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5 Tips for Upward Management

Picture of Angela Guido

Angela Guido

Upward Management might be the single most undervalued skill in the suite of abilities required for professional success. If you are a great upward manager, not only will you have a much better day-to-day work life, you will also advance much more rapidly and effortlessly. Strong relationships are essential to your professional success, and it’s fortunate that they are also part of what makes work fun. Sharing victories, problem solving together, striving, laboring, thinking deeply with others, and then laughing about it all makes even mundane tasks more joyful.

Here are five tips for Upward Management to help you grow productive relationships with people senior to you.

1. Upward Management is about allowing people to support you.

Remember that your superiors, superhuman though they can sometimes seem, are just human after all. This means that they too derive meaning from being useful to others. If you approach your relationship with the intention of strategically seeking, applying, and appreciating their guidance, you will not only benefit from their wisdom, but you will also deeply endear yourself to them in the process and generate their support for you and your career development.

2. Upward Management means you make it easy for others to help you.

If you are going to ask a favor, make it an easy one. For example: “Give me some feedback” can be a very tall order when you consider that most people are made uncomfortable by ‘constructive feedback’. It puts the giver in an awkward spot if they are concerned you won’t take it well. Instead, ask for clear, specific and tactical advice on a confined subject. For example: “Now that you’ve reviewed my model, are there any changes you would suggest I implement for next time to make it easier to interpret and work with?” It’s a targeted question that will not only be easier to answer, but will lead to more actionable feedback for you.

3. Upward Management means people know how much you appreciate them.

Always always always follow up. When someone has given you constructive feedback, guidance, advice, or help, let them know how much you appreciated it. Keep it brief, but don’t forget to do it. It will make it easier for them to help you next time. For example, try an email like this: “Hi Joe, No need to write back, but I just wanted to let you know how valuable the advice you gave me about slide organization was last week. I totally revamped my presentation, and I know it was far more effective because of your guidance. So thanks!” Who wouldn’t love to get an email like that?

4. Upward Management is about giving.

Easily said, but harder to do. What do you have to offer people 10 or 20 years your senior, the upper management decision makers? Information. No two people have exactly the same passions, points of interest, perspective, or even personal goals. As a result, no two people attract the same information. What are you reading lately? What articles caught your eye? What restaurant are you loving right now? What are the kids saying these days? Share it. Whatever you have to offer, just share it. 

Try something like this: “Hey Sarah, I just read this awesome article about finding a life partner on Wait But Why and not only did it make me laugh so hard, but it made me think a lot about the importance of professional relationships and not just the personal ones he describes. I think you’ll like it too, so check it out.”

5. Upward Management means you are always growing your network.

You never know which friendships will be career-making. Help can come from a wide range of surprising places, so your best strategy is to keep making new friends everywhere you go, in and outside of work. Plus, it’s FUN!!!! Strike up a conversation in line at the grocery store. Say hi to the person plugging away on their laptop next to you at the coffee shop. Ride public transit. 

And of course, attend networking events. If you hate networking, no probs. We have tons of stuff on that here.

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