Hang-on a minute! What do you mean ‘managing up’? Isn’t management from the top down? Shouldn’t my manager be managing me?
Managing up is not reporting lines and hierarchy. Managing up, in its simplest form, is about taking full ownership of a task, project or activity. It’s about you being responsible the work that’s been asked of you and not waiting to be prompted for an update or why something has or hasn’t occurred. In a word, it’s about being proactive. It takes effort to regularly communicate to your senior stakeholders about the status of a project. It would be much easier to just let them come to you when they want to know what’s going on. After-all, they should just trust you to do your job, right? Wrong.
Trust is something that needs to be earned. It’s built overtime and with a handful of people. In a work environment expecting trust can be a dangerous assumption.
Proactively communicating about your progress is a great way to provide your Manager everything they need to know and provide them with an opportunity to provide comment or feedback. Sometimes, it can even lead to a reduction in work. Your Manager may see an opportunity to get someone else in on the project to assist you or may see a more efficient way to do things.
Here are three things you can do to manage up and take responsibility into your own hands:
1. Set the tone. Ask your Manager how regularly they’d like an update on the project and in what format, e.g. email, face-to-face, weekly report, etc. Is it just your Manager who needs to be kept in the know? By asking the question you may find that someone more senior might also require purview, providing you with a great opportunity to build your personal brand.
2. Don’t avoid problems. If there’s an issue, quickly get an understanding of the state-of-play and update your Manager. No-one likes a grenade!
3. Over-communicate. It sounds ridiculous but it’s spot-on. Talk it out with your Manager. Don’t just give updates, ask their opinion, talk about your progress, your challenges. Tell them about some of the key insights you’ve identified and how you think they could improve the outcome.
Just as your bosses are accountable for managing you, you are responsible for managing them.