Most of us know what it’s like to have a boss that’s disengaged, or at the very least, unorganized. In many situations, this can be quite discouraging. Even if your boss is engaging and organized, there are plenty of times where they just simply have lots to do. Regardless, in this scenario, you basically have two options: you can keep your head down and stick with the status quo, or you can take the reins and try your hand at managing up.
What is managing up?
Managing up refers to the act of making your boss’s job easier. In many cases, it involves taking over some or all of the duties of your boss, so that they can focus their attention elsewhere. Think of it as going above and beyond the tasks assigned to you.
You may not be getting the fancy job title, but you certainly become just as important to the team as your boss is. With that idea fresh on your mind, let’s talk about a few ways you can get better at managing up.
Get to know your boss
If you want to be able to take over some of your boss’ tasks every once in a while, then you might want to start with knowing what needs to be done. Develop a healthy workplace relationship. A good way to approach this topic is by simply asking your boss how you can help. He or she will probably have a few suggestions, and you can work from there. It may even be something as simple as offering advice. Regardless, you’ll never know until you ask, which leads us to the next point:
Anticipate your boss’s needs
You’ll help your boss the most by doing things that they need done, but without being asked. If a manager spends all her time micromanaging and delegating tasks, then the whole idea of managing up is basically pointless.
You need to understand what makes your boss tick, how they function, and how you can help. There really isn’t any concrete advice anyone can give you on this point other than just pay attention. The best way to anticipate the needs of your boss is to work alongside her and assist where you can.
Understand your boss’s goals and the goals of the company
Everyone on your team should understand the boss’s goals. If you don’t, then it might be time to have a meeting or two. Understanding his goals is extremely important because everything you’re going to be doing should help achieve those goals. You might even think of a few ways to accomplish these goals that your boss hasn’t.
Don’t let your boss get caught off-guard
Nothing is worse than being blind-sided. If you know that a customer is unhappy or that a contract fell through, there’s no need in keeping that information from your boss. Share that information as soon as you get it so that he or she can immediately start working on a solution.
You should also learn how to discuss problems with your boss. If your boss or one of your other coworkers isn’t really meeting the right standard, then that’s important information that the boss needs to know. You most certainly aren’t trying to insult anyone, but you don’t want these issues to become bigger problems. Be as transparent as possible, and be open to critique yourself.
Do your normal job well
I think we can all agree that managing up simply means, “helping your boss.” One of the best ways you can help your boss is by doing your job well. It doesn’t always have to involve taking over tasks.
Strive to do well and prioritize your work. Give you boss something to brag about. Simply doing your job well can take a lot of stress off of not only your boss, but the rest of the team. It gives everyone peace of mind knowing that you are perfectly capable of completing your own tasks.
Tell your boss how to use your talents
From the beginning, you should inform your boss about what you’re good at, and how they can exploit that.
What are your strengths and weaknesses? How well do you handle conflict, time management, organization, success, failure, and deadlines? Put everything on the table and leave no stone unturned. You never know how your strengths may compliment someone else’s on the team, including the boss.
Deliver results, not empty promises
The best way to approach success is to deliver results. You can promise anything, words are just words. What your boss and ultimately the company is after are actions that lead to results.
The best way to keep your commitments is by promising only what you know you can accomplish. If you have the opportunity to go the extra mile, then by all means, go for it. At the same time, don’t stretch yourself so thin that you end up in the same position that had your boss needing help in the first place.
Managing up is a great way to be recognized. By managing up effectively, you’re showing that you’re not only capable of more responsibility, but higher tier work. Remember: the best way to manage up is to find areas where your boss is overwhelmed and you can help.
A lot of people might view this as, for lack of a better term, sucking up, but it’s quite the opposite. Managing up isn’t manipulative or selfish. It’s a way to contribute more to your team and show that you’re ready for more responsibility.