Managing yourself can sometimes mean managing your boss too! You will both get more out of your work time, and it’s a useful Young Professional skill that blends initiative and organisation. Here’s how…
What does it mean to ‘manage up’ your boss? We covered what this means in our recent piece on working with a boss who keeps changing their mind. In a nutshell, managing up means proactively managing your relationship with your boss to make sure it’s as positive as it can be. It doesn’t mean being insubordinate, trying to tell your boss what to do, or trying to take over their job!
Managing up is a crucial skill. If you get good at it, it will serve you well at every stage of your career. Let’s look at some of the best ways to manage up your boss.
Check in often
In my team, everyone has a weekly check-in meeting with their boss. This can be two minutes (“everything’s fine? Great, carry on”) to an hour or more of focused time to go through your tasks, goals, and any questions you have. Consider asking your boss to set up a regular check-in if you don’t already. This can be a standing appointment on your calendar, or just an informal arrangement where you’ll chat for a few minutes at the start or end of each day. Check-ins can be daily, weekly, monthly or less often…whatever makes sense for you and your work flow.
Under promise, over deliver
If you said you’d have that report to your boss by Friday, ideally it should be sitting on their desk by the end of Thursday. If you said you’d achieve a 5% increase in sales with your latest campaign, try to hit more than that. The trick here is that it’s always better to do better than you promised than to over-promise and then not meet expectations.
Anticipate your boss’s needs as best you can
If there’s a regular task that always needs doing, or you can see a problem that you’re capable of solving, don’t wait for your boss’s instruction. They’ll be more impressed if they see you getting on with things under your own initiative rather than waiting for them to micromanage your every move.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – but make sure you learn from them
Everyone is human, and mistakes are how we learn. Your boss will respect you a lot more if you tell them you made a mistake and ask for advice and help with fixing it. Any good boss would much rather you came to them than tried to hide the problem, cover it up, or lied to them about it. Admit when you’ve made a mistake, and also say what you’ve learned from it and what you’d do differently next time – then follow through on that.
Take responsibility for your own professional development
This means asking for feedback, asking for career advice when appropriate, and taking opportunities to grow into your role and learn new skills. Maybe you can read up on something that’s relevant to your job during quieter times in the office, take a particular course or class, or shadow a more experienced co-worker for a few hours who’s working in an area you’d like to know more about. Your boss will be really impressed if they see you taking charge of your own career and going out of your way to excel in your role! Asking your boss for feedback and advice also shows that you’re serious about your performance, and that you respect them and value their opinion.
Know when to ask for help and when to figure things out yourself
Asking for help is an important work skill, and part of your boss’s job is to be there to support you when you need help. Ask for help when you need it, but also cultivate the skills to try to figure things out yourself. When you go to your boss, you can explain what you’ve already done to try to solve the problem and give them a clear idea of what you need their help with.
Don’t be afraid to discuss non-work topics… within reason!
Getting to know your boss as a human being can be really helpful. You don’t have to go into the realm of the super personal (and probably shouldn’t!) but knowing a bit about each other as people can go a long way to creating a smoother relationship. So don’t be afraid to take a few minutes sometimes to talk to them about, for example, holiday plans, their kids, the latest Netflix show, hobbies, pets, or great places to get lunch locally.
(Probably not suitable: messy relationship problems, the gory details of medical issues, sex, that one other manager you can’t stand, or your hunt for a new job.)
Say thank you
Sometimes your boss will go out of their way for you. They might take time to coach you on a new skill, give you some great career advice, go to bat for you for a promotion, or support you with extra accommodations through a difficult time. A sincere thank you (ideally in person, but an email will do in a pinch!) is appreciated by anyone, and your boss will respect you more for it. And they will be more likely to help you again in the future.
Have you tried any of these techniques, and have they worked for you? What other ways of managing your boss have you had success with? Tweet us at @YEUK_2012 and let us know!