managing up: engaging your supervisor in productive ways

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Presentation by Jennifer Gould & Joshua Hettrick, Westfield State University Presented at a NEACUHO Conference


  • 1. Managing Up:Engaging your supervisorin productive waysPresented by: Jennifer Gould, M.B.A.Joshua Hettrick, Ed.D.NEACUHO Fall Drive-In, October 5, 2012

2. Managing UpManaging up is the process of consciously working withyour boss to obtain the best possible results for you, yourboss, and your organization. This is not a politicalmaneuver or kissing up. Rather it is a deliberate effort tobring understanding and cooperation to a relationshipbetween individuals who often have different perspectives.~Thomas Zuber & Erica James 3. Isnt this manipulation? No! Its a way to create a win-win-win situation (thepeople, the organization and the project at hand!). Failure to manage the boss can result inmisunderstandings and wasted time and effort. Dont forget to manage down as well-only managing theboss and paying no attention to the staff team can resultin looking a little bit like a suck-up! (And none of uswant that!) 4. Things to consider when Managing Up Communication Understand your supervisors preferences No surprises Understand your own Providing solutions, not management styleproblems Be aware of your boss Be honest and strengths andtrustworthy weaknesses Be loyal and committed Know the hot buttons Understand your boss Request Feedbackperspective and agenda Dont go over your boss head 5. Communicate You know this is a two-way street! Good communication skills are the basis for success inalmost every situation. Brush up all of the skills-verbal and written (and knowwhich way your supervisor likes to get things). Readers will prefer notes or emails before hearing you say things to give them time to digest Listeners often need to hear the information before consuming the written version If you want to be heard, make it easy by using yoursupervisors preferred method Ask questions to understand wants and decisions 6. No Surprises! No, not even the good ones. Those can backfire on youtoo! Keep your supervisor in the loop regularly about what isgoing on with specific projects and the staff team Stop by the office daily Send regular email updates if you cant connect in person Use your scheduled one-on-ones and office hourseffectively to discuss important issues 7. Provide Solutions, Not Problems Yes, problems will happen, they always do When letting your supervisor know about somethingthats gone wrong, be ready to propose at least 2-3solutions to go with it Its okay to push an issue-some of us like to avoidproblems, but theyll need to be confronted in the end,so help with that. 8. Be Honest and Trustworthy Things that will hurt you: dishonesty, covering upproblems or failures, sweeping issues under the rug The truth will come out eventually, and unlike a finewine, it doesnt get any better with age! Maintain your honesty and dependability by honoringyour commitments, project schedules and constraints 9. Be Loyal and Committed Loyalty and commitment shows support This extends beyond your supervisorthink about yourhall staff, maintenance staff, central staff, etc If you dont demonstrate these things to a boss, dontexpect them in return (not a good place to be!) 10. Understand your BosssPerspective and Agenda Put yourself in his shoes and align your priorities Many people think they understand the bosss goals andpressures, but dont always understand strengths,weaknesses, aspirations or work styles, or theconstraints they are under Explore these things to help identify commonalities andgain insight on how to better interact effectively 11. Understand your SupervisorsPreferences and try to conform to them! Does your supervisor want a daily update? To get the bigpicture and not the details? Use tact when suggesting different methods forcompleting tasks Dont assume you know what your boss wants-askquestions if youre unsure to clarify his/her needs andexpectations Dont set standards for yourself that you cantconsistently meet 12. Understand your ownmanagement style and take responsibility for its effect on others Recognize your own strengths, weaknesses, goals andpersonal needs; how you respond to being managed;how others respond to you Know the effect you have on others and how they reactto you (especially your staff) 13. Be Aware of your BosssStrengths and Weaknesses Use your bosss strengths to your advantage! Go to yoursupervisor for his/her expertise. Compensate for the weaknesses. Nobody is good at everything-provide support in those areas Chances are you wont be great and terrible at all of thesame things, so find ways to work as a team to getthings achieved 14. Know the Hot Buttons What are your supervisors triggers and pet peeves? Find out what these things are and avoid them! Ignoring items that are hot buttons for your supervisorwill likely sour your relationship and can lead tounsuccessful projects or negative evaluations. 15. Request Feedback And learn to accept the feedback that you request Ask periodically if you arent sure how youre doing-dontwait until end of semester evaluations If you get negative feedback, discuss concerns, but doso maturely, not emotionally or confrontationally Listen to what is being said and act on it appropriately 16. Dont Go Over the Bosss Head Dont go behind the bosss back either Go to your supervisor first with any concerns-youd wantthe same courtesy IF something is VERY serious and not being addressed,or if you supervisor IS the problem and cant beconfronted, go up the chain If you do need to go over the supervisor, keep theinformation as private as possible, discussing only withpeople that need to know and be willing to documentwhat you are reporting 17. Case StudyYour department is currently in the process of collectingspring intention forms from students in the residence halls.This form is completed by all students in housing during thefall semester to determine if they will be returning tohousing for the spring semester. The due date for theseforms to be turned in to the Assistant Director for Housingis Monday, October 8th. It is now Thursday, October 11th.The Director of Residential Life is waiting for results to passon to the VP of Student Affairs so he is prepared for hiscabinet meeting. The ADH realized late Wednesday that anentire section was missing from one of the halls. The RA inthe section has already been given a written warning forpaperwork this semester by their RD. The Assistant Directorfor Staff Development who supervises the RD and RA staffhas been made aware of the problem as well. Placingyourself in this situation based on your current role, what isthe process you take to help bring a resolution to thisproblem? 18. Managing up sounds simple, butmanagers, and everyone elseneed to learn this basic concept.If we want someone tounderstand what we have to say,we must learn to speak theirlanguage, rather than expectingthem to learn ours. ~Richard L. Knowdell Building a Career Development Program: Nine Steps forEffective Implementation 19. Resources Turk, W., (2007). The art of managing up. Defense AT&L, March & April, 2007.