How New Managers Should “Manage Their Manager” to Reach Their Goals

Business person is chasing a moving target

New management training focuses on teaching new managers how to handle their team members but often neglects teaching new managers how to manage up. 

You may learn how to set goals for team performance but then you have to run the goals by your boss for approval. This level of strategic alignment and potential negotiation typically requires a different approach and more finesse than managing down.

Here are three guidelines that will help you “manage your manager” successfully:

1. Be crystal clear about what you want for your team. Before you can advocate for your team’s goals, you need to know in your own mind exactly what those goals are. Be able to articulate what you want and how it will be measured before you allow others to fill in any blanks.

2. Frame your proposal in a way that aligns with your boss’ goals, not just yours. If, for instance, you want to give your team the flexibility to work part-time from home, describe to your boss why you think they will be more efficient and productive as a result of this accommodation.  Your boss probably cares more about aligned results than keeping your team members “happy.”

3. Reach an explicit agreement or social contract that outlines expectations, desired results, success metrics, consequences, delivery schedules and a review process. Again this speaks to the way your boss thinks and will keep you both on track.