“Managing Up”

Communication and trust, self-management and COURAGE

Have you ever thought about “managing up?”

The premise is that you can influence and impact your relationship with your boss, in a good way. And since your boss has more of an impact on your work experience than just about anything else, why wouldn’t you want to?

There are lots of tips out there on how to do it, and after 30+ years as an HR executive (who worked for some pretty interesting bosses!) I have my own strong opinions on what works and what doesn’t. Maybe I’ll write those all down someday.

For today, I’m noodling on the huge role courage plays in the “managing up” process.

Any great relationship comes down to communication and trust, with each party owning 50% of the responsibility. If it’s going to be a great relationship, some of the time you – the “subordinate” – are going to have to be the one to initiate difficult conversations. Talk about needing courage!

(If you missed my message about courageous conversations, you can catch up here.)

The ability to have effective courageous conversations requires some serious self-management chops.

It’s easy to lash out, play the victim or martyr role, complain or talk negatively when things aren’t going well. It takes courage to:

  • See the situation from the other’s perspective
  • Own up to your strengths and weaknesses
  • Listen to tough feedback and respond constructively
  • State your ideas and suggestions in a positive manner

It’s easy to storm away from a negative situation. It takes courage to:

  • Understand your own emotions so you’ll recognize when you’re angry or upset
  • Step away from the situation then and come back when you’re able to approach it more objectively

It’s easy to blame your manager when you’re not getting what you need, or your career goals aren’t being met. It takes courage to:

  • Know and own what’s important to you, both in your current role and in the long game
  • Be willing to communicate about those things, to ask for what you want or need

It’s easy to act like you’re confident even when you’re not. It takes courage to:

  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Experiment in the relationship and talk about it when it doesn’t go as you’d hoped
  • Show your vulnerability

Attempts to manage up don’t always work out. But you will learn and grow in the process.

The effort is worth it. At worst you’ll eventually learn that you need to find a different boss. At best, you can have a great relationship that makes every day you work better, more fun, and more meaningful.

Lorri Anderson

Lorri Anderson

Lorri Anderson is an expert consultant to businesses and a powerful coach to individuals. After a long and rich career as a strategic HR executive, she is driven to give back by changing the Human Experience in today’s workplaces, one business or human at a time.

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