No matter where you work and in what industry, learning this skill is a surefire tactic to excelling in any job.
Want to blow everyone away at your new job or are you hoping for a promotion at work? While every workplace is different, there are a few basic rules every employee should follow: Show up on time, work hard and use good manners.
But you’ll need take it one step further for real success. Whenever I mentored (aka managed) a new employee, I gave three critical pieces of advice for success at our firm:
- Focus on time management
- Do quality work
- Learn how to manage up
Almost always, the new employee screwed up #1 and #2 within the first few months. But, with help, they mastered #3. Learning how to manage up made their lives a lot easier.
How managing up will help you succeed at work
Here are a few reasons you should learn this important skill:
- You’ll anticipate problems before they happen
- Your own stress levels will plumet
- Both you and your project managers will see positive outcomes
In my experience, I’ve found that young employees who managed up received high marks for collaboration and for working on teams effectively. They were also more likely to receive promotions than others who faltered, stumbled and couldn’t get the hang of managing their superiors.
Effective people management is considered the cornerstone of sound leadership. Yet managing up is just as important as managing down, sideways or any other way. In fact, managing up is THE key to success for all employees in all companies.
What managing up is — and what it isn’t
Managing up means communicating with people, your project managers or other senior people you interact with daily (your “bosses”) in a way that makes their lives easier. That means you should learn to anticipate what people need to know — and provide it — before they ask.
If your boss or project manager constantly emails you asking for status updates, you aren’t managing up. If your boss or project manager reaches out to you to learn how a meeting went, how the project is going at a non-critical juncture or what a client or customer said during a call, you aren’t managing up. If your boss or project manager hears secondhand about a mistake, issue or other hiccup, you aren’t managing up.
How to amp up your managing up game
1. Document everything you’re working on
Keep good notes. At any moment, your boss or project manager may ask you what’s going on – and they’ll want details. You need to be ready with that information.
Clearly document who is doing what, who said what, what still needs to be done and what issues you need help resolving.
2. Keep the team constantly informed
Determine who is involved on each of your projects and who needs to know what’s going on. The goal isn’t to provide information on a “need to know” basis. Assume everyone needs to know – unless told otherwise.
Provide email updates to the team (cc your boss) on Mondays and Fridays. Monday’s emails should explain what items are being addressed, who’s addressing them and what outstanding issues exist. Friday’s email should detail what was accomplished and what’s still left to tackle.
3. Solicit feedback
This one can pose the biggest stumbling block because people inherently fear negative feedback. But by actively soliciting feedback – preferably through face-to-face conversation – you set the tone for constructive feedback, both positive and negative.
You also avoid future issues by providing a forum for voicing concerns AHEAD of time. Who doesn’t want to avoid a major workplace gaffe? Incorporate the feedback into your work processes and project. In your weekly updates, ensure everyone knows what changes are being made. People want to know they’ve been heard – this is critical.
Think of steps 1 through 3 like a continuous cycle. The process never stops. And the more you perform, revise and enhance on this process, the better you will become at managing up.
You should be providing everyone with important info about what happened, what needs to happen and what needs to be resolved without even being asked. Managing up requires understanding what motivates your boss or project managers and using that insight to make their jobs easier.
Most importantly, managing up means making managing down for your bosses a lot easier. (Click here to tweet this quote.) In other words, you make it substantially easier for them to manage YOU.
The benefits of managing up far outweigh the extra investment of time involved. You’ll be perceived as a good communicator who is collaborative, accountable and generally “on top of things.” You’ll be given additional responsibilities because your boss or project manager will know they can rely on you.
And – most importantly – you won’t be micromanaged. You will feel more autonomous, independent and engaged as an employee.
If you want to hop onto that leadership track, managing up is a critical step on the ladder you need to climb. When you make your boss or project look good, you in turn make yourself look good!
Stacey Hawley is the author of Rise to the Top: How Women Leverage Their Professional Persona to Earn More and founder of Credo, a compensation and talent management firm.