Seven tips to cultivating a great relationship with your boss

Contrary to popular opinion, managing up is not the same as sucking up, Talent Plus' Larry Sternberg writes.

When it comes to management, many of us are used to managing down. However, upward line management is just as important as managing down and is an important strategy for managing your career progression and job satisfaction.

Contrary to popular opinion, managing up is not the same as sucking up. In fact, effectively managing up is the exact opposite of self-promotion and manipulation. It is more about helping your boss achieve their objectives, than it is about advancing your own goals.

Here are seven tips on how to manage up and cultivate a great relationship with your boss.

1. Honour his or her character traits, values, strengths, and weaknesses

Everyone has their own management style and personal traits. Do not try to change your boss, but instead, accept him or her for who they are. This is one of the most affirming things you can do for anyone. Look for areas where you and your boss have complementary strengths and they represent opportunities for synergy and collaboration.

2. Make your boss’s priorities your own

Knowing your boss’s needs, goals, and aspirations empowers you to add value in a way that is tangible to his or her needs. If you make it your business to make sure your boss is successful, you will earn appreciation and support.

3. Demonstrate fierce loyalty and unmitigated trust

Make sure your boss knows you seek his or her her greatest good. This does not mean you become a yes-man and agree with your boss all the time. Offer your ideas and opinions. However, when you disagree on significant issues that he or she is communicating publicly, do it in private. Support her decisions in public, even if you do not agree. You might be wrong, but trust your boss to correct any mistakes you bring to light in a one-on-one discussion.

Keep your boss well informed, and be completely transparent. Do not hide information, especially when you have messed up in some way. Also, have the courage to speak up when you believe he or she has made a mistake.

Do not speak negatively about your boss because this could be perceived as being disloyal. If you are going to meet with your boss’ manager, tell him or her before you do it. If his or her manager calls you into a meeting, let your boss know that this is happening as soon as possible.

In addition, if you are not sure whether your boss has told you something in confidence, treat it as confidential.

4. Ask for advice and guidance

You are bound to run into problems along the way. Although you should always bring potential solutions, it shows respect and humility to ask your boss for guidance.

5. Do not be defensive

That’s worth repeating. Don’t be defensive. From time to time you are going to be reprimanded by your boss. Sometimes it’ll be unfair, but lick your wounds and move on.

6. Share good news

Do not create a situation where you only interact with your boss when there is a problem, or when you need to ask for something. Share team successes, share something great about one of your team members, or share a new idea.

7. Show appreciation, give your boss recognition when he or she has earned it

We tend to think about recognition as being only top down. We need to escape that thinking. Like anyone else in your organisation, your boss also does things that merit recognition. It does not have to be time consuming. Write a brief note, or just say thank you or well done.

If you choose to implement these seven tips, you’ll develop a strong, positive relationship with your boss, and you’ll do it in a way that demonstrates that you’re a person of good character.

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