How to Manage Your Boss

management training

In my work as a leadership development professional, I am fortunate to work with a lot of young leaders. I’ve noticed that when emerging leaders move into management positions, they often fret about how they will manage and motivate their direct reports. Sometimes they forget another group of folks who need to be managed: bosses.

If you want to be a great manager, you’ll need to do more than “manage down” (to your direct reports). You’ll also need to be good at “managing up”. This may sound manipulative, but managing up is a critical part of leadership.

Here are five suggestions I share with budding leaders to help them “manage up”:

KNOW WHAT MATTERS TO YOUR BOSS: You have to be able to speak your boss’s language, and that means knowing your boss’s priorities and goals. Take the time to get to know what matters most to your boss, even if it means asking him or her directly.

GET ON THE BOSS’S AGENDA: Too many people wait for their boss to tell them what to do, like hungry baby birds. A better way is to approach your boss directly. When you meet with them, be crystal clear about what information you want from them, and what information you want to leave them with. Use the boss’s time wisely and sparingly.

MAKE YOUR BOSS SUCCESSFUL: Never forget that making your boss successful is one of your most important jobs. Spend time thinking about how you can do that. Use your natural talents to help your boss with the things they are not so good at. If you are a detailed person, for example, and your boss is not, offer to proofread their client correspondences before they get sent. Not only will it show your boss that you’ve “got their back”, but it will also give you a chance to let your talents shine.

PROTECT YOUR BOSS FROM HARM: Bosses are people too, and they’re capable of making dunderheaded mistakes. Get upfront agreement from your boss that part of your job is to tell them uncomfortable truths that they may not always want to hear. Then honor that agreement by telling your boss things they may not want to hear but need to know.

BE COURAGEOUS: Forcing yourself to deliver difficult messages may be tough, but think of it as an opportunity to exercise your courage muscles!

Great managers are able to manage their direct reports while at the same time leading their bosses. Share a time when you successfully managed up in the comments.

Learn more about Giant Leap Consulting’s leadership programs here:

About Bill Treasurer

Bill Treasurer is the author of The Leadership Killer, Reclaiming Humility in an Age of Arrogance, which he co-wrote with Captain John “Coach” Havlik, Navy SEAL (Retired). For the last two decades, Treasurer has worked with thousands of leader across the globe, at such organizations as NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lenovo, UBS Bank, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Learn more at:

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