5 Ways to Manage Up

Create the best possible working relationship with your boss.

A good rapport with your manager is essential to your success. Take responsibility for your relationship and learn to manage up like the best of them.

5 Ways to Manage Up

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Figure out what motivates your boss

Gretchen Hydo, a Los Angeles business productivity and life coach, says this can be as simple as a direct question. “Talk to your boss and say, ‘I want to support you in the best way possible. What does that look like to you?” Mia Saini, CEO of Oars + Alps agrees. “A quick, ‘what’s most important to you about our company in the next three months, six months and two years?’ can shed a lot of insight into what motivates your boss. Because whatever motivates her, should motivate you. Perhaps, in the short term, she cares about sales, but in the long term, she cares about expanding distribution offline. You’re then able to create a strategy that can amplify her thinking.”

Understand the lines of communication

“Have a good grasp on not only how often your boss wants to know what you are up to, but also in which format,” says Mia. “I personally love weekly catch-ups and data presented to me in charts. Communicate clearly. Send summary emails after meeting with your boss or with a client.” Gretchen believes it’s important to clear the air from the start. “Know how much information your boss wants to receive,” she says. “Do they want the details or the bottom line? Learn their work style and daily pressures so that you can demonstrate support and assist with problem solving. Listen and observe what your boss is saying with their words and body language.”

Be proactive

“I love it when people come up with their own ideas and solutions to problems. The more eager you are, the more convinced I am that I made the right decision in hiring you,” Mia says. Gretchen feels having basic etiquette can do wonders for your relationship with your manager. “Say hello and goodbye to your boss each day,” she says. However, it’s also important to not get too comfortable. “Keep your personal and work life separate. Although it may seem appropriate to confide in your boss or to ask them personal questions, it isn’t. Keep things work-related and when they touch on personal issues, keep them light.”

Know when it’s okay to impede workflow—and when it’s not

According to Mia, interrupting your manager is all about timing. “My company has an open environment, so I don’t have four walls closing me off from my team,” she says. “Sometimes, that causes people to ask me questions or share vital information with me when I’m completely focused on something else. Ask your boss before you start working if he or she prefers to talk as the day goes on or to schedule a certain time. I prefer someone to put 15 minutes on my calendar to discuss something important rather than catch me while I’m focusing my energy on something else."

Overpromise, overdeliver

Mia wants to see her direct reports go the extra mile. “By now, you’ve heard the mantra, ‘under promise, overdeliver,’” says Mia. “The problem with that is that I know you are already doing this. I would love for an employee to say to me, ‘We are going to do x,y,z. I know this is ambitious and we may not make it, but I’ll do everything in my power to make it happen.’ This speaks volumes about your self-motivation, ambitions and work ethic.”