Improve Your Relationship With Your Boss

Managing up is a crucial part of your ability to be successful, both as an employee and as a manager.  The quality of your relationship with your boss (and your grand-boss, and your great-grand-boss, etc.) can dramatically affect the level of support and resources your team has to do its work.  The key in managing up is not that you act inauthentic or manipulative in order to get your boss to do something.  It's really about being strategic and understanding what your boss's priorities, strengths, and preferences are so that you can adapt your own priorities, strengths, and preferences accordingly.  

A great analogy is to think of your boss as a client, and you and your team as a freelance project team.  It wouldn't be "brown-nosing" to understand what the client is trying to achieve and finding ways to adapt your planned approach to their idiosyncrasies.  Likewise, it isn't sucking up to adapt to your boss - it's just smart business.  Here are some tips to make the most of this important relationship.

Find Ways to Delight Your Customers Without Breaking Any Rules or Budgets

Let's face it: leading a small team within a large and not-so-nimble organization can be really demoralizing sometimes.  You may see clearly how certain changes or additional resources could make a huge difference, but it takes so much time and effort to make those things happen that it hardly seems worth it.  It can also be difficult to keep your team motivated and engaged if there are frustrating bureaucratic issues hindering them from doing their best work.  
Rather than throw up your hands, though, you can take this as an opportunity to be slightly rebellious and make changes that improve the work environment just a bit, and also increase your customers' satisfaction.  

How to Deal with a Difficult Boss

Being a manager is hard enough, and it is exponentially harder when you have a boss who isn't great.  "Bad" bosses can range from the mild, "really nice but never available for guidance" to the typical "doesn't specify how things should be done until they're already complete... the apparently wrong way" to the painful "yells as primary mode of communication.  Some are definitely more challenging to deal with than others, but regardless of your boss's particular style, you'll need a strategy for dealing effectively with him or her if you want to be effective in managing your own team.

How to Talk with Your Boss About Your Team's Work

Does your boss keep signing your team up for projects without checking with you first?  Does he or she seem to think that there is excess capacity on your team, and new requests and projects should be completed right away?  If so, you may not be communicating crucial information upward, and you risk overloading your team if you don't find a better way to "manage up."  As much as everyone hates putting together status reports, they are key to making sure that your boss fully appreciates your team's work, that you are prioritizing the work correctly, and that everyone in your reporting chain can see the complete picture.

A Fun, Fast Technique for Process Improvement and Better Customer Service

Whether your customers are external or internal, there are probably ways to improve how your team serves them.  However, it's easy to get stuck in "the way we've always done it," and it can be overwhelming to try and come up with new approaches when you're barely keeping your heads above water in your daily work.  This activity, which comes from a design thinking workshop, is a quick and fun way to identify potential areas to start with in improving your customer experience.

When the Going Gets Rough, Who Can You Call?

It's true: success in business really is about who you know.  As a manager, your relationships within and outside of your organization are a key component of your success.  Before you spend too much of your limited time figuring out how to schmooze all those senior VPs, you might want to think about establishing relationships with people much lower on the totem pole, even lower than you.  The following is a simple process you can use to establish relationships with key people, well before you need them.

Management Tool: Guide for Getting to Know Your Stakeholders

One of your many tasks as a new manager is to get a good understanding of the context in which you are operating, who the key players are, and what they expect from you.  Some of this will happen naturally over time, but you can accelerate the process by taking a systematic approach.  This guide gives you a framework for identifying who your stakeholders are, gathering information from them in a friendly and informal way, and developing an action plan to ensure that you're meeting the expectations of the people who have the most influence on your career success. 

How to Ask Your Boss for Management Advice

One of the isolating aspects of becoming a manager is that you feel like you can't ask for help without looking like you aren't qualified to be a manager.  Too many managers just struggle alone because they are used to being successful and don't want their boss to question the wisdom of hiring/promoting them into this management role.  

There's a way to approach your boss that will make you look, not just not incompetent but actually quite capable, and will probably leave your boss feeling like they're smarter than they realized, too.  The key is to do your homework before you go to your boss so that you can have a focused conversation. You probably did this all the time with technical problems when you were an individual contributor.  It's the same idea.