Like it or not, many managers are under-trained and unprepared for the new role they find themselves in. The high urgency environment of rapid growth companies creates an atmosphere where it’s more advantageous to promote from within the organization than to onboard someone from outside.
This means many managers are learning team leadership skills on the job (which is only one of their many new responsibilities). What does this mean? Your manager can struggle to do their job, too!
Managing up is the practice of strengthening your relationship with your boss and enabling them to better lead you and your team.
Managing up can take a little extra effort on your part -- but it is worth it. Helping a manager better lead the team will result in better team performance (which reflects well on you), better sense of your value in the organization, and recognition of your potential for a leadership role of your own.
Bosses are critical to workplace satisfaction. This is why one study showed 65% of employees would prefer a new boss over a raise. Having an underprepared, overworked, or disengaged boss can be frustrating at best.
Time to manage up! But the first step is to check any negative energy at the door. Before taking any action, try to put yourself in your boss's shoes to understand the stressors and obstacles in their way. They are human like anyone else and are struggling for a reason.
Take the initiative to talk with your boss. The first step in managing up is to build trust and understand where they are coming from. To do this you need to ask about them. What are their goals and motivations? What makes them tick?
Communication isn’t only necessary at the beginning of the relationship. It should be constant throughout, especially when it comes to transparency when you notice problems (or the potential for a problem) with the team. Be transparent and communicate early.
The essence of any managers job should be to get the best performance from their team as possible. One of the best ways to help your manager is to excel in your own role. You can further assist in this performance by communicating how you work best and where/how your talents can be best applied to perform best.
It’s also important that you double check that your goals and theirs are in line. Understanding their goals and expectations will help ensure you are working towards the same end.
There will undoubtedly be tasks your manager must perform for which they either lack the time or lack the necessary skill-set. You should identify where these shortcomings are, anticipate when they will present themselves, and work to compensate if you can.
Make yourself available to take on or assist with the task. Anything, no matter how small, you can take off your manager’s plate will pay dividends in the energy and attention they can give to other important tasks that will benefit the overall team.
It’s all about taking the actions that enable your manager to do their job (i.e. managing you) as best as they can. Small actions can make big differences when helping someone who has too many priorities and not enough training to be effective in their role, even if it’s your manager.
Empathize with their position and talk with them about their needs, goals, and challenges. Make yourself available to not only crush it in your own role but take on small responsibilities that make their lives easier. Do this and not only will your boss and team thank you, you’ll be thanking yourself!