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What is Upwards Management & 3 Ways to Get Started

What is Upwards Management & 3 Ways to Get Started

Upwards management is a skill and particular set of processes on managing your boss’ expectations of you and your work output.

Managing upwards isn’t skill that you’ll find on a job description, however in my experience, aside from having the core capabilities in your chosen field, having the ability to influence, mediate and manage the expectations of you from your boss is probably the second most important than actually knowing how to perform your role.

Why Upwards Management Skills are Important?

In order to have a successful career, in terms of kicking goals, getting the promotions you want and overall happiness in your work-life, being able to get your point across and communicate persuasively with your boss is a critical skill to learn and develop.

Upwards Management is all about being able to proactively show your boss that you can manage yourself, that you know to keep he or she informed of your work progress and your approach on a task and also inform them of any blockers you may require their help with.

Learning a few upwards management tactics is super important for your career progression because it will help you become a be a top performing team member who is easy to manage. If your boss finds you reliable, proactive and easy to manage – you’re more likely to have a good working relationship with them…even if they resemble Miranda Priestly from the Devil Wears Prada.

Top 3 tips to Learn Upwards Management Skills

1. Understand Your Boss’ Goals

The first step is to figure out exactly what is important to your boss and the business. This is so you show how what you’re working on and asking for is relevant to his or her top priorities.

Hot Tip: If the number one priority of your business is to implement a Surprise & Delight Customer Experience online, then ensure everything you strategise to present to your boss always shows how your idea is aimed at the surprise and delight key business objective. Relate everything back to your boss’s goal.

For Example, You want to get more followers on the company Instagram account so you come up with a content strategy to work with a local influencer. This is your strategy to get more followers. The next step is to align your strategy with your boss’s goal, surprise and delight.

Think of relevant ways to incorporate a surprise and delight experience into your strategy and outline what the business benefits and customer benefits are. Put this together in a neat presentation and deliver to your boss starting with his or her goal, followed by your aligned strategy.

2. – Figure out your Boss’ Communicate Style

Second most important to understand what your boss’ goals are understanding his or her preferred method of communication and decision-making process.

Hot Tip: Think about your own decision-making process and how you like ideas and arguments to be presented to you. Is there a particular tone of voice you like to be spoken to, do you prefer a presentation or someone simply taking at you, do you want time to make a choice or prefer impulsive action?

These are the different styles you like…your task is to identify the exact ways your boss likes then ensure you deliver your message accordingly.

For example, If your boss hates Powerpoint presentations, don’t do them. Have a list ready to talk them through instead. If your boss tends to quickly scan over your work & make impulse decisions, be sure to always have facts and timelines 100% correct (so their impulse don’t come back to bite you).

If your boss is the sort of person that mulls over all aspects before giving the go-ahead – ensure you’ve allowed for the time delay in your strategy getting started and be prepared that you’ll likely need to do some more work for them before they’ll be comfortable to approve.

Once you know your boss’ style with every task you can adjust how you deliver your message for maximum impact on getting their buy-in.

For Example,  If your boss is the impulsive type and you’ve put forward a body of work with incorrect or unrealistic timelines for delivery – when you don’t meet what they’ve signed off they will then doubt you moving forward and therefore need to manage you more…which they won’t like.

3. Communicate the Support You Need to Perform at your best

Now upwards management isn’t all about your running around trying to people, please. You also need to be able to communicate clearly in a style of communication that your boss resonates with, what support you need from them in order to perform at your best.

When you start a new job or get a new boss in an existing job, one of the first things you want to do is agree upon your boss’ expectations of you in the role and the business.

Hot Tip: Be proactive and assertive. Set up a meeting with your boss and simply ask ‘What is your Management Style’. Listen for what aligns with your style of working but also what doesn’t. The items that don’t align need acknowledgement and further discussion.

For Example: If your boss says “I am very hands-on, I prefer to meet every day to make sure everything is on track but you work better with fewer meetings and less frequent check-ins, ask if he or she would be willing to respond to a daily status report as an alternative or if the meetings could be twice weekly instead.

And lastly – a side note on upwards management. You’re there to make your boss look good to their boss. Similar to User Experience design methods think of your boss as your customer.

If you can’t remember anything else – always keep these four points in the back of your mind.

  1. Understand what they need
  2. Understand what they value
  3. Understand how they like to receive
  4. With everything, you do make sure you meet their needs, values and expectations of how the like to receive.

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