Practice Development Counsel

Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

212 593-1549

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"Managing Up": Influencing Those You Report To

In discussing how to be more persuasive and influential, we can think about how to deal with peers, subordinates, and people outside your organization as well as people you report to or firm management more generally. Here we focus on influencing your "boss" or “manager,” whoever in the organization that is, at whatever level.

Some people seem to have an innate ability to “manage up.” For others it is an on-the-job learning experience. It requires getting into the head of the person you report to, understanding his or her needs, motivations, challenges, and behavioral style, and demonstrating how what you are arguing for benefits the manager, the team and the pursuit of decided upon goals.

Here are some ways to carefully prepare the ground for getting positive decisions:

  • Drop in casually to report progress on projects or seek approval for small things, which may get him or her accustomed to saying “yes” to your ideas.
  • Present problems (particularly major ones) in stages, if not too urgent, so you have a chance to make a strong case for your recommended course of action.
  • Don't propose your solution at the same time a you present a major problem, which may be perceived as “pushing” too much, unless urgent action is required.
  • Get your business case together before pushing a course of action. Be sure to have a realistic sense of who will be affected, their current thinking, what will be required to gain support, and line up commitments.
  • Try to position yourself as an independent thinker whose viewpoints are valuable, even if disagreeing, and build your bank account of credibility and loyalty by responding positively to most decisions

We all know that all bosses are not perfectly rational humans who always make disciplined, linear decisions. Sometimes decisions are made impulsively or for the wrong reasons, and those decisions should be questioned in a way that doesn't create a perception of disloyalty. You can influence your manager's decisions if you disagree respectfully and have a record for loyalty.

This article contains excerpts from Chapter 50 of The Rainmaking Machine, by Phyllis Weiss Haserot (Thomson/West, 2004).

© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2003