Can You Manage Up and Still be a Great Manager?

Posted on May 29, 2012.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t believe xxx got promoted. I couldn’t stand working for him. He spent all his time managing up”.   Is it possible to be a great boss and still shine in the eyes of the powers that be?

It’s not easy.  This is especially true in larger corporations where what’s best for the company is not always best for the individual or the team. Admittedly, this wasn’t something that came easily to me, but I learned a couple of tips along the way,

  1. Learn to filter the message.  Delivering the corporate talking points without thinking about the impact to the listener is being lazy.  You need to communicate the message, but think about what will be heard.  Can you provide assurances if the message is bad news? Can you highlight the upside of a new product you know no one really has time to produce or sell?  Have you thought about whether the message should be delivered as a group or one-on one? By being thoughtful about how you communicate the message and insuring your team really buys into  it will satisfy both your team and your boss.
  2. Communicate the accomplishments of the team. It is important to make sure your boss is kept informed of what you’re doing. We talked about this in our managing up blog. But you don’t need to steal the glory of your team’s hard work to look good.  By highlighting the accomplishments of your team, you’ve managed to inform your boss of what’s going on, recognized the individual’s work and made yourself look good.  Give your boss some credit for realizing that when your team wins- you win.

We all know people that get ahead and don’t look back.  It’s certainly an easier path to take. But I’d like to think that most of us would like to get ahead and still be respected as great managers and leaders.  It is possible to do both.