5 Tips to Manage Your Manager
There are many things you are responsible for in your career, and it can seem like there is always an overwhelming to-do list that you will never get through.
Often, we focus on tasks at the expense of relationships, but not managing work relationships effectively is a key career derailment factor.
One of the most important relationships you need to manage is the relationship you have with your manager. A good relationship with your manager is vital to your ability to feel engaged and succeed at work.
So much so, that according to our 2023 research, 84% of women say that a good and supportive relationship with their manager is the number one thing they need to thrive at work.
A key factor that can contribute to having a good relationship with your manager, is your ability to manage up effectively. Managing up is typically about managing your manager.
Cultivating a positive relationship with your manager by learning to manage effectively is a powerful way to have more agency in your career.
When done well, managing up allows you to be clearer on your priorities and expectations, keeps the line of communication between you and your manager open, and gives you a chance to negotiate, collaborate and reach compromises with your manager on the timing of projects and deadlines, and demonstrates your achievements so you can be recognized and rewarded for your work.
Here Are 5 Tested Tips to Manage Your Manager Effectively:
1) Understand your manager’s or stakeholders’ goals.
Managing up is essentially about working for the mutual benefit of yourself and your manager and making their life (and in turn, your life) easier. Look at the relationships that you need to manage. What do each of your stakeholders need from you, including your manager? What are their agendas? How are you meeting those needs through your work?
If you aren’t clear on the goals that your manager and/or stakeholders must meet and what their objectives are, then don’t wait for them to take the lead. Set up a meeting to get crystal clear on what’s expected of you, so you can better understand your priorities and how they roll up to overall business success.
2) Understand your manager’s or stakeholders’ preferred communication style.
When it comes to creating a positive relationship with your manager, it’s important to understand how they best operate. Do they prefer to communicate via email, text, a messaging app, or in person? Do they make decisions based on data, or do they rely on their intuition? How often do they want updates? What frustrates them at work?
The more you can understand your manager’s preferences and adapt the way you communicate with them to suit their style, the more likely you’ll have a positive response from them. The same is true for your stakeholders, and doing a stakeholder map and answering these questions for each one is a helpful strategy.
3) Be proactive.
Nobody likes to be caught off-guard by unwanted surprises, so it helps to develop the skill of anticipating problems as well as your manager’s needs and coming up with proposed solutions before being asked.
This shows great initiative and will make you an invaluable asset to your manager and your team. If you know that bad news is coming, like a deadline won’t be met or a key stakeholder for them is raising issues, make sure you alert your manager as soon as possible so they’re not blindsided.
4) Own your mistakes.
Equally important as anticipating problems is the willingness to own your mistakes when things don’t go according to plan. The worst thing you can do is try to avoid it or cover it up.
A better approach is to be humble, admit what went wrong, and offer a solution for how you can correct for the mistake in the future. If you’re taking accountability and coming up with a solutions-focused mindset, your manager will respect you for it. Get out in front of it as quickly as possible.
5) Give consistent and regular updates.
Keep your manager in the loop by giving them regular updates. A practical tool is to send a weekly email to your manager on a Friday afternoon that clarifies what you’ve been working on that week, the wins you’ve had, your priorities for the next week, and any challenges you’re having in regard to resources or deadlines.
This strategy will ensure that your manager always knows where you are. It also helps to open a conversation around competing priorities, seek support or guidance, and set boundaries if required.
We have found this strategy alone to be a complete game-changer for managing relationships with your manager.