Master the Art of the Update
Worked for some interesting characters during your career? Yeah, me too!
By now you’ve experienced some really great bosses and some really not-great bosses.
Learning to “manage up” will give you more control over your work experience, regardless which category your current boss might fall into.
One crucial key to managing up is to make sure your boss feels properly filled in. Here are just a few of the benefits you’ll experience once you master the art of the update.
- Your boss can help ensure the work you’re doing is aligned with the overall goals and objectives of the organization.
- You’ll demonstrate your commitment to being accountable.
- Your transparency can build their trust and confidence in you.
- You’ll improve collaboration, because your boss will know exactly what resources or assistance to provide, and when.
- Your boss will be able make informed decisions, to better allocate resources and prioritize tasks.
- Initiating the updates will keep you visible to your boss – even more important these days as it’s less common to do our work in the same physical location.
Not all updates are created equal. To make the most of yours, consider these helpful Dos and Don’ts.
- DO identify and share your objectives for the conversation.
- DON’T provide too much information. Your boss rarely needs all the details.
- DO think through what’s relevant to your boss, then focus on the key points that directly impact their decision-making or understanding of your work.
- DON’T be unclear or skip the context. Misunderstandings or confusion take up extra time at best, and cause errors or mistakes at worst.
- DO organize your thoughts so your update will be clear, concise, well-structured, and easy to understand. Provide context when needed – enough background information for understanding, how your work is connected to broader goals, etc.
- DON’T be inconsistent or irregular in your timing. This can create a perception that you’re not organized, not reliable, or lack commitment.
- DO set a regular schedule and stick to it, making sure your boss receives timely and consistent information about your progress and any significant developments.
- DON’T avoid feedback or guidance. Keeping your boss informed should not be a one-way communication.
- DO actively engage with your boss. Ask for their input or suggestions and be open to their guidance or expertise when appropriate.
If you’ve been around the block more than once, you’ll also have noticed that not all bosses are alike! Another big DO is to tailor your approach based on their style.
Analytical – The boss who values data and facts
You’ll want your updates to include:
- Well-researched information and data-driven insights
- Concrete examples, statistics, and metrics
- Logical arguments
- Emphasis on the impact or results of your work
Big Picture – The boss who is looking for the broader context and strategic implications
Be sure to:
- Connect your updates to organizational goals and objectives
- Provide a high-level overview
- Emphasize the overall impact or value of your progress or accomplishments
Detail-Oriented – The boss who wants more comprehensive and specific information
You’ll save everyone time if you make sure your updates:
- Are accurate and precise
- Anticipate and address potential questions or concerns
- Include relevant details, timelines, and specific actions or steps taken
Time-Conscious – The boss who appreciates efficiency and concise communication
To meet their needs (and get their attention!), focus on updates that:
- Are brief and focused
- Prioritize information and outcomes by importance
- Include bullet points or summaries to present key points quickly
Collaborative – The boss who values collaboration
Engage them in the process by:
- Seeking their input, suggestions, or feedback
- Inviting discussions or brainstorming sessions
- Incorporating their ideas or insights into your updates
- Demonstrating your willingness to work together towards shared goals
You can read more about “Managing up” (and especially the courage sometimes required) here.