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Activities Involved in Managing Upwards

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

What is managing upwards?

Let’s begin by considering what the aim of managing upwards is. Essentially, it’s about building the best possible relationship with your manager, with the intention of making both your work lives easier.

How to manage upwards

At its core, managing upwards involves three key activities:

  • Managing yourself effectively
  • Thinking of your manager as your customer
  • Being trustworthy, honest, and reliable at all times

Managing yourself effectively

Generally, what your manager most needs from you is that you do your job well and meet your objectives. By meeting your objectives, you help your manager meet his or hers and this, in turn, makes your manager look good. To meet or even exceed expectations then, means learning to manage yourself so that you can deliver the goods.

Being able to manage your workload is vital. So you need to agree with your manager what you can do. Knowing how to prioritize tasks is a valuable skill. It’s natural for any leader to want to do a good job and be seen as a valued team member or a competent leader. However, don’t fall into the trap of taking on too much. Companies are always under pressure to do more with limited resources. The temptation to say yes to everything and instantly regret it is common. The danger is that you will miss deadlines and not deliver what is expected of you. By trying to do too much, you end up not doing enough. And this can negatively affect your reputation and your standing in your boss's eyes!

Thinking of your manager as your customer

An unusual but effective way to build your working relationship is to think of your manager as a customer of your service, rather than as a commander. If you imagine yourself as being a trader who sells your skills and productivity to the company, then your manager is your prime client. Keeping your manager, the company’s representative, happy with your service is your way to meet your service contract.

You will notice that your feelings about what you are tasked to do are different, from this point of view, than those of an employee being given orders. Managing your client to clarify requirements and agree deliverables is a much more agreeable and evenly balanced relationship than that of boss and subordinate.

Being trustworthy, honest, and reliable

Can your manager trust you? The issue of trust goes beyond just being trusted to get the job done. Being honest and trustworthy means showing confidence in your colleagues. You need to be seen as someone to be relied upon – someone who will “have their back” and support your colleagues when challenges arise.

Think of yourself as an ally to your manager, ready to cooperate and fill in when things need doing. It is common in any working environment for issues or tasks to appear that are not formally part of anyone’s job. Being willing to share in such tasks, or to fill in when colleagues are incapacitated or overloaded, makes your manager’s job easier. You show that, in a spirit of cooperation, you are prepared to take up the slack.

Managing upwards in action

Consider this example. A marketing company produces print leaflets and brochures for many clients. The company is very successful, and, as a result, there are often large queues at its office. One day, Paul, the managing director, casually remarked to Sarah, the office manager, that he was becoming concerned at how long customers were having to wait when they came to collect printing jobs.

Sarah realized that she had become so overworked worrying about the tiny details of running the office team effectively that she’d lost sight of whether the team was actually delivering value to its customers. As a result, she started to delegate some tasks to her more experienced team members. This enabled her to turn her attention to operational matters.

She thought about what Paul said. She realized that as well as satisfying her customers, she had to satisfy her manager. After all, he was her customer too. And he was disappointed because the office was not being run efficiently.

Sarah worked with her team to come up with ideas for ensuring quicker turnaround times for customers. She also consulted some of the customers, doing a small, informal survey among them. She assured the team that her aim was to make the processes more efficient for everyone, the team members and the customers.

Over time, Paul noticed that the queues were moving faster. He complimented Sarah on her efficiency. She explained to him the steps she’d taken to implement his feedback. He was surprised that she’d gone to so much trouble over what he considered to be just a casual remark. Sarah replied that she considered her boss as if he were a customer wishing for better service. So she decided to take steps to work out how she might deliver that. Paul was very impressed by her initiative.

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Kevin J Reid and Bill Phillips

Kevin Reid is CEO of Personal Skills Training, Senior Coach at Kevin J Reid Coaching, Co-founder and Communications Director of The Counsel.ie, and Lead Collaborator of LeitrimMade.com.

  • A consummate and skillful international communications trainer, facilitator, and coach
  • Has over 15 years of learning development experience with individuals, teams, and entire organizations
  • Has facilitated communications workshops and training across numerous sectors in Ireland, the UK, Europe, America, and Africa

In this module, Kevin is the instructor for the ‘The Art of Persuasion’ and ‘Motivating Your Team’ lessons.


Bill Phillips is an International Facilitator, Trainer, and Team Coach.

  • Has successfully coached CEOs, board members, directors, executive teams, and team leaders in public and private companies, NGOs, and UN organizations in 15 countries across four continents
  • Is the creator of Future-basing®, a highly potent process for building strategy, vision, and cooperation
  • Inspires people to build excellent interpersonal relationships and achieve their goals

In this module, Bill is the instructor for the ‘Managing Upwards’ lesson.

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library

You will not be assessed on this content.


    Persuading and Influencing
    Kevin J Reid and Bill Phillips
    Skills Expert

    The ability to persuade and influence others is an important skill that every leader should aim to cultivate. Being able to persuade and influence means that leaders can win people over to their way of thinking, get things done, and achieve results – without having to coerce employees or bribe them into action.

    In this module, you will learn techniques you can use to successfully persuade an audience, such as listening actively to audience members when they speak to you, and being honest and trustworthy in all your communications. You will also discover how to handle any objections you may encounter to your proposals.

    In addition, you will learn the importance of developing a self-motivating team, who don’t always rely on you for direction. You will learn techniques you can use to motivate employees, such as setting goals that they have an interest in and delegating important tasks. You will learn why it’s better to focus on intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, motivation. And you will learn how to recognize the signals that point to a motivated team.

    And it’s not just your employees that you need to concentrate on. It can also be beneficial to manage upwards, and to be able to persuade and influence your boss. Managing upwards involves building the best possible relationship with your boss, with the intention of making both your work lives easier. This module provides tips and techniques to help you do that.