If you think your work should speak for itself, why are so many famous artists unknown until their death? If you want to be known in this lifetime as a master at your craft, you’ll need to learn how to manage up. You’re probably good at letting others know how great your people are or how wonderful your company is to work for. But now’s the time to bump it up a notch and do some work on you.
Every manager, including the CEO, wants to be managed. This became quite evident to me when I was facilitating an executive retreat. The CEO kept telling his people what he needed and most of the people in the room couldn’t process what he was saying until I intervened. I said, “If you take away only one thing from our session, let it be that the CEO has told you that he wants to be managed. Now go manage him!”
Managing up isn’t about brown-nosing, nor is it about becoming the boss’s favorite. It’s about learning how to work within the confines of an organization to get what you need while helping your boss and the organization meet their objectives. It’s about using influence and acting with integrity and purpose. It may seem unnatural to manage those above you in business. But mastering this skill is exactly what you need to do to excel in any organization.
Managing up is a skill that can be developed through practice. It’s a skill that has to be fine tuned on a daily basis. It’s a skill to learn if you’re at all interested in thriving in the world of work. Here’s some advice on how to manage up.
One of the keys to managing up is to not make it apparent you’re doing so. The only way to do this is to be authentic. If a recommendation doesn’t feel right for you, tweak it until it feels like something you can wear daily. Challenge yourself to improve every day and before you know it, you’ll be effortlessly managing up.
Master the game of office politics
Office politics is one game that’s played in every organization. Before you begin writing your letter of resignation, it’s important to understand that politics isn’t just about manipulation. It’s about using power effectively. Have you ever noticed that the people who get promoted usually aren’t the smartest people in the company? They’re the ones who have strong relationships throughout the organization. They have power.
Power is the ability to get things done through other people. They understand the unwritten rules of the workplace, which allows them to quietly maneuver through the organization to obtain scarce resources, get approval of prized projects and receive salary increases, even when salary freezes are in place. Once you learn these unwritten rules, you too will be able to propel your career forward.
Begin by being observant, listening closely and watching the way people who seem to always get what they ask for interact with their bosses and those at the top. When you understand the behavior in your own organization, you’ll be better equipped to create and execute the game plan you’ll need to succeed. You may not like what you see. If that’s the case, you’ll need to determine if the organization is one you can remain with for years to come.
Toot your own horn, so you can be heard in a sea of cubicles
It’s almost impossible to get noticed in today’s workplace, especially when your job is to make sure others are recognized and rewarded for their efforts. There’s a reason why, on every flight, the flight attendant tells the passengers that in the event of loss of cabin pressure, you must put your own oxygen mask on first.
You can’t help others if you’re no longer in a position of power or worse, no longer in the company’s employ. Given the constant changes in corporate life — buyouts, downsizing, bankruptcies — you must excel at keeping more than just your boss informed of your successes, as there’s no guarantee your boss will be there tomorrow. This isn’t so easy in today’s world of texts, emails and voicemails all fighting for attention. Not to mention the plethora of meetings your boss is attending. That’s why your sound needs to be memorable.
I recently took a group of leaders through my Tooting Your Own Horn exercise. I asked everyone to share something exciting about themselves most people didn’t know. The results were amazing. People stood proudly and talked about skills they’d mastered and awards they’d received, including Olympic medals.
Are you your organization’s best kept secret and if so, what are you going to do about that? Casually weave notable stories into your everyday conversations. Don’t have any stories? Vow to make today the day you do something that’s worthy of being noticed. Become a person of interest so you have something to strategically brag about. The ability to effectively develop strong relationships with those next to you and above you is a skill that’ll not only allow you to have a seat at the table, but also to be heard.
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