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How to "Manage Up"

The ability to manage up is the most important skill to develop early in your career. Those who learn to manage up effectively are those who get the quick promotions, the interesting assignments, and the compounding growth that comes along with each of these.

Here's the convenient secret about managing up: it's the same as managing down. Building these skills early will serve you throughout your career. Below are six key building blocks to managing - up or down.

(1) Build relationships

Build a genuine relationship with your boss. Do not treat them like a boss, treat them like a person. Ask them questions: learn what motivates them, what their goals are, what problems are in the way, and how you can help contribute to the solution. Give curiosity and empathy, even if you feel that you get none in return; it is a long-term investment.

(2) Choose positivity

People are drawn to positivity like moths to a light. There's plenty of reasons to be negative, particularly at work, so making positivity a conscious choice is more difficult and more valuable. Recognize that positivity is not the absence of negativity, it is the presence of hope. Give appreciation and encouragement; they are a renewable source of energy.

(3) Take responsibility

Your career is your career. Act as if it is your responsibility alone to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Notice when you're pointing the finger at others and redirect it back to yourself. When conflict arises, ask what role you play in the problem and how you can contribute to its solution. Your boss doesn't give you helpful feedback? It's your responsibility to pull it out of them. And remember too: you are responsible for your mental health and for knowing your limits.

(4) Be proactive

You are full of ideas. Act on them. The actions that you take will propel you forward, the actions that you do not take will hold you back. Remember that the opposite of success is not failure - success and failure exist together in the arena of action. The opposite of success is apathy or hopelessness. Measure yourself not on the outcome, but on the sincerity and quality of your actions. Ask a simple question: am I proud of my acts today?

(5) Carve your own path

No two people are the same; no two careers are the same. The things that make you different (often what you try to hide) are the things that make you great. Resist the urges to conform and to define success through the lives of others. Discover your own values and take a stand for them. When you are confused by strategy or decision making, ask questions and drive for clarity and mutual understanding. You will find the vast majority of colleagues, including your superiors, admire the courage this takes. The only person to prove yourself to is you.

(6) Put the team first

You have made a choice to be on a team; own this choice (see #3). The team provides you with support, with compensation + benefits, and with identity. In return, you have an obligation to commit yourself to the team. Two common ways people put themselves before the team: complaining and gossiping. Both of these actions elevate the self and suck energy from the team. Putting the team first means transparency, listening, and defending from threats.

Which of the 6 areas do you struggle with, and how can you practice improving?

The article above is derived from "The Art of Managing Up", one of our hands-on workshops that empowers your emerging people leaders. Reach out to for more details.


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