Everyone knows the importance of being a good manager and empowering your team. However, the other side of the coin is often overlooked – how to manage your managers or “manage up.” Managing up centers around setting expectations so you and your managers are on the same page. Managing up in a lot of ways is just as important as managing your team.
This article will provide the definition of managing up, examples of what managing up looks like in consulting practices, and an overview of how to manage up.
Managing Up Definition
What is the definition of managing up? Managing up is the process of “managing your boss.” During a typical day at work, you will have a lot of stakeholders to manage and keep happy. One of the most important stakeholders is your boss/manager. Managing up means the ability to keep your boss abreast of your progress and keep your manager’s expectations “in check.” For example, if you are managing up effectively, your boss will be informed on:
- Your progress
- When your deliverables will be finished
- Your roadblocks
One of the big tenets of managing up is ensuring your boss has no surprises at the end of the day.
Managing Up Versus Managing Down
While managing up refers to keeping your boss aware of your progress, managing down regards to managing and empowering your team. For example, you can make sure your team is progressing well and help them problem solve and answer specific questions.
Example of Managing Up
Some examples of managing up include:
- Having weekly progress update sessions or sending a weekly progress update to your manager.
- Letting your manager know ASAP if there is an expected delay in your work; problem solving with your manager about how to address and remediate the cause of the delay.
- Asking your manager to help clear a roadblock quickly soon after the roadblock appears.
Ultimately, the examples of managing up enable you to never catch your manager off guard. There is a saying in business that the worst thing a manager would want is a surprise.
Benefits of Managing Up
- You are able to more effectively manage expectations of all parties (e.g., your manager; your manager’s manager).
- Your manager may be able to help you problem solve a particular issue and can help you clear roadblocks (e.g., in a consulting setting, your manager may be able to help you expedite a data request, if you are not getting any data from your client counterpart).
- You can develop a more trusting relationship with your manager, as they view you as open, honest, and dependable.
How to Manage Up
Let’s answer the “how do I manage up?” question. To manage up effectively, it is helpful to send regular status updates to your manager. The frequency of these updates may differ based on the context. For example, in consulting, the status updates may be daily.
In addition, it is important to go in with a mindset of being open and honest, even if the news you are delivering is not good news.
Why Managing Up Could be Bad
Some people may say managing up can be bad. Reasons why people may think managing up is bad include:
- Managing up can take time.
- Managing up can require you to be vulnerable and admit mistakes / issues.
- Managing up can require you to be hypervigilant and organized in terms of setting regular catch-up cadence with your managers.
However, this is missing the bigger picture that managing up is a critical skill for a team to run effectively.
Is Managing Up Used in Consulting Firms?
Managing up is a tactic commonly used in consulting firms. Taking a step back, consulting is a fast-paced environment where you need to keep your client happy. To keep the client happy, it is important for the engagement managers, principals, and partners to manage expectations effectively. In order to do that, all members of the team must manage up and set expectations across the ladder.
For example, assume you are working with a client’s C-suite, and you and the team need to finish a pricing analysis. However, there is a one-week delay in completing the pricing analysis given the junior analysts have not yet given the data to the consulting team. If you are not managing up effectively, the partner may mistakenly tell the manager that everything is on track. Further, the partner may not escalate the roadblock and help the team get the data.
Managing up is a critical skill that enables you and your managers to truly be a team and be on the same page. In addition, it allows you to more effectively problem solve any roadblocks you may be facing. Ultimately, managing up eliminates any surprises. While some may view managing up as a waste of time, the benefits ultimately outweigh the risks. If you want to go into consulting, managing up is a critical skill you will need to master.
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