Everyone in the business world has a boss. You included. If you are a senior vice president or an executive vice president, your boss might be the CEO. As a CEO, your boss might be the Chairman of the Board. If you are a startup founder, your boss might be your customers or the investors in your business. Start managing up!
Having a boss means you need to manage your relationship with him or her. The boss relationship seems pretty straightforward, but in reality it is fraught with minefields. So, what does managing up mean? How do you successfully manage the relationship with your boss? And how do you manage other leaders hierarchically higher up on the ladder?
For the purpose of this article I will assume that you are operating in a trusted environment. If not, I highly recommend you start with How to Effortlessly Raise Trust in Times of Change first.
When it comes to successfully managing your boss, consider consciously engaging in the following behaviors:
1) Anticipate and Provide Value Up
You are hired to make your boss’ life easier. It’s as simple as that. If your boss could do the job or had the bandwidth to do your job, he wouldn’t need to hire you or anyone else. So, ideally you provide value to him and the organization. The best way you can do that is by being competent, confident and by anticipating what needs to be done. In fast changing environments, you need to anticipate even more. How can you do that? Be observant, gain perspective from various sources, and spot trends. Attempt to be a step ahead.
2) Be Willing to Get in the Trenches
No boss wants or needs a prima donna. Regardless of your previous accomplishments, he needs you to be willing to do what it takes. Sometimes this means you will need to engage in a sprint and other times it will feel more like a marathon. Whatever needs doing, regardless of how challenging it appears, your boss needs can-do attitude he can depend on.
3) Think — and Act — Like Your Boss
Put yourself into your boss’ shoes. What are her challenges? Does she have headwinds she is trying to overcome? What opportunities is she trying to seize? What is she modeling to you? If you are not clear, ask. The more you can empathize and understand what she is going through, i.e. pitching an important idea to the board, the better.
4) Consider the Consequences of Your Actions From 30,000 Feet
You have to think ahead and consider what consequences your proposals might have. If you want more headcount, what hoops will your boss have to jump through to get the budget increased? If you are pitching to hire a new agency, consider how the cost will be offset and who in the organization might be resisting the proposal. You have to think things through two-three steps down the road and consider what objections you might face.
5) Lead Up by Being Aware
Pay attention. You are not working in a vacuum and neither is your boss. Raise your level of awareness to what dynamics are at play, not just in your department but companywide. Inform yourself about trends outside of the organization and elevate your thinking to the 30,000-foot level. Broaden your horizons and pretend you have to solve your boss’ problems.
6) Help, Don’t Be Helpful
Most want to be helpful. We have been conditioned to solve problems. However, don’t solve problems that are not for you to solve. Really be clear on whose problem you are encountering. If it’s someone else’s or your boss’, ask what you can do to help, but don’t just jump in and try to fix things. This might backfire and make things worse rather than better.
Consider these suggestions a checklist. Reflect on each of the topics and ask yourself if you are really contributing in the best way possible. If not, go ahead and make some adjustments. Your leadership will thank you for it.