!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Lonnie Pacelli's Tips on Managing Up

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lonnie Pacelli's Tips on Managing Up

Lonnie Pacelli, president of Leading on the Edge International, has put together a good list of thirteen do's and don'ts for managing up. You can read his full list, complete with folksy explanations, here, but I'd like to call attention to these items:
  • First, and foremost, understand your boss. For instance, communicate in the way your boss prefers. When is face-to-face communication best? When does he/she prefer e-mail? How about phone conversations? Adapt your style to the boss's style. For example, avoid doing things that are your boss's pet peeves.

  • As far as possible, handle problem-solving yourself, rather than dumping problems on your boss. A classic article on this point is "Management Time: Who's Got the Monkey?", by William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L. Wass (Harvard Business Review, 1974). Enlist your boss's help when his/her experience and/or influence is needed for solving a problem.

  • Be specific about what you need in the way of resources, and explain why, detailing benefits relative to costs.

  • Embrace integrity. Since trust is enormously important and valuable, and hard to regain once lost, respond honestly to questions from your boss. (Tact is a plus.) Show your boss that you can be counted on to intelligently follow company policies and procedures.

  • Keep your commitments. If something you've agreed to is looking undoable in the agreed time frame, talk with your boss about priorities and what sort of rescheduling may be feasible.

  • Present options. Pacelli: "Some of the best decision making meetings I've been in with my bosses have been where we had meaningful dialogue around two or three viable options to resolving a tough problem. My job in the process was to frame up the options, provide facts to support each option, and provide a recommendation. Sometimes the recommendation was taken, sometimes not; the most important thing was that a good decision was made because there was good informed discussion."

  • Make your boss look good. This is part of the relationship of trust that you need to maintain.

  • Avoid surprises. It's one thing to take responsibility for solving problems yourself. It's another thing to see a problem emerging and neglect to give your boss a heads-up so he or she can decide on any intervention while the scope of the problem is relatively contained.

  • Admit mistakes. A reasonable boss knows that mistakes happen, especially when an employee is doing something new, working under unusual time pressure, or dealing with ambiguous circumstances. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it, discuss with your boss the best way to correct the situation, and think carefully about the lessons you can draw from the experience.
I recognize that the above tips assume that you and your boss have a basically healthy relationship. If such is not the case, then mutual efforts to build a productive working relationship are in order, a topic I'll save for another day.