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What Heck Even is Managing Up? The Jedi Mind Trick for Workplace Success

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

Ever heard of 'managing up' and thought it was some sort of corporate yoga pose? Or maybe you've been wondering if it's a secret level in a video game? Well, you're not alone. And while it's neither of those things, mastering the art of managing up can indeed make you feel as good as nailing that elusive yoga pose or unlocking that secret game level.

'Managing up' is a fancy-schmancy term that basically translates to 'how to manage your boss, and show them that you're awesome.' Okay, okay, it's a bit more nuanced than that. It's about fostering effective relationships with the big kahunas in your workplace to help you soar like an eagle in your career...not just flap around like a chicken.

It requires a pinch of self-awareness, a dash of understanding your boss's expectations, and a generous helping of communication skills. Think of it as a recipe for success! Now, let's cook up some tips for becoming a Michelin-starred chef in managing up.

Know Thyself (and Thy Boss)

Be aware of your strengths, weaknesses, and work style. But don't stop there. Try to understand your boss's work style too. If you're a night owl and they're an early bird, don't send them your brilliant ideas at 2 am!

Communicate Like a Pro

Clear communication is key. Avoid jargon, be concise, and for the love of all things holy, double-check your emails before hitting send. Nothing says 'I'm not managing up' like an email full of typos.

Anticipate Needs

Be proactive. If you can foresee a problem and come up with a solution before it's even on your boss's radar, you'll look like a mind reader. And who doesn't want a mind reader on their team?

Feedback is Your Friend

Don't shy away from feedback. Embrace it like a long-lost friend. It's the best way to learn and grow. Remember, even superheroes need a little guidance now and then.


Building Bridges, Not Walls: Understanding Expectations

Building relationships in the professional world is a bit like constructing a bridge. It requires a solid foundation, careful planning, and an awful lot of patience (and coffee). A strong bond between the big cheese (the executive) and their trusty sidekick (that's you, the direct report) is the secret sauce to hitting targets, keeping communication lines buzzing, and making sure expectations are as clear as a freshly Windexed window.

But how do you start building this metaphorical bridge? Do you need a hard hat and a blueprint? Should you start hoarding bricks and mortar? Well, not quite. Here's a quick couple guidelines on how to build sturdy professional bridges without breaking a sweat:

Understand Their World - Step into your boss's shoes. And no, I don't mean literally. Try to understand their pressures and priorities. It'll help you anticipate their needs and turn you into their go-to problem solver.

Speak Their Language - If your boss loves bullet points, don't send them an essay. If they're visual thinkers, whip out those pie charts. Speaking their language will ensure your messages hit home.

Set Clear Expectations - Make sure you both know what's expected of you. No one likes surprises at work, unless it's a surprise pizza party.

Communication Can Be Your Superpower

Let's face it, folks. The most potent weapon in your professional arsenal isn't your spreadsheet skills or your ability to arrange complex travel with your eye closed (although that certainly helps). It's communication. Yes, you heard it right. Good ol' talking, listening, and understanding - the magical trifecta that bridges worlds, or in this case, cubicles.

From day uno, it's crucial to ensure there's an open line of communication between you and the head honcho. This doesn't mean you need to start sharing your weekend plans or your grandma's secret malva pudding recipe, but it does mean regular check-ins about ongoing projects, tasks, and expectations are a must.

And have I mentioned the game-changer? (pretty sure I have!) Ask for feedback. Not vague, 'how am I doing?' type questions, but specific ones.

Be Direct - Let your boss know their opinion matters to you. Ask them about areas they think you could improve or work on.

Embrace Criticism - Constructive criticism is like broccoli - not always enjoyable, but definitely good for you. Be open to it and be ready to act on it.

Say Thank You - Show appreciation for their feedback. Remember, gratitude goes a long way!

Show Progress - Follow up with your boss after implementing their feedback. It shows you're serious about improving. And for the love of all things good, don't let this 'thing' drop off your list. Nothing shouts more 'I don't give a ****' than them having to follow up on your progress...

Check-In Regularly - Don't let feedback be a one-time thing. Regularly ask if there's anything else you can work on.

Be Grateful

Take all feedback, positive or negative, as an opportunity to grow. It's like free professional development. Don't want for your 6-monthly or annual review, don't wait, seize the moment, cease the day, grab the bull and all that.

Chattering and Chiming In: Why Questions (and Listening) are Your Secret Weapons

If you want to strike the right chord with your boss, you've got to do more than just nod and smile. You've got to perfect the art of asking questions. And no, I'm not suggesting you start interrogating them about their favorite pizza toppings or their weekend plans. What I mean is, show curiosity about your work, your role, and your shared objectives.

Asking questions doesn't just show your boss that you're interested in what they have to say. It's also a neon sign flashing, "I'm keen to learn!" Trust me, executives love that. It's like music to their ears.

But here's the kicker: asking questions is only half the symphony. The other half is listening. Yes, you read that right. Listening isn't just about letting their words wash over you while you mentally plan your lunch. It's about really hearing what they're saying and showing them respect by acknowledging their opinions. This is the stuff that trust is built on.

And if something sounds as clear as mud during the conversation, don't be afraid to ask for clarification. No one likes playing 'guess the tune' when it comes to workplace communication. Keeping everyone on the same page is crucial.

Kicking off on the right note with your boss is key to any professional duet. This means understanding each other's expectations, which can be fine-tuned through effective communication, taking initiative, asking questions, and of course, listening.

By orchestrating these strategies, you'll not only build a harmonious relationship with your executive but also create a workplace where everyone feels like a valued member of the band.


The Art of Proactivity and Initiative

If you want to make a splash in the office pool, you've got to do more than just show up and hog the coffee machine. You've got to channel your inner ninja. No, I'm not suggesting you start throwing ninja stars or doing backflips (although that would liven up the Monday meetings). What I mean is, you need to master the art of proactivity and initiative.

Consider this: Ninjas don't wait for trouble. They're always alert, ready with their ninja moves (or in your case, perhaps some nifty problem-solving skills?). It's the same with your job. Don't just wait for problems to arise; anticipate them. Be the one to offer solutions before your colleagues even realize there's an issue brewing.

Flexibility is another trait in your ninja arsenal. Deadlines shift. Tasks evolve. Coffee runs out. It's how you adapt to these changes that counts. Show your boss that you can bend like a bamboo in the wind and keep a positive attitude, even when the printer jams for the umpteenth time.

Strive for excellence in everything you do, whether it's compiling a report or making creating that perfect itinerary. Do it with the precision and dedication of a ninja. Show your executive that you're not just any employee. You're an employee with ninja skills.

If you want to be that ninja in your workspace, you've got to nail this 'managing up' skill. No, I'm not suggesting a coup (unless it's against instant coffee). I'm talking about impressing the big boss and making their work life as smooth as a well-oiled machine.

Be a Good Listener - This doesn't mean just nodding while your boss talks and daydreaming about the weekend. It means genuinely understanding their instructions or requests. If something sounds as clear as a foggy day, ask questions. It shows that you're actually paying attention, not just perfecting your bobblehead impression.

Be Proactive - Don't wait around for instructions like you're at a fast-food drive-thru. If you see something that needs doing, get on it. Bosses love employees who take initiative. It's a refreshing change from the usual "What's next?" routine.

Be Organized - A tidy desk, punctuality, and preparedness are your secret weapons. Show your boss you're as capable as a superhero saving the day. Plus, let's be honest, who doesn't love a clutter-free workspace?

Be Positive - This isn't about being a yes-man or yes-woman but about keeping your spirits up even when the chips are down. Trust me, positivity is more contagious than a yawn. Plus, it makes you a whole lot more pleasant to be around.

Be Flexible - Plans change. Deadlines shift. Coffee runs out. Show your boss that you can adapt quicker than a cat landing on its feet. Bosses appreciate a good, flexible attitude more than a contortionist.

Be Solution-Oriented - When problems arise, don't just point them out. Come up with solutions. Bosses love problem solvers. It's like being a magician pulling out a rabbit from a hat.

Be Honest - Last but not least, honesty is key. Admit when you goof up. Be truthful about your capabilities. Offer sincere feedback. It's like showing your boss the real you, and trust me, authenticity always wins.

And there you have it, folks! Your fast-track guide to becoming a pro at managing up, straight from the corporate trenches. Remember, this isn't about becoming a bootlicker or a yes-(wo)man. It's about fostering a healthy and productive relationship with your superiors, showcasing your potential, and accelerating your path to success.

Whether you're a newbie just stepping into the work jungle or a seasoned veteran looking to level up, these tips can help you navigate the office landscape more effectively. So, put on that power suit, fire up that laptop, and show them who's boss!

Stay savvy, my friends. Cheers to your success!

Meg ✌️

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