Managing Up

Written by David Terry, Executive Director of the WT Enterprise Center. For more information about the WT Enterprise Center visit

One of the most compelling articles I’ve read recently is a timeless piece of management information written back in 2007.  The article is entitled, “The Art of Managing Up.”

Since we all have “bosses” (e.g. someone you answer to or report to, e.g. God, your team members, your customers, or your spouse), these principles of “managing up” can be applied to all aspects of life.

Success in business is all about relationships. And success in any relationship requires communication. The article points out the importance of two-way communication and knowing the best way to communicate, whether written or verbal or both. Learning communication styles of the people we interact with is a valuable tool for understanding and being understood.

The article also stresses the importance of giving and receiving feedback, an essential element for successful communication.  It’s important to ask for feedback and not wait for a formal review. It’s also important to provide feedback in an open environment so that there are no surprises. Surprises are the death to any relationship, because surprises, both good and bad, can break trust.

One of the biggest “managing up” elements is providing solutions, not problems. It’s a very different conversation when we approach someone with “here’s what happened, here’s what I think we should do, what do you think?” rather than “here’s what happened, what should we do?” Things will happen, but having an innovative and courageous approach to any given situation will set you apart. People with this mindset provide tremendous leverage for any organization.

As I mentioned, this “art of managing up” can be applied to every aspect of life and business. Even though it’s a blast from management past, I’ve shared this article with team members and several clients. I’ve been blessed to work with outstanding people who have learned the art of managing up. Still, I find that sometimes it’s good to openly communicate simple truths and confirm or reiterate expectations. We can’t ever communicate enough! Add this to your management toolbox and be sure to share the outcomes – go and prosper!

Categories: Business Insight