Today Paul Gordon Brown published a great post on What They Didn’t Teach You in Grad School: Managing Up. He is right on when he said, “learning to manage up entails a critical set of skills necessary to advance and be successful in your career.” I share the following tips on how to successfully manage your boss in my Time Management workshop. I have been presenting this information to groups of students and young professionals for years, long before I started working for my current boss. Regardless of your age or professional level, I think these tips are still helpful.
Why is it important to manage your boss?
• An adversarial relationship with your boss can cause stress (which equals wasted time)
• When your boss trusts you, you will be given more freedom to work independently (big time saver)
• A positive relationship with your boss may result in additional resources or support (that may save you time)
9 Steps for Managing Your Boss
1. Bring solutions not excuses
Believe it or not, your boss doesn’t have all the answers. And if he/she does, it may not be the answer you want to hear. It is better to bring the solution you would like to see than to take a chance on the solution your boss may suggest.
2. Exude confidence
When your boss sees that you are confident, you are more likely to be trusted and given more autonomy. This creates more flexibility for you to do your work independently as well.
3. Prepare your “done” list
Be prepared to share your accomplishments with your boss. When you are asked “what have you been up to?” or “how’s it going?” you should have a positive response that demonstrates your contributions and productivity.
Clear communication and expectations are paramount to your success. Be sure you understand what is being asked of you, who you can turn to for help, and how your success is being measured. If necessary, take notes in your meetings so you can refer back to conversations about these key expectations.
5. Approach your boss with honesty, respect, and empathy
Support your boss’s decisions. Do not bad-mouth your boss. Approach your boss in private if you disagree or have a concern.
6. Manage your meetings
Be sure you know when your next meeting is with your boss and what you need to have done by then. Be prepared with appropriate questions.
7. Avoid Interrupting
Your boss is a busy person. Do your best to find answers and resources independently before interrupting your boss.
8. Don’t draw attention to your mistakes
Avoid turning a mole hill into a mountain. Overall, your boss wants to hear your good news and positive stories. For every problem you bring to your boss, be sure you have shared 2-3 solutions or positive outcomes.
9. Learn to read social cues
Timing is crucial. Understanding how your boss behaves when he/she is working on a deadline vs. feeling sociable can increase your chances of gaining positive or negative attention. Do not attempt small talk if your boss appears stressed. On the other hand, if he/she is feeling sociable take the opportunity to share a few success stories.
Check out another great article on What Everyone Should Know About Managing Up at Harvard Business Review.