Part of our jobs as leaders is to influence. We influence direction, ideas, strategies, people, and execution. We influence our direct reports, our peers, and up to our boss, and other senior leaders. Typically, we shine in one or two of these groups and need some development in working with each other. This blog focuses on influencing or managing “up” with your boss or senior leaders. 

How skilled are you in managing up or influencing up? 

If this is an area you struggle with, you are not alone. People aren’t great at doing this because they don’t know how.

Let’s focus on managing up with your direct boss.

The first step is knowing who they are. Use the following questions as a guide to getting to know your manager: 

  • What is their style (data-driven vs. intuition, micromanaging vs. collaborative, etc.)?  
  • What are their communication preferences (method, frequency)?
  • How open is your manager to feedback? How do they receive it best?
  • What does your manager’s day look like? How do they spend their time?

The second step is knowing your supervisor’s success criteria. You need to understand what is most important to them. Reflect and answer the following questions to understand more about what is important to them: 

  • What is their definition of success? What are their metrics for success? Where did those metrics originate from?
  • What are their priorities?
  • How is your manager’s performance measured? 

Focus on their success

Once you know the answers to those questions, think about your role in their success. Just as your team helps you succeed in your position, you and your team help your direct boss succeed in their role.

You need to know what’s most important to leadership.

  • What things could you do better or differently to help your manager succeed? 
  • Is there anything overwhelming them right now? How can you help address it?
  • What is one thing you can do right now that will make their job easier?

The answers to these questions will guide you as you work to manage up effectively.

You might find they are as simple as:

  • Communicating more concisely
  • Offering solutions to the issues you present to your manager
  • Make sure your manager isn’t surprised by the problems you have encountered
  • Showing your thought process when you disagree with their idea 

Managing up is an important skill to learn and continually refine as you work with various leaders. Staying aligned with your manager or the leader’s priorities and goals will help you stay on top of it.