One of the most common challenges we hear from leaders is the sense of being “buried in hierarchy and bureaucracy” and squeezed between the expectations and demands of senior leaders, while also needing to constructively manage and support a team. This contributes to a sense of paralysis and lack of progress. So how do you effectively manage up — maintaining visibility and a good working relationship with your boss, while simultaneously managing down — building a constructive culture and supporting your direct reports to lead?
Here are our five tips that are as useful for managing up as they are for managing down… all ultimately supporting you to use your time and energy most effectively.
1. Use GAMPER: With different colleagues come different needs and styles. Make GAMPER your daily tool for strategic prioritisation and engagement across levels. Get clear on your hierarchy of goals and who's most important to each, really trying to understand your stakeholders and their communication preferences to land your messages and shared outcomes. Got a tough conversation? Go for a coffee instead of writing an email. Know they’re frazzled after school drop-off? Give them half an hour to settle in before calling. Make your engagement strategic and human.
2. Communicate constantly: Information vacuums can become hotbeds of rumour and projection, so fill them as best you can with clear, concise, consistent and strategically-delivered messaging. One of the most powerful questions you can ask is, “is there anything you’re not clear on?” or regularly asking "are you getting the information you need from me?"
3. Understand their perspective: One of the most common barriers to influence is failing to consider others’ perspectives or challenges. Before hosting a meeting or conversation, or tackling a thorny issue, take time to explore the issues from the other person’s perspective, with their agenda, problems and needs in mind, and make it clear that you’re focused on shared goals (see #4 below!). This is the ‘A’ in GAMPER (knowing your audience). Empathy is the most powerful influencing tool there is.
4. Get crystal clear on goals and expectations, always: Ensure mutual clarity about goals and expectations. Check back in regularly to ensure you’re on the same page — better still, schedule the check-ins or add them to your standing agenda. Mismatched goal expectations are the enemy of smooth working relationships.
5. Create the ‘halo’ effect: Don’t expect the work to speak for itself. Forge a strong network who understand your contribution and can reflect you positively back to both your manager and team; this might be peers, other senior managers or external stakeholders. This is called the ‘halo effect’ and can support you to build greater credibility with your manager or direct reports. Again, this relies on you communicating with a wider network of people about your vision and progress.
What other struggles do you have with managing up and down? What other tips can you share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Visibility Co.
Working at the intersection of leadership, strategy and visibility, we seek to be strategic provocateurs and catalysts of systemic change, supporting you to unleash the potential within so you can create a better world from wherever you are.
While we’re not big on labels, we’re often referred to as social impact and communications strategists, or strategic leadership advisors, or visibility experts.
Fancy words for a business, led by Julia May and Sarah Anderson, that brings together purposeful leadership, strategy and communications in truly integrative and innovative ways.
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners — the Kulin Nations, particularly the Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung, and Wadawurrung people — upon whose ancestral lands we live and work. We pay respect to their Elders, past, present and emerging, and acknowledge the pivotal role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within the Australian community. Sovereignty was never ceded.