Managing Up: Teamwork or how to get fired?

From the desk of my assistant…meeting

Okay, so last week I went on and on about how great my boss is, and it’s true. This week I want to tell you how I manage him. That’s right, I manage him. It’s called “managing up,” and before you entrepreneurs and bosses get your knickers in a twist, let me identify what it means to me.

The term managing up has gotten a bad rap over the past decade or so, sometimes meaning to “jump the line of command” or trying to “manipulate your boss to get what you want,” but that’s not what I’m talking about at all!

One of the things Doug appreciates most about me is that I am able to “manage up.” In our working relationship, this means that I don’t wait for him to tell me what to do every single time.

I set reminders on my calendar and then follow up with him, saying “Hey, you are supposed to follow up with so-and-so this week,” and “Don’t forget you need to get me the verbiage for that email today so I can tweak it and send it out.”

hands_on_phoneThis works especially well because I’m a virtual assistant, so we rarely see each other in person, and we rarely speak on the phone. Most of our communication is through email, texts or Evernote chat.

Do you have an assistant who can manage up? To manage up, I try to make his job easier. Anything that I can do that he doesn’t have to makes it easier for him to do the things he’s great at, like public speaking, training clients, etc. I do a lot of the writing, or he will write and I will edit because my best skills are in the writing/editing set, but I do everything from travel arrangements to client follow up, client sales management, managing the accounts as well as social media management for his various entities.

After three years, I’ve learned his voice, so I know how he would most likely respond to tweets and Facebook messages, as well as LinkedIn and other social media responses. This makes it more seamless for him when he does want to step in and respond to things on his own.

I’ve proven myself when it comes to writing and editing, and he’s even able to pass on things that are part of other areas of his life, knowing I will give him my honest opinion and I will also work to edit or make suggestions and changes that will stay within his preferences.

So, to me, managing up means:

  1. Reminding (not telling) him when and whom to follow up with so he doesn’t have to worry about that.
  2. Researching websites or ideas and presenting them to him in a way that helps him quickly and easily make decisions.Appointment calendar
  3. I handle all his travel arrangements, including car rental, flights, hotels, as well as finding things close by that he might want to take advantage of.
  4. Ghostwriting for him for books, blog posts, emails, etc., as well as editing the things he would prefer to write himself.
  5. Asking him what he would like for me to focus on when I have only a limited time frame. (This is especially important as we essentially have three businesses going at the same time, so I can ask him which area of business he wants me to focus on)
  6. Periodically, I send him emails that recap everything I’ve been working on, asking him to make comments and return it to me. I might also send an email recapping all the things he needs to address, such as what does he want to talk about for the next four weeks on our blog, etc. I will tell him what I need a response to and when I need it by in order to get something accomplished. This way he can also prioritize things easily and respond to me knowing he’s getting me the information I need when I need it.
  7. IMG_9243We both work hard and sometimes strange hours, but that’s okay. He’s flexible and I am too because we don’t have a physical office to be at from 9-5 every weekday. That means occasionally he will reach out on a weekend and ask me to help with a flight change. This also means he understands when he does this, I can’t always help him because it’s family time.

All of this allows us to operate more as a team than a boss and employee. Don’t worry, I never forget who is getting the paycheck and who is giving it, and I try to maintain respect when I am working with him, even if I am frustrated, but it seems more like we are working with each other. That makes it easier for me to want to say yes when he needs help, but it also makes it easier for him to give me some leeway when my life with four children gets in the way sometimes.

There are definitely some disadvantages to managing up, but our working relationship seems to flow very Rethink Happy coverwell most of the time. I feel like he really values my opinion, and he feels like he’s not going to have to hold my hand through every project, email or idea that he puts out there. It’s a win-win for me to sometimes “manage up.”

So, are you jealous yet? If you are an entrepreneur or manager and you don’t have someone like me but you want an Adrienne, maybe you should set up a demo with Doug. He found me, and he can find an Adrienne for you too!

Who is Doug? Doug Kisgen is an author, entrepreneur and personality expert. His primary work? Raising his five kids with his wife of 20+ years in the hill country of Texas. 

For ways to put these ideas into practice, check out Doug’s book, Rethink Happy: An Entrepreneur’s Journey Toward Authentic Joy, available now as an e-book or in paperback!

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