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Managing Up

Updated: May 26

Whether you are a high school student working your first summer job, a post-grad starting a career, in the throws of work climbing the corporate ladder, the head of your household responsible for managing your family, a c-level executive managing investor expectations, or anywhere in between, you have a responsibility to "manage up". In other words, communicate in an upward direction.

Managing up is a communication skill that is essential for setting and confirming expectations as well as drawing boundaries. It's good for you and for anyone you work with or for. In a corporate setting, it is a simple and effective behavior of any high performer. Here is how to do it well:

  1. Prioritize. Start by getting crystal clear on your priorities. This is best done at varied intervals and levels of intensity.

    1. Daily To-Dos - At the end of each day, take a few minutes to reflect on the day and jot down tomorrow's to-do list.

    2. Weekly Priorities - At the start of each week, block 30-minutes to think through the week ahead and lay out the Urgent, Important, Not Urgent, and Not Important items you expect to conquer.

    3. Monthly Check-in - It's fairly common across corporations to report on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) monthly and evaluating your personal priorities and performance should be no different.

    4. Quarterly Deep Dive - At the start of each quarter, review what is on your active radar, what is on your future radar, and stop to think and reflect on what should be on your radar.

  2. Write it down. Next, make your priorities available in an organized fashion. This could be something a simple as a weekly email or updates to a shared file or something more robust like a work management tool like Asana or Monday. (Click here for a FREE 30-day trial of Asana. More on that in a separate article.)

  3. Talk it through. Finally, schedule a standing meeting with your manager to talk it through. I recommend a weekly check-in and you may choose to handle a variety of ways (e.g. a Weekly Brief, a Monthly KPI Review and/or a Quarterly Prioritization Pow-wow). If you meet regularly, a quick, 30-minute meeting should do the trick. Add time if you choose to reduce frequency.

Give these techniques a go to be well on your way to managing your career progression, your relationship with your manager, and your life.


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