Managing Upwards

by Ian Saunders

In a nutshell

1. What is managing upwards?

  • Doing whatever is feasible to get the relationship that you want with your boss.
  • Focusing your managerial skills upwards as well as sideways and downwards.


2. Why bother?

  • It helps to provide the freedom to do a good job in the way that you want.
  • It matters because bosses usually have more power and influence than you.
  • If you are experiencing problems with your boss, perhaps it’s because you aren’t making sufficient effort to manage them? Do you know enough about their style or needs?


3. How does your boss differ from you?

Understanding differences is more important than recognising similarities. If you are able to identify differences and take action to make the best of them, you will go a long way towards getting an effective relationship with your boss.

  • Is your boss more inclined to ask or to tell?
  • Does your boss channel emotions inwards or outwards?
  • What about you?


4. Do you really know your boss?

  • More ideas for getting to know and understand your boss.
  • Some simple questions that you should be able to answer.
  • Johari’s window offers a model for sharing information and giving feedback.


5. Supporting your boss

  • What are your boss’ accountabilities?
  • How well do you support your boss?
  • Do you know what keeps your boss awake at night?
  • What might be the benefits of supporting them more?


6. Getting alignment with your boss

It is very important to be pointing in the same direction as your boss. If you do not, then problems are almost inevitable. You need to minimise major differences, be clear about when you disagree, and about the possible consequences and how you can get around them.

  • What are the differences in personal style?
  • Differences in role, responsibilities and objectives?
  • Differences in personal aspirations?


7. What about your boss’ boss?

Considering your boss’ boss is a part of the 25 per cent of your time that you will benefit from spending on managing upwards.

  • Talk to your boss’ boss
  • Help your boss support their boss


8. Managing upwards across the organisation

You can impact the whole of your organisation by managing upwards effectively.

  • How good are your influencing skills?
  • Do you understand your boss’ power base and know who his allies are?
  • Do you understand the politics of your organisation?
  • Do you know how to practise positive politics?


9. Encourage your staff to manage you

  • Do you allow enough time for your staff to find out about and understand you?
  • Do you share and listen enough?