Managing Up

1282550889 I routinely receive updates from a firm called Leadership IQ. I’m not sure how I got on their list, but every now and then, one of their topics strike a chord.

The other day, Leadership IQ sent an invitation for a webinar entitled, ‘Managing Up.’  

The invite explained that Managing Up  ‘…is about understanding our bosses’ strengths, weaknesses (I have none, BTW), goals, styles, and needs so that we can make them, and us, amazingly successful.’ Talk about a pronoun-heavy promise. Wow.

I’m a tad skeptical that one, 60-minute webinar can help us:

–      Understand the four communication styles bosses use (I doubt I use any style at all. I’m a clumsy boss.).

–      The eight questions you should always ask when your boss gives you an assignment (What boss has the time to sit still and answer eight, separate questions about an assignment?)

–      Three steps to deliver bad news to your boss (I prefer one, very short step: “Steve, I have bad news.”).

In my century-long career, I’ve worked for many types of bosses. Some screamed. Some spoke in Byzantine code words known only to them. Others never explained a damn thing about an assignment. And one did everything possible to undermine my success (There were no tips for dealing with that monstrosity).

Some of the stars at Peppercomm have really learned how to manage me.

Ted Birkhahn, our president, figured it out when he was a lowly junior account executive about three decades back. He knew I didn’t like to manage in a vacuum (I need to know what’s what). But, he also knew I didn’t like information overload. So, Ted quickly learned to tell me only what I needed to know when I needed to know it. It was a classic example of managing up.

The problem with a quick fix, 60-minute seminar is obvious: every boss in every workplace is completely different. Think snowflakes. The tactics I employed to manage my screaming boss were dramatically different than the approach I took with the one who spoke in foreign tongues.

I’m a huge believer in lifelong learning, but I can save you 60 minutes right now. If you want to learn how to manage your boss, study her style. Ask peers who have worked with her for advice. And, learn from your mistakes. Eight generic tips here, and three there, are actually an invitation to disaster.

Listening is the only way to go. Listen to what your boss says, and read what he writes. He’ll give you very clear clues on the best ways to manage him.

And if he doesn’t, you can always download the Leadership IQ webinar from their website.



5 thoughts on “Managing Up

  1. Pingback: Account Supervisor: Succeeding In A Crucial Role - Ken's Views- Ken's Views

  2. Good points Steve. I especially like, “Remember your boss is unique, just like everybody else.”
    Someone once gave me some sage advice about getting a job. They told me to remember that a person or a company only has three reasons that they’ll hire you:

    1. To make them money
    2. To save them money
    3. To make them look good

    When managing your boss, I think the same three criteria apply. The order is the only thing that changes.


  3. Last year, our friend Ken Jacobs spoke to us about Managing Up. We discussed understanding your manager’s leadership style, anticipating their needs and overachieving expectation. I found it’s all about listening and properly interpreting your manager’s instruction. While insightful for some, it’s instinctual for others.