The Unbelievable Secret to Success

November 1, 2018

The concept of managing up is foreign to many young professionals.

Whenever I tell a young person they need to manage me, their expressions range from confusion to fear. They would never conceive the idea of managing their boss or the CEO. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? 

Managing up is exactly what the term implies. The employee manages the relationship between his or herself and the boss. They establish the flow of communication and manage the responsibilities dictated by the job.

Managing up is not a commonly-used art form, but it should be. Those who understand how to manage up and do it well will find more success and achieve greater respect. Managing up requires a blend of confidence, knowledge, and hard work. It also requires understanding the personality of those being managed and knowing how they will react in situations. Some executives won’t accept this concept. But if done correctly, many executives may never realize it’s happening.­­­­

I am comfortable with employees managing up. I actually find it appealing. It gives me confidence that those employees I depend upon have their jobs under control. They understand what I expect and consistently work on delivering on those expectations.

Managing up is not easy and requires effort. To be effective, the following is necessary:

Be on top of your job.

Know your job well, better than anyone else. Know what’s possible, and what’s not. Understand the resources required for success. Be aware of the expectations of your manager and your team. To properly manage up, you must be fully engaged in the work, and have a clear understanding of your role.  

Be realistic.

If you can’t do something in the time required, make it known immediately. If you need more resources, request them. If the expectations are un-reachable, communicate this. Don’t fool yourself with false hopes of accomplishments if the right time and resources are not allotted.

Set expectations.

When being managed, time limits, deadlines, and requirements are all dictated to you. In managing up, you have greater control of these expectations. Be comfortable in taking the authority to set the expectations to your manager of what and by when things will be done. 

Deliver on what you promise.

This is the most important element in managing up. Regardless of what you say or do, if you don’t deliver on your commitments, then will you not be taken seriously.  Results, past performance, and credibility demonstrates your ability to manage up.

Managing up is one of the single most significant methods to take control of your daily work. To do it well requires a combination of factors. Know your job, be realistic, set the right expectations, and deliver on commitments are key to appropriately managing your boss. When you successfully manage up, you will find more opportunity in the workplace, and achieve greater satisfaction in your job.


Brian T. King is the founder/owner of multiple businesses encompassing design, construction, real estate and manufacturing. A well-respected construction industry CEO, Brian enjoys offering guidance to young professionals, rising managers and entrepreneurs on a variety of topics – from personal and professional growth, to work/life balance – through his bi-weekly blog, national podcasts, and speaking engagements around the country.

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