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To effectively manage upwards, you need to be able to understand your boss's perspective. In other words, try to recognize where they are coming from, what demands are on them, and so on. You can then help to make life easier for them.
There are three strategies you can use to do this:
Remember, the very existence of a team or department implies that it takes more than one person to do all of the work. It may also be that the range of expertise, knowledge, and experience required may not reside all in one person. Your manager, however, is the job-holder for all of the team’s work, and everyone’s entire job is only part of the manager’s.
Accepting this puts your role in context, and enables you to keep your thinking and behavior relevant. It is not uncommon for team members to pursue their own beliefs and opinions about what they should be doing, sometimes in isolation from what their bosses need. This can especially happen when they bring expertise that the manager does not have. They may be doing what they genuinely believe is required for the best of reasons. However, it can disrupt the intended flow of activity and create frustration for everyone concerned.
It is not unusual for team members to believe they could do their manager’s job easily. On being promoted to that role, they usually get a shock!
Use your imagination to gain an idea of what it might be like to be your manager. Put yourself in his or her shoes. To do this, you need to pay close attention to your manager and the context in which he or she operates. If your manager doesn’t work in the same physical space as you, this may be more of a challenge. Consider if you were in charge of you and the other people you work with. What would be your biggest challenge? If you can observe or find out about the bigger context in which your manager operates, what might be your biggest challenge there?
The value of this approach is being able to understand something of the pressure your manager may be under at certain times. You can then understand how some of that can leak out to you. Being an ally to your boss is easier when you can volunteer to ease pressure points that are in your power to assist with.
With naturally occurring heavy workloads, it is normal for many workers to focus on their own objectives. As a result, they may not really give too much attention to those of their colleagues or their boss. Finding out about your manager's objectives, and those of your colleagues, widens your own perspective and helps you provide your best service.
Think about your job in terms of who may be your stakeholders. A stakeholder is someone who has an interest in or a two-way connection with you, or who is affected in some way by what you do or fail to do. Taking your manager first, in which parts of your job do you produce or do something specific that is critical for your manager? That is, if you do not provide it to a certain standard or deliver it in the right way at the right time, your manager cannot comply with part of her or his job. There may be more than one item that fits this description. And what specific parts of your work affect your colleagues in similar ways? And are there elements of your work that you cannot do or finish, if someone else fails to provide you with something? If you are a Project Manager, this will be pretty well all of your job!
When you do even this simple stakeholder and task analysis, it can reveal how much your ability to do your job and complete work on time may be dependent on other people. It can also show you which parts of your work most affect your manager’s ability to meet objectives. These may be the parts to work at getting right.
In the middle of a merger, where two marketing departments were being brought together, people were working in newly expanded roles and complaining of unclear objectives. One team leader proposed an idea to her marketing manager. She suggested that each team in their area could prepare a brief map of its stakeholders. It would ask the following question: “What do we output to them that they depend on to do their work effectively?”
Someone would then speak briefly to those stakeholders to determine how they needed to receive the team’s products. She proposed a verbal operation with minimal documentation to keep it brief and simple, and oblige people to meet and get to know one another. Back in the team, adjustments would be proposed and new updated agreements made with stakeholders.
By taking the time to understand what the stakeholders needed, the team leader was able to break down silos between teams and clarify objectives. The effort won accolades in the wider organization for the marketing manager.Back to Top
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.
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.
In this module, Bill is the instructor for the ‘Managing Upwards’ lesson.
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ABOUT THIS DIGITAL MARKETING MODULE
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.