts about managing up to use for pre-work for a training session I have coming up. I did not find a great list that was also highly actionable, so I created a list of my own. But first, here is my working definition of managing up:
Managing up: Caring enough about your work and the success of the organization to do whatever you can to help your boss be most successful. This includes proactively communicating, collaborating, assisting, and coaching your boss when helpful. Your boss will make better decisions and represent you and your team well if you ensure he or she has timely and full information and when you demonstrate that you are an effective and open partner.
The "what if I have a bad boss?" clause: Managing up is important whether your boss is pleasant and stellar or unpleasant and unremarkable. In fact, he or she might need your help and partnership even more if he or she is struggling. Yes, it can be a pain/frustrating experience to practively engage with an unpleasant boss, but consider it a part of your work. Don't let your personal opinion of your boss get in the way. If he or she is not effective, these things have a way of working out.
Five Ways to Manage Up:
Reverse MBWA- Great managers manage by walking around. Great "manage upperers" take the initiative to check in with their bosses regularly.
No surprises! - Bosses HATE unexpected surprises of the negative kind (or even positive surprises). Make sure your boss is never surprised by sharing new and emerging information quickly.
Nudge Coach- Help your boss understand how he or she can come across in the way he or she intends with your team. "Sally, I know that you want to invite the team's feedback and ideas...I have found that they respond really well to _______." Or "Sally, because you are a fairly direct person, I think some of the team members are a bit intimidated by you and may not hear your intent. If you add more information about why we are making the change and invite questions, I think they will respond with greater comfort and commitment."
Know what your boss cares about and help - What are his or her priorities? What kind of information does he or she bring to staff meetings? What type of worries are keeping him or her up at night? Share information that helps your boss focus on what's most important. Offer to pitch in to be of help.
Talk like your boss- No, I don't mean imitate your boss. But use the language that will most resonate and make sense to him or her. Here are two specific examples.
- I have a client that uses the term "socialize" to mean that they will share the plan and seek feedback.
- I have a client where the COO is interested in creating a great culture and the CEO wants union avoidance/positive employee relations training. It's the same project, with two different ways to expressing it.
Want to add your ideas in the comments? Great!
And here are several of the links I found, considered, and referenced when coming up with mine. The two that I found most interesting/provocative came from Bnet (Five Myths) and the Quantum Content blog.
From Penelope Trunk - 7 Ways to Manage Up.
From the WSJ - What it means to manage up.
From David Maister - Managing Up.
From HR World - How to Manage Up.
From Bnet - Five Myths About Managing Up.
From the Quantum Content Blog - Managing Up.
From another Bnet blog - How to Manage More Than One Boss.
From Tech Republic - Managing Up. Not the same as sucking Up.