I gave a short talk a few weeks ago on some of my thoughts on being effective at managing up.
Managing up is critical. Bosses want to be assured that you care, that you're getting results and that you're contributing to moving the business forward. With that in mind, here are the three tips I gave on managing up:
1. Have a Point of View. That is, have an opinion, hopefully a strong one, on how you should grow your business, both for your group and the company as as whole. You may not get your way, that's life, but you should always have a point of view. Be interested and passionate and opinionated. Don't be annoying and try to push all of your ideas through but have an opinion and advocate for it.
2. Drip Your Insights. I like to say that "insights are just as important as results". Obviously results are what everyone wants and they should be the primary tool for measuring success or failure. But when you get results, you should be able to tell your boss exactly how you did it. You should have insights that are repeatable and scalable. Of course, the opposite is also true. When you're not getting results, you should be able to tell your boss exactly why. It's ok to not get results in the short term if you're showing that you're making massive gains and getting smarter every day and closer to success. As you gain these insights, be sure to "drip" them to your team, your clients, your boss. Send emails, share them in meetings, write them on a whiteboard. Sharing your development and how you're getting smarter is critical to managing up. Show that you're obsessing over figuring out how to hit your goals. And that you're getting smarter everyday -- when you're getting results and when you're not.
3. Build Trust. This one is the hardest and I'm reluctant to give too much advice on how to build trust. People do it in their own way and you should build trust with your boss in a way that works for you. But one thing that's clear is that you're never going to be the lynchpin in your organization if you aren't trusted. One way I've built trust in the past is to effectively walk the fine line between being a complainer and being a trusted advisor that speaks up when it's needed. In short, you have to learn to not sweat the small stuff. Your boss has a lot to worry about -- likely a lot more than you. Taking problems on yourself and not complaining upstream makes your boss's life easier. But, when a problem is important enough, raising it up the ladder is also critical. When you've proven you can balance what's important and what's not your boss will be inclined to shift the more important projects in your direction.