Why upward management is a skill you should learn now

By James. November 26th, 2010. Posted in Your career 1 Comment »

In the world of Management Consulting, and almost every other industry for that matter, there is a lot of time and energy put into training people in the art of project and people management. New line managers are sent on line management training courses that can last days. Project managers are taught numerous project management techniques from simple time planning right through to accredited methodologies like Prince 2. Even as an IT undergraduate I, like many others, had to take a module entitled Software Project Management to learn how to deliver software projects on time and budget, that’s how important project management is deemed.

What none of these courses and very few firms teach their employees is the art of Upward Management, or in other words; the art of “Managing your manager”.

Whether someone is your line manager, responsible for helping you progress through your career, or your project manager responsible for organising and delivering your current assignment, it is your responsibility to manage them as much as it is theirs to manage you.

Upwardly managing your line manager

When it comes to your line manager you need to help them help you. They probably won’t recommend you for a promotion, pay rise or bonus if they don’t know what you’ve been up to, how you are progressing or where you’d like your career to go. Yes it’s their job to help you get ahead, but it’s also your job to put them in a position to do so.

You need to make sure you communicate with them regularly, let them know when a project you work on has gone well and demonstrate how you personally have added value both to your client and to your firm. You also need to make sure your line manager understands your personal career goals.

Don’t rely solely on your formally arranged management meeting or annual / six monthly reviews. Take the initiative and arrange a fortnightly telephone call or send a regular email. Remember, assignments can be a long way from your home office so you might not be able to just catch them in the corridor.  

Upwardly managing your project / team manager

When it comes to your project or team manager the same rules apply; it’s their job to help you to perform your role in the team, but it’s your responsibility to make it easier for them.

Again communication is key in the art of upward management; make sure they know what you’re working on, make sure they understand your capacity, make sure they know if and when you are going to miss a deliverable in advance and help suggest ways of limiting the damage. Basically, make sure you talk and communicate to your project manager as if they are your client. If you can make their job easier by upwardly managing them you will reap the rewards down the line when the project is a success. Upwardly managing will also help at review time, helping to put a tick in the box for ‘proactive communication’.

Many graduate and new consultants fail to understand the importance of upward management and it can take a few years for them to recognise the technique and then put it into practice. If you can apply the idea to your own managers sooner rather than later, it will help you get ahead of the competition, work on more interesting projects and help move you up the career ladder just that little bit quicker.

This article was written by: James

James is a freelance web consultant and designer living and working in London. He specialises in User Experience and interface design for web sites and applications. Before going freelance James worked for 5 years for a large consultancy firm in London where he helped numerous start ups and large organisations improve their product's design.

James's website

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