At the beginning of my career, I was working extremely hard, staying in the office until midnight 2-3 days/week, the era of the laptop was nonexistent. The good news was that the results were great. In particular, my new strategy was giving the company a competitive advantage. I, therefore, decided to take my courage and go talk to the big boss about a promotion.
When I talked to the Director, he told me that he did not notice my work very much and in turn, could not grant me a promotion. I was focusing so much on delivering results that I was not taking care of selling my results. In addition, my office was 300-400 meters away from the HQ and senior management did not really know what was going on there.
‘I was focusing so much on delivering results that I was not taking care of selling my results.
When confronted with the negative reply from the Director, I had a bright idea and told him, “how about my new strategy that is delivering breakthrough results?” He replied, “the strategy was developed by John (my boss), not by you!”
Your initial reaction may relate to my boss’ ethics, but there’s more to this than meets the eye. The seven tips below will help you learn from this case and provide you with pragmatic advice to positively influence the relationship with your management.
1. Establish and maintain your professional image and exposure
The PIE model I learned at Procter & Gamble, that is also presented in the book Empowering Yourself by Harvey J. Coleman, describes effective career management and personal branding as a combination of three factors:
Performance: Your results and contributions
Image: Your reputation and credibility inside the company
Exposure: The visibility of your job to senior management
I had focused only on Performance when approaching my Director, neglecting Image and Exposure. It was no surprise that I did not get a promotion!
2. Take the time to understand your boss’ mindset and personality
To create the basis for a positive relationship with your management, you need to understand the mindsets and personalities of your bosses. Are they introverted or extroverted? Are they thinkers or feelers? How about their preferences in communication: written vs oral? What is their approach to decision making? What is their risk tolerance, the pace of work, or working schedule?
With this knowledge, you can adapt your interaction and communication style with each of your bosses. This will also give you the opportunity to more easily build rapport with them. For more insights on building rapport, you may want to check out one of my short videos on the topic
3. Be specific about your career goals and determine what you need
A key part of the influencing up process is to determine what you are trying to achieve in your career in terms of career path, promotion, salary, work/life balance, international transfer, etc. and then determine what you will need to achieve these goals. Do you require specific training, professional development, exposure to a specific function or involvement in a strategic project? Perhaps an assignment that involves interaction with head office? The opportunity to work with talented coworkers and develop new skills?
Answering these questions will direct your influencing efforts towards the right persons.
4. Find out your bosses’ key goals
Everything you do in your role is in some way tied to your boss and your boss’ boss goals, objectives, and desired outcomes. What expectations do they have placed on themselves?
It makes sense to spend the time to understand what is really important to them and then acting upon this knowledge to define your priorities. This will also help you positively influence them as you will be able to highlight what’s in it for them when you are proposing one of your initiatives.
5. Do your job well
While it may sound obvious, prioritizing effectively and doing excellent work is one of the best ways to manage up. It places you in the position of being a valuable employee who can be depended on for important or time-sensitive tasks, or tasks with high levels of exposure to senior management within the company. And what better position is there than being the person that makes your boss look good in the senior committee meetings?
6. Aim to be an asset to the team
There is a difference between managing up and sucking up. While it may seem that developing a close relationship with your boss has its advantages, one should be careful about being too familiar and confusing familiarity with being an effective and competent employee that is an indispensable part of achieving the goals of the department.
Many people get disappointed at bonus or promotion time by being overlooked when they feel that they have a good relationship with their boss, but in fact, they are not taken seriously or seen as being one of the top performers.
7. Manage all your key stakeholders
A common mistake, including in my personal story at the beginning of the article, is to focus only on the relationship with your boss. Effective career management involves being visible and appreciated by all your key stakeholders. Make a stakeholder’s map to identify the key stakeholders for your career development, then make sure that they get, directly or indirectly, the right level of information from you and about you. This will enable you to build the image and exposure that are key to your career advancement.
Bringing it all together
Your management has goals and business pressures. Understanding those goals and needs and applying the tips that we have provided will put you in an ideal position to influence up with your bosses, advance your career, and maximize your job satisfaction.
Since 2005, he is an award-winning Professor and Lecturer at leading business schools throughout Europe (Cambridge, EPFL, ESADE, HEC Lausanne, HEC Paris, IESE, IMD, Imperial College, INSEAD, London Business School, Oxford, RSM, SDA Bocconi, UBIS, University of Geneva and University of St Gallen), recognized for his lively and interactive training workshops.
He runs negotiation workshops in four continents. Corporate leaders from multinational corporations and individuals from over 90 different countries have attended his workshops.