How to manage up

One of the many questions I get asked all the time is how to “manage up.”

We all have managers, who have managers, who have managers and it seems like the higher you go, the bigger the ask and the smaller the understanding on what it takes to execute the task.

Say for example you are in a meeting where the VP says the teams needs to launch a new feature by the end of the month and you get assigned as the project owner.

You know there’s no way we can launch it on time and have it work right while still driving the day to day business projects at the same time.

Now what?

Sometimes we stress out, stop sleeping, and let anxiety take over our lives. We work crazy hours, push people to do the same, and try everything possible to prove we can do it.

Other times we panic and spend our time building a case whey we can’t and shouldn’t do it.

What if we did a combination of the two, but dropped all the anxiety and panic? It’s totally possible. Here’s how.

This is the exact time where it’s important to “manage up.”

Your VP should not know all of the day to day details you know. That’s your job. But it’s also your job to clearly communicate to them. Managing up does not look desperate or whinny about the budget and resources you don’t have. Managing up means managing the situation they way you want THEM to manage the situation.

It means laying out all the facts, identifying a few possible ways forward, calling out the pros and cons to each option, making a recommendation and letting them make the final decision. Maybe the want the feature to launch and are willing to give on the day to day business projects. Maybe they don’t actually want the feature to launch as quickly once they better understand the tradeoffs.

The only way to know is to manage up. Act like the manager, clearly communicate the options, drop the drama and get to work.

Just because an idea came from someone higher up does not mean you don’t have otpions. Senior leaders value someone that can come to the table with a clear plan to be discussed without all the excuses.

So next time you are trying to manage up, start acting like the manager, drop the drama, and be the manager you want them to be.

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