With Boss’ Day right around the corner, we’ve decided to focus on the importance of Managing Up. Not only did our talented boss, Mary Abbajay, write a whole book on the topic, we work hard to put her advice into action. Yes, that’s right, here at Careerstone Group, we don’t just teach Managing Up, we practice it every day.
As a permanent, small, all-remote team, we know firsthand the necessity of managing up to our amazing boss. Caring, inspiring, and self-aware as she is, Mary is also human, with her own workstyle and preferences. She shows up as a self-professed Introverted, Advancer, Workaholic, Ghost Boss (and sometimes Nitpicker). Here are some of the ways that we manage up to Mary:
Kristen Shattuck, Director of Training and Facilitation:
Advancers, Unite! – Mary and I are both Advancers. As such, we speak the language of “get ‘er done,” which typically works well. When Mary assigns projects, she trusts that those projects will be handled, and truly leaves us to lead them as we see fit. I’ve learned to schedule brief status updates to make sure I’m delivering precisely what Mary is aiming for, balancing the “see you when it’s done” mindset with the results-focused and efficient preferences of two Advancers.
Manage Across – Careerstone Group has been a remote team since before remote teams were cool (or at least mandated by a global pandemic). It’s important to stay connected when you work with folks you don’t physically interact with very often. One way our team manages up to Mary is by managing across. We schedule 1:1 or small group check-ins, without being prompted by Mary or waiting until a time that she is available. It’s a way of demonstrating commitment to one another, to our generous boss, and to our stellar clients. And Mary doesn’t have to lift a finger!
Yes, and – Mary is an exceptionally positive and optimistic person. It’s important to meet her with similar positive energy. Mary is no “Pollyanna;” while she has a healthy understanding of what’s possible, she sees the benefit of positioning herself to say “yes” to most things. There’s real power in considering what could be, and even though the skeptic in me wants to poke a few holes and ask a few questions, I’ve learned how valuable it is to demonstrate to clients that we are receptive to their needs and open to a variety of requests. This positive “yes, and” attitude builds trust and demonstrates that Careerstone Group welcomes hearing different perspectives and exploring alternatives.
Robin Goodstein, Senior Consultant:
Take Yes for an Answer —Mary recently told participants in a managing up session that her team continues to sell her on ideas after she has already agreed. As the whole internet likes to say, “I feel attacked.” Whether she had me in mind or not, I had me in mind. As an extravert whose manner of processing and wordsmithing arguments is out loud, I’m just going to keep going—to hear whether the rationale sounds out loud as good as it does in my head, and to find what I’ve missed. As an introvert, if Mary has already agreed to something I’m proposing, she will just be exhausted by the rest of my monologue. As an Advancer, if she has already said yes, yes actually means, “Yes, and feel free to get to it. Yesterday.”
Respond Quickly, if not Fully —If Mary emails or texts me at night or on a weekend, she doesn’t expect me to work on the project in question right then and there, but she does appreciate quick acknowledgement that I am aware of what needs to be done and that I will do it as soon as I am reasonably able. I know this because she told me so on my very first day of work. That’s one of the ways I knew she’d be a great boss: she is an honest and direct communicator who sets expectations early and reinforces them often. As Carmella Soprano’s psychiatrist told her about Tony’s dirty business, “You can’t say you weren’t warned.”
Keep her in the Loop, not in the Soup – This means erring on the side of copying her on more emails than is likely necessary, so she knows I am attending to clients. On the other hand, I also try to leave her out of the weedy email exchanges on projects she is neither delivering nor managing. Setting expectations about how much information is enough and how the boss likes to receive it should be day-one stuff. It is at Careerstone Group.
Courtney Sloan, Marketing and Project Manager:
Don’t Bog Her Down with Brainstorming – Before bringing a new idea to Mary, I’ll spend ample time hashing out details on my own, brainstorming with the rest of our team, and researching the pro’s and con’s. While Mary enjoys hearing about our innovative suggestions, she doesn’t want to be part of the thought exercise required to bring them to life. She prefers if we hash those details out on our own and share the high-level information with her. I will work out the specifics so Mary’s only responsibility is deciding whether the idea/project/investment is worthwhile.
Put it in a Spreadsheet – Spreadsheets are Mary’s love language, so, as you can imagine, we have spreadsheets for our spreadsheets. Seriously! Anytime I’m keeping track of important information, I’ll create a new spreadsheet (or use a current one) for an easy an accessible way to share it.
Be Brief…then Be Gone – Mary and I are both introverts, so it can be easy for us to go a while without talking to each other one-on-one. In an effort to keep us aligned, I’ll schedule 30-minute check-in’s with Mary. This way, we’re both on the same page but aren’t draining too much of our energy. I also try to appeal to Mary’s Advancer side when we have a phone call – I only schedule these calls when there’s a real reason to, and I prepare for them in advance so we can check items off the list and be done. It’s always a bonus if we don’t actually use the full 30 minutes!
Flexing our work styles and preferences a little bit to meet Mary where she’s at has greatly benefitted our team. Being able to Manage Up (Down, and Across too!) has helped our team function at a high level.
Managing Up doesn’t have to be difficult or require huge changes, just honest communication about preferences and styles. Making small adjustments to suit your boss’ preferences can be game-changing. They’ll really appreciate it and your effort won’t go unnoticed!