Managing Up: How Managers Can Work Effectively With Their Own Managers
Regardless of what size team or company you work with, your manager plays a key role in the work you do, the projects you contribute to, your career growth, and even your happiness. Because of their significance in your success, it’s important to prioritize your relationship with them, even if you’re a manager with your own direct reports.
According to Leila Bulling Towne, executive coach and instructor of Build a Strong Relationship With Your Manager, the help, insight, and partnership a manager provides are invaluable. Taking the time to build a strong connection with your manager will not only help achieve your team’s goals, it can be crucial to achieving your overall career goals.
What managing up is — and isn’t
When considering how to effectively work with your manager, Towne emphasizes the importance of letting go of false beliefs around managing up. Oftentimes, baggage from a previous bad manager or unhappy work environment can cause you to hold on to misconceptions that make it hard to build positive manager relationships. There are many common untruths about managing up, Towne says. Managing up does not mean flattering your superior, or manipulating them to garner special treatment.
So, how does managing up take shape in the workplace? According to Towne:
- Managing up is not always easy or comfortable
- It’s part of your job and your manager’s job, and is expected
- It’s communicating your needs and priorities
- It’s speaking up about your own successes
- It’s impactful to your relationships with other influential stakeholders
According to Harvard Business Review, one of the most important skills to master when it comes to managing up is figuring out how to be a genuine source of help. Create value for your manager and your company by being the most effective employee you can be. The best path to a strong relationship begins and ends with doing your job well.
How a strong relationship with your manager boosts your career
Just because you have a fancy title or many direct reports doesn’t mean you should neglect building a strong relationship with your own manager. Prioritizing this critical work relationship helps you create an internal advocate, who will speak up on your behalf with other stakeholders. This person can support your efforts to continue to develop and grow in your career. And relationship building is a skill — it doesn’t just come naturally once you are in a leadership role.
In addition to being an advocate, your manager can be a source of valuable feedback, and someone who can share new ideas with you on how to be a better leader. According to Business Insider, a healthy, respectful relationship with your manager can improve your (and therefore your team’s) morale and productivity, and ultimately, it can boost your career. The good news is, relationship building can be learned.
Tips for working more effectively with your manager
It’s best to start building a good rapport with your manager early on in your working relationship. If you’re joining a new company or team, or if you’re getting a new manager, it’s a perfect opportunity to establish a foundation for that relationship. Share your passions, skills, and set the stage for what you want to continue doing, start doing, or doing more of in your current role.
For those looking to strengthen their relationship with their manager, Towne suggests starting with an assessment of the relationship in its current state. Taking a step back is critical to understand where you are now and where you want to go. What comes to mind when you think about the current state of your relationship with your manager. Do you feel connected and do you share common perspectives? Next, consider the ideal state. What would it be like if you secured what you needed from your manager in terms of time, feedback, or projects? Identify any gaps between your current state and your ideal state, and then decide what you want to work to change.
Harvard Business Review suggests making an action plan for the relationship you want to create with your manager that includes the following:
- Look for occasions to work closely with your manager on tasks, so you can understand their mindset, preferences, and values.
- Take notes about good and bad moments in your relationship with your manager and discuss these with them.
- Check in with your manager periodically to discuss what is working and what is not working. Identify achievements, learnings, and areas for improvement.
- Revisit the vision you have for your career and your relationship with your manager. Make changes to how you approach your manager based on what you’ve learned since taking more ownership of this important relationship. This will also help you ensure you continue to make progress toward your personal career goals.
Whether you’re gaining a new manager or looking to build a better relationship with the one you have, try these tips for working more effectively with your manager on a daily basis:
- Talk about your strengths, contributions, and wins — help them get to know you and determine what to delegate to you.
- Talk about what has worked well in your own managerial experience, and fill them in on your management style.
- Be authentic. You and your boss likely have a lot in common, so explore where your interests and strengths coincide, and where you can learn from each other.
Moving forward with a dynamic manager relationship
Success or failure at any organization depends greatly on your manager, so the relationship you have with them is a critical one to build and develop. It’s an added benefit that working effectively with your own manager ultimately makes you a better manager. When you make it a priority to build and maintain a good relationship with them, you set yourself and your team up for success.
Learn more tips on how to work effectively with your manager through our cohort learning business development offerings.