What it Means to "Manage Upward"
Annette Maggi, MS, RD, LD, FADA
RDBA Executive Director
If you want to take your retail career to a new level, assess your current effectiveness in managing upward. Establishing positive relationships with your boss as well as your company’s executives and senior leadership, showcasing your work and how it impacts the business, and learning more about where you can have the greatest impact can lead to increased responsibility, influence, and career success.
Consider the Culture. To determine the right approach for managing upward, first assess the culture of your organization. Is it acceptable within your company to request a meeting or networking coffee with someone two or three layers above you? Are mentor-mentee relationships commonplace in the organization? If so, establish who the key leaders are that could help advance initiatives under your direction. Set up time on their calendars or reach out to them to see if they are open to networking with you.
Advance Your Vision. Work with your current supervisor to determine if there are broader division or company meetings that you may be able to attend with him or her. Sell your manager on the importance of your key initiatives and gaining support from executives in the company. Suggest 30 minute meetings with key leaders that you and your manager can attend together. Once you have a meeting time established, go in well prepared, with a clear goal in mind.
Stay in Sync. Along the way, don’t forget the impact of having a great working relationship with your boss. Consider your manager’s style (Is he or she analytical?) and communication preferences (Email or quick hallway discussions?) to ensure you’re not speaking two different languages. Always meet deadlines and follow through on commitments you’ve made to him or her. Be strategic in how you can become indispensable to your manager.
Be Prepared. Most importantly, be well prepared for any and all meetings with your supervisor and company leaders. Have a clear sense of the top business priorities and strategies of the company and divisions. Be able to clearly and succinctly articulate how your work aligns with these priorities as well as how you’re impacting various parts of the business. Keep emotions out of the discussions.
Ask Questions. A key strategy to managing upward is asking well thought out questions. Your goal is to understand the pain points leaders have in their business or the problems they are trying to solve. Ask clarifying questions and seek to fully understand the challenges. This discussion positions you for follow-up as initiatives under your responsibility may help solve the problem or your knowledge or skills may be ideal for partnering with this leader to identify and create a business solution.
What most leaders want to know is “what have you done for me lately?” By understanding the goals of your company, how your initiatives fit within them, skills you have that can impact the business, and being able to effectively communicate them, you can help others recognize your value within the organization.