How to successfully manage upwards

How good are you at managing upwards? What are your influencing and negotiation skills like?

Today I have a guest post by Leadership and Executive Coach Nadine Powrie @nadinepowrie. She’s here to share her thoughts with All Things IC’s readers including seven tools to help you influence upwards.

Nadine transitioned from being a secondary school Headteacher to having her own business in 2016. She now solely focuses what she loves most: coaching. She is also a mentor and a speaker.

We both attended Media Influence Live recently and I enjoyed discussing all things internal comms, leadership comms and coaching with her.

Nadine will be a presenter at the Middle East Leadership Conference in Dubai in October and PRWeek’s Strategic Internal Communication Conference in November 2018. Don’t forget to use my code ALLTHINGSIC to save money off your ticket/s.

I’ll hand you over…

How to successfully manage upwards

As a Leadership and Executive Coach working with leaders who are building high performing teams in a period of transition, I find ‘managing upwards’ becoming a key topic in many coaching conversations.

What is it?
“Managing Upwards” refers to the process of intentionally working with your line manager to obtain the best possible results for you, your line manager and your organisation. When you manage upwards, you become a ‘Rising Leader’.

Managing upwards can be challenging particularly when you are already very busy managing downwards and sideways. Look at the positive side as there are different reasons why this might be a great way forward for you.

Are you ready?
Are you ready to take on more responsibility? Do you want to learn as you are ambitious and thinking about your next promotion?

Then you have an opportunity to develop your leadership presence so that you become more successful upwards, downwards and sideways. It’s a way in, a way to influence and to pre-sell your big ideas.

Managing upwards successfully is about understanding more what your line manager does, how they think, how they work.

It’s about their leadership style and personality, their daily habits, their goals, the way they communicate and observe how others communicate effectively.

What does good look like?
You know that you are successful when you can anticipate their needs and predict their reaction (verbal and non-verbal).

There are seven key tools to influence upwards:

  1. Empathy to put yourself in someone’s shoes.
  2. Listening and understanding their perspectives.
  3. Making sure the time is right.
  4. Having all your facts together and presenting a good case. The more solid your facts, the better your chances.
  5. Speaking at a high level about the situation but knowing how to answer detailed questions.
  6. Being politely persistent.
  7. Never underestimating the power of the “meeting before the meeting.”

Managing upwards is a process that is going to transform who you are.

It is going to shape your leadership skills and traits:

  • You are moving away from doing and are more in the driving seat because you are taking initiatives that are impacting on many people at all levels.
  • You are not a subject matter expert anymore, you have become a Thought Leader because you are accessing more data intelligence and different types of conversation.
  • It’s not about your own success anymore, it’s about the success of the team. Managing upwards helps you to manage downwards and sideways, so as to create alignment.

So what’s different when you manage upwards?

You communicate differently

  • Time is precious so you communicate accurately and precisely: what are the key points?
  • The words you use are carefully chosen. You try to mirror the words that your line manager keeps using. This is how you connect. What are their 10 preferred key words?
  • The questions that you are asking are different in the way that they are related to their agenda. What are their goals, objectives and desired outcomes?
  • Silence may happen more frequently because you are observing. How do you observe? What do you learn about yourself and about your line manager?
  • You refer to short and long terms more often because everything is linked to the business strategy. How confident are you articulating the business strategy?
  • You focus discussions on transformation using ‘what if’ and not ‘what’s wrong’. How do you frame your ‘what if’ questions’?

Seven tips for coaching questions that you might want to think about when you prepare ‘managing up’

  1. What is your understanding of their goals, objectives and desired outcomes?
  2. Does your boss know how to best use your talents? Tell your boss how to use your talents and how you can use those in the organisation and to serve his or her success.
  3. What are your strengths?
  4. How do you deal with pressure, conflict, deadlines, and time management?
  5. What assets do you bring to the table—and how do they complement your line manager’s strengths?
  6. Learn the most opportune times to collaborate with your boss. How do you use your time?
  7. Prepare and send an agenda ahead of time so your boss knows what points you’ll be covering. Expect to lead the discussion, capture decisions, and follow-up accordingly. How will you lead the discussion?

Push yourself, and get comfortable being uncomfortable. Become a Rising Leader.

Post author: Nadine Powrie.

You can contact Nadine via email: You’ll find her on Twitter @NadinePowrie and LinkedIn.

What do you think of what you’ve read? Is this useful? Do contact Nadine or I to let us know what you think.

First published on the All Things IC blog 23 September 2018

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