Managing up: the practice of helping your supervisor succeed in his or her role, much like they help you in yours. 

Believe it or not, it’s not always clear to employees why it’s so important they manage up. In reality, it’s a huge factor of success, but the practice has probably been made fun of so much that many are afraid of being called names like “brown-noser” or worse. If you want to be successful in moving up, there’s one thing you will have to come to grips with: You won’t move up without standing out from your peer group. If you are worried about standing out, forget about being promoted — you’ll leave your opportunities to chance and your number may never come up.

One important thing to consider is that you and your direct supervisor are mutually dependent on each other. They need your help and cooperation to succeed, and you need their support and guidance to do your job effectively.

If you are not concerned about nonsense perceptions and are serious about your career, here are questions you should ask yourself. Your answers will help you to be outstanding, to develop yourself into a valuable resource, and, yes, to move on up the ladder of success.


How does your manager define success in his or her role?

This is critical for you to know. How can you be a valuable resource if you don’t know what your supervisor is trying to personally achieve? You cannot. You must know the answer to this critical question so you can align yourself with their goals and initiatives and then support those as best you can. Your manager should know you’re a team player who is working hard to help them achieve their goals and dreams.


What is your manager’s communication style?

Before we learn how to better communicate with others, we often communicate in the same way we like to be communicated with. We don’t consider how others may wish to receive communication; we just think that everyone must be like us, right? Wrong. Your manager has a preferred way to both communicate and be communicated with, and you must discover this style. Do they like a lot of explanation and details, or would they rather have bullet points? That’s just one example. You need this information in order to achieve the best pipeline of exchange between you and your manager.


What is your manager’s tolerance for risk and change?

Why is this important? Because, as someone who is helping them achieve success, you will be providing suggestions and ideas. If your manager has a low risk tolerance, you don’t want to suggest something terribly risky. You will be seen as reckless and unreliable. However, if your manager has a penchant for risk and change, you don’t want to be seen as playing it too safe or being too predictable.


How does your manager make decisions?

This is a great opportunity for you to step up and be a real resource. There will be times when your manager is stuck on a decision, and you might be able to take the whole issue off their plate. If so, it’s a home run for you! If you can take something that contributes to their stress and relieve them of it, you become a star immediately. If you know their communication style, you can talk with them through some possible impacts of various options. You can also recommend people for them to talk to who have experience or knowledge in that area. If you know how they tend to make decisions, you can be a winner in this situation.


What five things does your manager expect from you?

This is the gold mine. Having clarity on the expectations and outcomes for your role is crucial. (This is also a good time to explore some of my questions earlier in the article.) You need to know what results you’re expected to produce before you can overachieve. In order to do that, you need to know what you can do well. After all, nobody can do 50 things well. In baseball, it’s rare to find a player with a five-tool skill set — players who can throw well, run well, field well, hit for average, and hit for power. These players are superstars in baseball. What can you do to be a superstar for your manager?


Tony Richards is the founder of Clear Vision Development Group.

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