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7 strategies to teach your team the art of managing up

Managing up can be challenging for many teams, even with the best tools and processes available.

4 colleagues are collaborating in while sitting within common area of an office.4 colleagues are collaborating in while sitting within common area of an office.

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Insights from Ellen Raim, Founder of People MatterWe focus more on solving than preventing People problems.

Managing up is crucial for creating a positive and productive work environment. When a team effectively manages up to their leader, they provide the appropriate transparency to help the leader know that the work is (or isn’t) progressing according to plan. Managing up requires interpersonal skills, relationship building and an understanding of the team’s or organization's dynamics. Effective project management and communication skills are also essential to manage up effectively.

Are your teams ready to master the art of managing up?

Managing up can be challenging for many teams, even with the best tools and processes available. To help improve the team's ability to manage up, it's essential to gather feedback from team members on their past experiences.

To improve your team's performance, it's vital to assess their current skill sets and identify gaps that need to be filled. Take the time to discuss current challenges and successes with team members to determine what skills they confidently possess. A skill set audit will help you understand what areas need more attention and what strengths to build upon.

Additionally, analyze how work is currently being managed and if it is effective for long-term success. Based on this assessment, determine the support needed for your teams to be great at managing up. 

7 strategies to help your teams get better at managing up.

1. Provide clear expectations.

Encourage your team leads to clearly define expectations for their team. They need to ensure their direct reports know what information to provide, including priorities and communication preferences. 

2. Provide mentorship and coaching.

Establish formal or casual mentoring to help people learn how to manage up effectively. Tenured employees can be matched with more junior employees to guide them on how to communicate with leaders, how to report on progress and how to handle difficult situations.

3. Model the behavior.

Let leaders know they need to model the behavior of managing up to their teams. Leaders should be encouraged to show their teams how to communicate effectively and handle feedback.

4. Set up regular check-ins.

Leaders should schedule regular check-ins with their teams to discuss progress, challenges and feedback. Check-ins can be team-based, one-on-one or both, and they should encourage a culture of open communication that prioritizes process comfort, adoption and optimization.

5. Be supportive.

Managing up leads to great opportunities for career growth and professional development. Encourage leaders to engage in active listening and respect for different opinions when their direct reports are managing up. This practice will foster collaboration and create a positive team culture.

6. Showcase individual and team wins.

Help team leads create opportunities to showcase the wins of their direct reports. Recognizing and rewarding accomplishments within teams and across the broader organization encourages team members to continue sharing their talents and ideas. Plus, encouraging team members to recognize the achievements of others fosters an atmosphere of appreciation, collaboration and shared responsibility.

7. Create a safe space for learning.

Foster a safe and supportive environment where your team members can learn and grow. Safe spaces can be built in part by encouraging experimentation and innovation, providing opportunities for professional development and acknowledging efforts and successes. When your team members feel supported and valued, they are more likely to manage up effectively. Even more, that comfort leads to stronger engagement and retention.

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