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Managing Up: Effective Strategies for Managers

One way to advance your career is by anticipating your supervisor’s needs to build strong relationships with them and other managers or organization leaders. Managing up involves handling responsibilities for your supervisors and team to help them reduce stress and focus on larger work tasks. This article discusses what it means to manage up, why it’s important and how to use effective strategies for managing up in the workplace.

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What is managing up?

For managers, managing up involves using tactics to develop a strong relationship with supervisors and simplify their responsibilities. This is usually accomplished by using leadership skills to guide your team toward delivering impressive results for both your company and your supervisors. Some effective tactics are scheduling regular meetings with your manager, identifying your manager’s strengths and weaknesses and delivering consistent, exemplary work.

Why is managing up important?

Consistently delivering valuable results to your supervisor helps them easily notice your skills and talents. This increases the likelihood of your being promoted to a higher role. Your supervisor may even recommend you for taking over their position when they have been promoted.

When you contribute impressive work that benefits the company, higher-level employees tend to notice. They may praise your supervisors for your or your team’s valuable work. Supervisors who receive encouragement are more likely to provide you with praise in return or remember you for promotion opportunities, bonuses and raises. Helping raise your company’s value can also benefit your own equity.

Mutual benefits of managing up

Managing up is a two-way street. If you’re working hard to deliver quality work and organizational improvements for your supervisor, you should receive praise and material incentives from them in return. With some supervisors, however, reciprocity doesn’t always come easily. They either haven’t concretely noticed your efforts or they don’t want to acknowledge them. Your efforts at improved performance should include bringing your successes to the attention of those who can impact your career and the careers of your team.

How to manage up

Here are some effective strategies for managing up in your workplace:

1. Listen to the wants and needs of your supervisors

A noticeable element in management is caring for employees. Show that you’re an effective manager by listening to the needs of your employees and your supervisors. Express an interest in their goals and celebrate their achievements. Get to know your supervisor’s wants and needs to help them achieve their workplace goals. When your supervisor notices you working to meet both their needs and your team’s needs, they’ll respect you more.

2. Make it easy for your supervisor to connect with you

Learn your manager’s preferred communication style. If they constantly use a direct messaging system to communicate, message them through that platform with relevant questions or project updates. This makes it more convenient for them to quickly reach out to you for questions or assignments. At the same time, don’t use these channels to saturate them with requests, clarifications and unnecessary comments. Sticking to high-impact communication results in your supervisor paying more attention when you do communicate.

3. Evaluate your supervisor’s career goals to help establish your own

Learn the career goals that your supervisor is working toward. For example, if they’re currently the director of marketing, their goal could be to become the vice president of marketing. Support these goals by assisting them in submitting quality projects that their supervisors will notice. They’ll not only think of you as someone they can rely on for support but also help you work toward your own goal of receiving a promotion. In other words, show your supervisors that they can help themselves by helping you and your team.

4. Find ways to reduce your supervisor’s stress

Your supervisor may be under constant stress due to making big-picture decisions. Minimize their stress by offering to handle any of their outstanding tasks. This reduces their workload, shows that you take initiative and demonstrates your willingness to take on extra work. When necessary, clearly explain how your supervisor can do something for you or your team that will allow you to deliver better results for them.

5. Exceed performance metrics and goals

Acknowledge the performance goals your supervisor establishes and work to consistently exceed them by delivering more than what’s expected of you. This gives your supervisor impressive results to present to executive team members. Motivate your employees to exceed performance metrics by helping them understand how doing so benefits their own advancement in the company. However, be sure to set realistic work hours and aim for realistic targets with potential benefits. Doing so shows your success as both an employee and a manager.

Related:Out of Scope vs. In Scope: a Project Manager’s Guide

6. Be willing to share skills with your supervisor

Analyze your supervisor’s strengths and weaknesses to help them enhance their own skills. For instance, if they’re struggling to organize and manage their tasks, teach them how to use an accounts management system or scheduling tool you’re well-versed in. This improves their productivity and efficiency while also showing your dedication to helping others develop their skills and grow in their careers. Be careful to help them in a way that’s polite and non-confrontational. By assisting them without denigrating their skills in other areas, you’ll build a rapport with your supervisor and underscore your own indispensability.

7. Schedule regular meetings with your supervisor

If your supervisor is constantly out of their office handling big-picture tasks, schedule regular skip-level meetings to maintain a strong relationship with them. Write down meeting goals and talking points beforehand to ensure the meeting is productive and worthwhile. Discuss your goals, ideas for improvement and project updates. Scheduling regular meetings with your supervisor demonstrates your dedication to improving your performance and keeps your supervisor involved in company progress and achievements.

FAQs about managing up

Does managing up mean dishonestly cozying up to supervisors?

A common misconception about managing up is that it’s a form of false helpfulness done purely for self-interest. But this shouldn’t be the case. Yes, your aim is to benefit yourself, but it’s also to help your supervisor and your team members in the long run. This relationship is generally positive and beneficial for all involved.

Should I push my own team to over-perform?

Your work as a manager includes relying on your team to deliver results, and this requires extra effort from everyone. However, encouraging a higher level of performance shouldn’t be done in an unhealthy way that causes you to neglect your staff’s personal needs, health or happiness. Instead, motivate them to work hard for their own benefit.

How can I encourage better results among my employees?

If you’re a high-level manager or the owner of a business, build a culture of paying attention when employees perform well and when teams deliver above-average results. Encourage this same behavior from your own supervisors, and help them understand that mutual support benefits the company.

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