The relationship with you boss is a critical one, and just as one half of this relationship is the traditional ‘boss-subordinate’ part, the other part is the subtle and clever management of them. Many people forget this but getting the relationship right will benefit both your career and you organisation. Managing upwards is not about manipulation, it’s about managing the relationship. It is about understanding and anticipating your boss’s needs, going the extra mile for them, making their life easier, and ultimately helping them to get the best results for the organisation. However, it is important that you are driven by the organisation’s best interests, and not your own, otherwise you will be seen as simply brown nosing or being manipulative for your own ends.
Generally people who are better at managing upwards tend to progress more rapidly in their careers. They ensure that the senior people in the organisation know who they are and what they are capable of. This means that they are more readily noticed when it comes to promotion and have a good network of senior people who can open doors for them.
Getting it right means starting by getting to know your manager, how they work, what their goals, objectives and priorities are. Understanding your bosses strengths and weaknesses are invaluable. Perhaps your boss is a great ‘big picture’ manager, they have lots of energy and ideas to start new projects and improvements, but soon get bored and want to move onto the next new thing. So how can you help them? Take it upon yourself to be the ‘completer finisher’, making sure that all the loose ends are tied up and the project is fully implemented and the benefits realised. In that way you will make both your boss and yourself look good and the organisation benefits.
However, managing upwards is not about being nice or just a ‘yes’ person either. Honesty is an important part of the relationship. If you think that your boss has made a wrong decision then it is important to say so. But challenging upwards can be counter productive, so it is important to be respectful, present the counter argument in a clear and compelling way that in a manner that cannot be construed as a personal attack.
Clearly, to be successful in your career you need to have the right skills, be effective in your role and deliver results. However, if senior managers don’t know how good you really are, you will progress more slowly in your career.