I coached a manager who was highly frustrated with a member of her team. They were inconsistent in their communication with her, and had a tendency to feed ‘new news’ straight to her boss. However, she thought he was very talented.

This talented individual was having some positive impact on the business but a poor impact on his manager, demonstrating little ability to manage upwards.

He is not unique. As identified by many organisations in the AGR 2015 Survey, ‘managing up’ is the number one skill that graduates lack. It is also the skill employees are given the least training on.

Many graduates will have had little experience of managing upwards, so it’s not surprising that they struggle with it – but it is perhaps surprising that so little provision is made for training in this area.

Given this skill gap, what can you do to improve your ‘managing up’ skills? Here are five thoughts:

  • What Does Your Manager Want?

What are their goals and working preferences? How do they like to be communicated with? What are their ways of working? What are their professional standards, such as grammar, expected customer response time, and management needs? Seek to understand what is important to them and then deliver it.

  • Understand The Position Your Manager Plays In The Company

This is not just their job title. Do they have a good relationship with their boss? Are they well thought of by the business? If they are, it can have a halo effect, which can help you. And if you are seen to have a poor working relationship with them, it may backfire. If you are not happy with a boss who is highly rated, it is going to be much harder to change this – it is not a battle you can easily win.

  • Take Them On The Journey

Do not work in isolation. Tell them what is going on. This doesn’t mean that they need to walk with you every step of the way. Instead, keep them informed and check in at key milestones along the journey.

  • Do What You Say You Are Going To Do

Simple, yet surprisingly uncommon. Many managers struggle to find a way to motivate their reports to do what they promised. Keeping your promises makes you stand out from the crowd, and builds trust.

  • No Surprises

It is better to share bad news, in person, than try to hide it. No manager wants to be surprised, so if something has gone wrong, with a client relationship perhaps, it is better to flag it. This helps them to be forewarned and forearmed. There is always solution. With a ‘no surprises’ approach, trust builds quickly.

By ‘managing up’ effectively, we are helping to keep our career on the up.

And if you have any questions about this, then get in touch at

Jenny Williams, Executive  Coach.


What Is The Number One Skill Found To Be Lacking In Graduates?

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