Managing Up: The Basics For Retail RD Career Success
By Amanda Rubizhevsky, MPH, NC
What does managing up really mean? Most would say the purpose of managing-up is to have the by-product of your efforts enhance the work of those you report to; it all starts with establishing positive relationships and rapport with your boss and other senior leadership. Not everyone at your retailer knows what you are capable of as an RD, so these relationships are absolutely critical. Managing up can be important to your career because it helps showcase how your work impacts the business; which can lead to increased responsibility, influence and general career success. Additionally, if you have good rapport with your manager and senior leadership, you’ll be kept in the loop on different projects and able to best interject your nutrition expertise when appropriate.
The culture of your organization can dictate your approach to managing up. It’s important to understand the realities, rules and boundaries associated with your organization’s structure. It’s also critical to note that managing up does not mean telling your manager what to do, nor does it mean promoting self-interest, brown-nosing, nor manipulation.
To start, you’ll need to consider the type of manager you have. Some pose a unique set of challenges that require an equally unique set of skills to handle. Perhaps you’re dealing with: a manager you don’t’ see face to face, a manager who gives you conflicting messages, a new manager, or even one who’s hands off.
Why does the type of manager that you have (personality and location) matter? Here’s a great example: If you and your manager seem to be speaking two different languages, it would benefit you to lean into his or her style. An analytical type boss will expect data to be presented with every idea; a people person will expect regular communication. Knowing your manager's personality and management style, and adjusting your own to meet it, will help you manage up.
Another key to success in the managing up arena is being able to anticipate your bosses’ needs. This includes understanding what makes your boss tick, and how to best present ideas and challenges to your boss. If you want to get buy-in for your ideas, you’ll need to make sure you are on the same page.
The last basic to master is the ability to ask well thought out questions. Your goal is to understand your manager’s pain points or the problems they are trying to solve. Ask clarifying questions and seek to fully understand the challenges - this includes checking all assumptions; there are no “dumb questions.” Once you better understand the goals of the specific project or initiative, you’ll also be better able to add your RD expertise and showcase your knowledge.
Overall you’ll want to be strategic in how you can become indispensable to your manager and the entire leadership team.