Recently in my managing career, I read an article by Wayne Turk titled "The Art of Managing Up". I don't remember where I found this article, or if someone recommended it to me. The article can be found here. It proved to be a perception changing article.
First, if you work for a company, I would definitely read this article. If you work for yourself, you still have customers/clients that you need to 'manage up'.
It was an important article because it clarified to me several key points.
- I was struggling too hard to change my boss to my way of doing things. That was clearly the wrong approach. It reminds me of Jim Croce's lyrics to "You Don't Mess Around With Jim":
"You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim"
- Managing up is really about stretching yourself - see article. What can you do to make the situation better (whether that is the project, the corporate culture, or the company itself)? I understood the need to stretch, but didn't realize my participation in dysfunctional company interactions was limiting my ability to manage up effectively.
- Communication - I cannot stress this too much. I had to learn my boss' communication style. Every manager, including me, has a different style.
- See how they communicate with you, it usually is a good indicator of how they want communication to happen.
- For some managers, ask - they might tell you, but observation of the manager's communication style will be more illustrative.
- When, how often, form (written/verbal) are all aspects. Some manager's want discussion, some want just the 'short and sweet' discussion.
- Lastly - provide solutions to the problems you bring to your boss. Be a solver, not a whiner. Does your solution need to be complete (helpful, but not required). The solution does need to be thoughtful, cogent, and provide a path to success.
Managing up is not manipulative, but a method to create a stronger 'bond' with your boss and create an better work environment.
David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (www.ideateinc.com). David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation. @dhaynestech.