By Michael Duncan Moore
One area of management skill that is not talked about at the level of importance it deserves is “managing-up.” What is this concept about and why is it so important to career development?
For the vast majority of managers and executives, there is at least one or more management levels above their current position. A new manager will have multiple levels above them, and even the CEO has a Board of Directors to answer to let alone powerful shareholders. So, building your credibility by managing your reputation, credibility, visibility and influence with your direct manager and key people several layers above is managing up. It is a career advancement, must have, skill set.
Any manager who aspires to move up in their company, or even in their industry, must take charge of their career development. Managing up is one of the most important keys to affect a managers career. It needs to be purposeful, credible and skill based. You need a regular and consistent plan. You can move in and out of it. You must manage-up as a regular part of who you are within your organization.
It is important not to confuse blatant self promotion with managing up. When effectively managing-up, you will very often get others above your level to do the promoting for you. This result is almost a natural outcome of managing-up correctly. It can be compared to positioning yourself successfully. Managing how you are looked. It is about managing and controlling how you are perceived by people in positions of importance at management levels above yours. This positioning is at the center of managing your advancement.
When promotions are available, when another division or line of business needs a manager, you want to be among the first considered. The higher the level of management, say executive vice presidents for example, the fewer the number of managers exist at that level. These managers know each other to varying degrees. They likely see each other at senior manager meetings or company functions. It is almost like a “club” in a positive sense. If you are at that level, you have peers that are known to you at the same level.
When positions come available in one area, other managers will know about. The may even be consulted about the opening. Who do you want them to talk about when they are thinking about potential candidates? That won’t happen unless you have managed up with people at that level. Most aspiring managers do not take absolute charge of their own career development. They miss the advancement boat often times, not because they are not qualified, but because they are not known as “someone of interest.”
There are a number of techniques for managing up. For the purpose of this article there are three to consider.
1. Build a Career Development Plan. Think about where you want to be within your company and industry. where are your best opportunities? What are the trends and strategic directions of your organization? Read everything you can written and communicated by senior management that will shed light on the future direction. Ask questions of those at higher levels.
2. Pinpoint your Skill Set. What skills do you possess that could be value added to those above you. this is not about what you do now, necessarily. This skill assessment should be broader. Every manager has things that they bring to the table whether they use them now or not. We are looking for things that you could offer to do/share with senior people above you when the opportunity arises.
3. Net work, net work, net work. You have to identify senior people above you that could be approached to build a sincere relationship with as part of your development. Perhaps there are senior people that you could visit with to discuss ‘how best to develop your career.’ You can usually spot those that are open and approachable. In other situations, you can find someone to be a “mentor.” Perhaps you career development plan calls for a certain skill set to be expanded. Find a senior person known for that skill and meet about mentoring. You will often be surprised how open they may be to the idea.