Ascending to a senior management level within a company is never a linear process. While there are many ways to rise to the top, having a positive relationship with your own manager is one way to improve your job satisfaction and advance in your career.
Read on to explore how you can navigate the important but tricky employee-manager dynamic, see why managing up matters, view 10 ways you can use managing up in your day-to-day work, and learn how you can use Fellow to host effective meetings with your manager.
- What does managing up mean?
- Why managing up matters
- 10 ways to manage up
- How to manage up with Fellow
What does managing up mean?
Before we delve into the details, let’s answer an important question: What does managing up mean?
Managing up is the process of developing and cultivating a productive working relationship with your manager. Employees who are managing up make their supervisor’s job easier, and in turn, are guided on how to be the best version of themselves. Managing upwards involves learning and adapting to your manager’s communication style, anticipating their needs, and helping them reach their goals.
Managing up does not involve individuals immersing themselves in their manager’s work and personal life. It should never entail molding your manager into someone else, giving unwarranted criticism, or judging their skills and behaviors.
Master the art of managing up
A well-run meeting can foster communication and collaboration by including an agenda the whole team can contribute to. Try using a software like Fellow!
Why managing up matters
“Managing up to me means being pro-active to help both your boss and yourself succeed. When pitching ideas or asking for investment, frame it around how it helps your boss achieve their goals. Anticipate their objections and address those before they do. Then listen like a hawk.”— Lauren Thibodeau, SaaS Advisor
But what does managing up mean in the context of someone’s career progression? Managing upwards offers many benefits for managers looking to ascend to new positions within their company. Managing up is a great opportunity to think about career progression, develop new skills, and maintain a good relationship with a company leader. It may speed up an individual’s rate of progress, determine whether they deserve a raise, and help company leaders measure a person’s value within the team or greater organization. Managing up can also contribute to great performance reviews and promotions, and even improve the productivity of an entire team.
There are several dos and don’ts when it comes to managing up. Those wanting to use the technique to their advantage should get to know their boss and offer assistance during stressful situations. Individuals should never attempt to manipulate their boss or flatter them relentlessly. It’s also a bad idea to hide setbacks from your manager and to participate in harmful office politics.
10 ways to manage up
“Perhaps the most important skill to master is figuring out how to be a genuine source of help — because managing up doesn’t mean sucking up. It means being the most effective employee you can be, creating value for your boss and your company. That’s why the best path to a healthy relationship begins and ends with doing your job, and doing it well.”— Dana Rousmaniere, Harvard Business Review
- Align your goals with your manager’s goals
- Improve your communication skills
- Ask questions
- Leverage regular feedback
- Understand your manager’s career goals
- Know when your manager is most responsive
- Build trust and rapport
- Document conversations with your manager
- Show that you value autonomy
- Proactively problem solve
1Align your goals with your manager’s goals
Gain an awareness of your manager’s goals and align some of your own with their objectives. Understand which tasks, projects, and deliverables your boss is accountable for and support them in achieving them. Aim to produce deliverables that support their success; in doing so, you’ll help them look like a rockstar.
Use Fellow to track objectives during every meeting with your manager. Fellow’s Objectives tool makes it easy to transparently record, define, and track the progress of your objectives and key results.
2Improve your communication skills
Communication is the key to building any healthy relationship. Maintain open communication with your manager by keeping them up to date on your own progress and sharing suggestions that can produce results. Outline your ongoing and upcoming tasks and projects in a shareable document for your manager to view. Offer your help anytime your boss needs assistance or seems stressed out about meeting their deliverables.
One-on-one meetings are the best way to maintain regular communication with your manager. Use Fellow to build great one-on-one meeting habits, centralize all action items, jot down key takeaways from each session, and keep track of interactions with your manager over time.
Asking your manager questions will help you stay engaged with their work and understand how your roles fit together. Before each one-on-one meeting, jot down questions that set the tone for the conversation. Examples of questions you can ask include: “What is your biggest challenge at the moment?” “How can I make your job easier?” and “What is your biggest priority and how can I support you in achieving it?”
4Leverage regular feedback
Asking for regular feedback is one thing, but using the feedback you receive to your advantage is another. Think of all feedback you receive from your manager as data points that reflect your strengths and opportunities for improvement. Take note of your positive feedback so you can continue to model these good behaviors in the future. Use constructive feedback to better understand your blind spots and develop new necessary skills.
With Fellow’s Feedback feature, you and your teammates can easily give, request, and exchange feedback about people, meetings, and projects.
5Understand your manager’s career goals
Once you have a healthy, open relationship with your manager, ask them about their plans to develop their career. Once you know their career goals, you can find ways to regularly support and acknowledge their plans. Understanding your manager’s goals can help you create a vision for your own future at the company!
6Know when your manager is most responsive
One of the easiest ways to manage up is by remaining in tune with your boss’s schedule. To maintain a good working relationship, know their working hours, when they usually take meetings, and when they don’t want to be interrupted. For example, if you’re a night owl but your manager is an early bird, it might be best to schedule any late-night emails to them for the next morning instead. The goal is to make their work life easier, so don’t force engagement at inconvenient times.
7Build trust and rapport
There are several ways to build trust with your boss when managing upwards. Anticipate their needs before they think to ask you so they know you’re always looking ahead at future opportunities for them to succeed. When you know bad news is on the horizon, tell them first so they aren’t caught off guard and can respond to the situation appropriately. When completing your deliverables, always underpromise and overdeliver. Do your job well so that your manager knows they can always rely on you.
8Document conversations with your manager
Document each conversation with your boss so you can both visualize your progress over time. Keeping a record of each one-on-one meeting and action items will help your manager remember the great work you’ve completed over time. This record will be especially helpful during performance review season or when you’re applying for promotions within your company.
Use Fellow to take amazing notes during each one-on-one or team session. With our tool, you can collaborate on talking points before your meeting begins, centralize all action items from your manager, and use the private notes section to record your thoughts. Check out our 500+ ready-to-use meeting agenda templates to kickstart productive conversations with your boss today.
9Show that you value autonomy
As you manage up and become further invested in your manager’s success, ensure that your boss gives you adequate time to focus on your priorities as well. Autonomy will allow you to find solutions to creative problems and keep your skills sharp. If you notice that your manager wants to control your workday, communicate your preferred workflow and explain how some autonomy will help you help them in the long run.
10Proactively problem solve
Your manager will inevitably face problems, but how you approach them can make all the difference. Being a proactive problem solver means anticipating, preventing, and resolving issues before they escalate. Pay attention to what’s happening within the company with internal and external stakeholders and identify potential future problem areas. Then, prepare multiple solutions using techniques like brainstorming, mind mapping, and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analyses to organize your ideas. During your one-on-ones and team meetings, provide your manager with an overview of the issue at hand and the proactive solutions you’ve developed.
How to manage up with Fellow
One of the best additions to our feedback loop has been the company-wide adoption of Fellow. It provides an amazing platform for constant conversations and direct feedback between managers and direct reports.”— Justin Schiefner, VP of People Operations & Culture at Arkose Labs
Fellow is the all-in-one productivity and management tool you need to build great relationships with employees and supervisors, create well-structured agendas, and host meaningful one-on-ones and team sessions.
Fellow simplifies the managing up process by allowing employees to keep track of each interaction with one another. Collaborate on meeting agendas before each meeting to establish meeting priorities and topics for discussion, and take notes during the meeting or use Fellow + AI to stay present and transcribe each interaction. Once the meeting ends, keep an accurate record of all discussions and decisions made in Fellow so everyone remains aligned and follow-ups are clear.
Managing up is no easy feat, but with the right strategies and tools, you can grow professionally and advance in your career. Follow our 10 tips for managing up and watch as you develop a great relationship with your manager, quickly learn the ropes, and become your boss’ go-to person. Before you know it, you could be gearing up for that promotion you’ve been waiting for!