9 Tips to Managing Up and Influencing Effectively
You’ve heard the term/phrase “managing up”, but what is it and why should you care? This month’s Menttium Business Education Webinar focused on this popular topic. It’s not just a buzzword, and in recent years it has garnered increased attention. Managing up and influencing effectively is a skill that many mentees want to better understand and develop. It is a common focus during their year-long partnership with their mentor.
Why Manage Up?
There are many reasons! The bottom line is it helps you, your career, your boss and your company. Do you want to take charge of your career and your experience at work? Do you want to improve your work relationships and have more influence with decision-makers? Do you want to be a better leader and manager? Would you like success with any style of the boss? Learning and practicing managing up at any stage of your career can help you. Plus, you may find these skills translate well to how you lead those who report to you and other colleagues with whom you need strong relationships.
“Learn how to manage up and do it in this environment, just like we did before the pandemic… In business, [understanding culture and organizational politics] is an integral part of getting stuff done. There’s always somebody above you concerned with the allocation of resources of money, capital, people, project approval or whatever. You have to influence people; you have to build a network.” – James Gwaltney, Menttium mentor
What is Managing Up and Influencing?
It’s managing and influencing your boss. Managing up is usually referring to your direct manager but includes your boss’s peers and others above you in the organization. It is understanding your boss’s style and preferences, then flexing your communications and approach to influence effectively. Think of it as a way to take charge of your career and your experience at work. Another way to think about it is becoming an assertive and powerful follower (which is a form of leadership!).
“Be intentional, know the audience you are trying to influence, and get to know people on a personal level. Ask leading questions, but know the answer to those questions before you ask them so you are literally guiding the person you’re trying to influence to get them to where you want them to be. But they’re coming to the decision on their own. And I think that’s key.” – Pam Hollander, Menttium mentor
9 Tips – How to Manage Up and Influence Effectively
- Ask yourself: am I adding work to my boss’s plate or taking things off?
- Be proactive and action-oriented. What do you do when you find a problem at work? Bring a solution, a possible course of action, a recommendation or options to your boss.
- Communicate at the level of your boss. Your company wants to hear your perspective and that you are thinking about the bigger picture.
- Do you know how your boss and their peers perceive you?
- Share your successes and the value you have delivered to your boss, your team, and your company. Are your contributions visible?
- Speak up and be confident. If you see a situation differently, share that. Your manager may not agree but he/she will likely appreciate (and remember) that you spoke up and were not timid.
- Manage your emotions and passion so they don’t get in the way of your message. It is good to be passionate about your work, but when you are presenting to your boss or executives, avoid using emotion as an influencing tool.
- Learn to appreciate and navigate your company’s culture and political environment. Every company has one. We need to build mutually beneficial relationships beyond only those you need to get your work done or just those you like for the success of the company. This is a whole other topic, yet related.
- Understand your boss’s style and that of other key stakeholders; flex and adapt your communications.
Want More? Resources:
HBR Guide to Managing Up and Across by Harvard Business Review Press– a classic guidebook.
Need practical tips on managing different boss styles? Check out Managing Up: How to Move up, Win at Work, and Succeed with Any Type of Boss by Mary Abbajay.
For a unique metaphorical perspective on managing up, take a look at Throwing the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up by Stanley Bing. You’ll walk away with a new twist on managing up.
You can also find many podcasts, blogs, and articles on managing up with varying perspectives and personal stories of success and failure to learn from.