Master the Fine Art of Managing Up

Managing Up

Whether you work in a startup or are working your way up the corporate ladder, to succeed you’ll have to learn the art of managing up.

During a performance review early in my career, my manager told me I was “good at managing up”… and I had no idea what he was talking about. At the time, I was still in school and eager. And instead of asking what he meant, I said “thank you” and asked what I could do to improve my skills.

I had no idea I’d stumbled on the top skill that would open doors of opportunity.

What Does Managing Up Mean?

Managing up means keeping your boss informed, being proactive, and when you discover a problem, coming to the table with a solution or two. Essentially, part of your job is to make your boss’s job… easier. Sounds straightforward right?

Let me give you a couple of tips on how to do this with some style.

Think of managing up as practice for when you become a manager.

Keeping Your Boss Informed

I hate meetings and find email is the biggest timesuck of my day. So I’m always thinking of ways to make these two chores more efficient. If you don’t have a regularly scheduled one-on-one with your boss, schedule them.

My current boss works remotely, so we have a quick 30 minute team sync-up every other day to handle day-to-day issues. The rest of my questions and status are jotted down in Evernote, then I shoot status of hot projects and questions either mid-day, or end of day if it can wait. For a series of related meetings with different groups, I provide one recap. Status of longer-term projects get saved in another Evernote for a one-on-one.

The goal is to send succinct summaries in as few emails as possible.

One suggestion for how to format your email is to put questions at the top, followed by status of projects and open action items. I rearrange the format depending on the urgency of the items.

Be Proactive

You might be thinking, “I don’t have time to be proactive, I’m swamped!” Consider this an exercise in time planning. Review your calendar for the week to see what you or your boss need to prepare for, and put that on a list. During a conference call when you’re a passive participant or when you want to switch gears from a project that is boring you to tears, knock some items off your list.

This little bit of planning will make you feel more prepared than spending that time checking out Facebook or taking selfies for Instagram.

These proactive efforts will help you to help your boss by enabling you to stay on top of your projects. You’ll make your manager’s job easier as they can spend more time managing their own projects, and less time managing you.

If You Got a Problem, Yo I’ll Solve It

If you’re the worker bee, much of the time you’ll be able to identify a problem before it blows up. When you bring up the issue, challenge yourself to create a solution or a workaround. Even if your solution doesn’t get implemented, it could give someone else the idea to what leads to the solution.

You’ll make your manager’s job easier as they can spend more time managing their own projects, and less time managing you.

If you just bring up problems without thinking of how to solve them, how do you think you’ll grow in your current role? Wouldn’t you rather be known to your manager as a doer or a problem solver?

Think of managing up as practice for when you become a manager.

Cheryl Marquez was the co-founder of Hand Things Down which was featured in 2011 as a social good startup in Mashable. By day, she is a marketing chameleon in high tech companies, having held roles in product marketing, social media and community management. Follow her this summer as she takes a break from her day job to learn to write her first app.

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