I had just finished delivering my depressing weekly update verbally to my boss. Things were not looking good. And then he said, “Don’t come in here and tell me how f#@&ed up everything is, tell me how we are going to fix it.”
Those immortal words, from one of my early bosses, have stayed with me forever. It was great advice. He went on to tell me that there are two things leaders don’t want to hear from their people: Problems and Surprises.
Leaders want their people to manage things for them and that means being ahead of things and if problems arise, being able to define what the problem is, present some alternative solution and recommend the one they believe is optimal.
So many times we just deliver bad news to the boss and then stand back expecting pearls of wisdom and instructions on what to do. But that means we are not contributing or managing, we are just waiting to be told what to do.
So I developed a few practices that were effective in better managing up than I had been and I ended up passing these on to people I mentored. Here are the 4 things that make managing up simple.
1.Ensure bad news is delivered fast
Don’t put off delivering news that is bad. The longer you wait, the worse the problem may get and worse still, there is a bigger chance they will hear it from someone else with a different spin. Get ahead of it and have recommendations.
2. Understand their objectives
What matters to them? If we don’t understand what’s important then we can’t deliver what’s key for them. What is it we can deliver that will make them look good with their boss?
3. Manage Expectations
So many problems arise because there is a lack of understanding about what both parties thought should be delivered. Make sure you agree on what you are accountable for. Job Descriptions are not always the best source for this.
4. Decide on Measures
It is in both of your interests to have data points on which to measure your performance. These can be in units, dollar amounts and goals to be accomplished by certain dates. But these should be discussed and mutually agreed and reviewed regularly.
Effective managing up is really just about “communicating up”. It’s ensuring there are no surprises and that your boss is forearmed and forwarned.
Sucking up is not recommended! It’s transparent and is very short term. A good boss/employee relationship is like all great relationships built on trust and respect, and therefore has to be earned, on both sides.
These 4 principles helped me and I hope will help you too.
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Peter M. Beaumont is a Management Consultant and Owner of ConnXN and works for Pivotal Advisors. He is the author of The Relationship Roadmap and is a customer relationship mentor who helps those responsible for their stellar clients protect and grow their business. See more at www.ConnXN.net