Posted on February 28th, 2011 in - Rob Zell, Communication, Leadership, Management, Reporting | No Comments »
By Rob Zell
You are about to enter a dimension that is very real and demands performance; a dimension in which you are an engaged employee, looking to get ahead and improve your career. You have a boss or you have clients (and let’s face it, they are your boss). You have people who work for you, directly or indirectly. You have entered: The Workplace Zone.
In this serial drama that unfolds everyday, in offices all across the globe, employees find themselves in a position that requires that they manage up. For some, the phrase “manage up” is synonymous with “suck up.” This couldn’t be more false. Not to say that there aren’t those who behave that way and managers who reinforce the behavior. Let’s set aside that bad behavior and focus on the correct behavior that will help make you and your boss more successful.
How’s that for ambiguous? We would all like to communicate better; the trick is to define what that means. Here some simple things you can do in order to make that happen.
- Communicate frequently. Make sure your boss is up to date and that there are no surprises. No one likes to be surprised in the workplace and this goes double for your boss. Make sure your boss is prepared to speak to any issues, deliverables, milestones and success stories so that when her boss asks, she can respond quickly and with confidence. How often should you be communicating? This is something you and your boss will need to determine together. The schedule will likely be based on her comfort with your skills, how high profile the project is, how demanding her boss is and any number of other factors. It may also depend on the task itself.
- Adapt your communication style. How does your boss prefer to get updates? On paper, by email, or face to face? Does he prefer bullet points or narratives? Does he like to brainstorm in the moment, or does he just want the facts? Does he want to know what your “gut” says, or does he want all the data? Having a sense of your boss’ communication style will go a long way to helping you adapt your message to the receiver. You should also consider any generational differences. As a Gen X or Millennial employee, you might be most comfortable with email, while your Boomer boss might prefer a sit down meeting over coffee to review your information.
- Lead with solutions. No boss wants to have employees who drop off problems. In fact, nothing could be more frustrating and stressful. So take a load off your boss, by leading with the solution to the issue you are facing. Start the conversation with your normal updates, and then let her know why you have changed the plan. Inform her of the obstacles that you are having and why the solution is a good fit. Then listen as your boss responds and provide feedback.
- Listen more. Often your boss is providing clues during meetings about what is important and how to align work and priorities to strategy. Pay attention to these clues and ask clarifying questions to help your boss clearly communicate to you and the team the direction in which you should be heading.
If we go back to the setting of our workplace drama and try these behaviors on your boss you will find that you get better results and so does he. Consider this as well: how many of these skills apply to the people you manage? How much better would your team perform if you:
- Provided more frequent communication so that your people were in the know and could respond to issues faced by the whole team?
- Adapted your communication style to the way they prefer so they could easily assimilate information?
- Encouraged your team to lead with solutions, to solve problems on their own?
- Listened more to what they had to say so you were well apprised of issues and concerns facing the team?
Perfecting a few communication skills will go a long way in helping you manage up and down in your organization.
What do you think? What are some of your best practices for managing up in…The Workplace Zone?