Monday, August 1, 2016

Managing Up

No matter what your profession or what your role is in your company you alone are not going to be able to achieve everything you want or need to without the help of those who are higher on the corporate ladder than you. In the course of your career you're going to need the buy in, sign-off, and/or advocacy of your superiors to fully accomplish your goals. As such, managing up is a key skill to learn to be effective.

Here are some tips to help you be more effective when managing up.

Know what you're audience values

You're more likely to achieve your goals if they are aligned with the goals of those you need buy-in, sign-off, or advocacy from. So the first step in managing up is actually understanding the goals of your superior. Understanding their goals will help you understand how to motivate them to help you accomplish your goals. In trying to understand their goals try to find the answers to the following (in no particular order):
  1. What are their near, mid, and long term plans for their customers?
  2. What are the current challenges they are facing?
  3. What role does your team or project play in their plans?
  4. What trade-offs have they recently had to make?
  5. What are the outside influences to their plans?
  6. What defines success for them?
Be willing to change how you accomplish your larger goals

It's important to understand where your goals align and share commonalities and where your goals are at odds. When your goals are at odds you need to decide if (1) your goal is really crucial to your overall plan or success or (2) your goal is merely a stepping stone that can be achieved in another way which is more inline with the other persons goals.

Help to connect the dots between your goals and their goals

When your goals are complementary you need to bring that to the attention of the other person. Help them draw the lines and see the connections between your two goals. Help them understand that by helping you achieve your goal that they are really moving towards achieving their own goal.

Give options

Decisions are not often black and white. There are usually compromises and/or concessions that can be made that allow you to both deliver enough of what you are trying to accomplish to make it worth while. This is often done by providing options and their various outcomes to your superior. When doing this you want to be clear about what the concessions are and what they are getting and not getting with each option. The main goal is empowering your superior to help you.

Don't just come to a superior with a problem, come with a problem and the various possible solutions and their outcomes.

Make a recommendation that is backed by data

You need to have data that backs up the various options and their outcomes you are laying out. Hard data allows you to help them approach the problem more objectively. This is especially important when what your managing up is not something the person current envisions or thinks they want. It's important to make sure the data your bring is focused on outcomes. Good data speaks to the effects things are going to have on future projects, road maps, moral and attrition, return on investment and opportunity loss costs.

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