Managing up is an important part of your professional career and if you master it quickly you’ll spend more time on the content of your work than on managing your boss. Think of it as honing your emotional intelligence in the workplace. Try these 5 tips for making yourself indispensable to your boss.
1. Promise Low, Deliver High. Missed deadlines or under delivering on a project make your boss nervous because they aren’t sure if there are other things slipping through the cracks. Better to wow them with your quick turnaround or fully baked white paper.
2. Anticipate Needs. This one is twofold. First, know your bosses strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies. Do they hate managing their calendar? Help them do that. Do they value speed? Respond quickly. Is data not their strength? Be the data guru. And second, do it without them asking. Jump in and take initiative. Chances are they will be relieved and grateful.
3. Good news travels fast. Bad news travels faster. If there is an issue take a few minutes (read: 10) to gather the details, process the problem, identify some solutions (see #4) and then tell your boss immediately. There is nothing worse than if they hear about it through the grapevine. If the issue is your fault, own it. And apologize. While it may not fix the problem it will definitely garner respect.
4. Don’t bring problems without solutions. Your boss probably has other problems or fires on their plate and this one will add to the list. Make it easy for them by anticipating the need for a solution. Bonus points for bringing a few possible solutions they can choose from.
5. If it’s not on paper (i.e. documented) it doesn’t exist. You could have a million and one great ideas and think about your work 24/7 but until you put pen to paper its not real to your boss. Write concept papers to put ideas into action. Deliver on small details quickly and demonstrate that action. Sometimes this means cc’ing your boss on emails. Sometimes this means printing a copy of something and putting it in their mailbox with a note. Just like in high school math, show your work.
Bonus: Ask questions. But not too many. There’s a time and a place for questions. When given a project, a few clarifying questions are important, necessary, and showcase a thoughtful approach, but too many questions and your boss will wish they just did it themselves. Learn to deal with a little bit of ambiguity. Channel their style and approach, add in your own, and then dive in. Sometimes you have to fake it to make it.
We want to know – how have you effectively managed up? Check out some of our archived webinars on managing up here.