The best way to quickly uncover what things we should be doing to manage upwards to our bosses, is to think about what things we want our teams members to do, in managing upwards to us.
Firstly, understand the true deliverables we need from them, other than just getting the job done: Things like proactive escalation of issues; concise effective status reporting; helping to spread the right behaviours, attitudes and messages across the organisation - and upwards to the boss’s boss. Often inexperienced managers will complain to their bosses about a long list of things that they have identified that are wrong. They like to escalate the crisis – almost as a sign of competence in identifying problems.
What a boss really wants is someone that makes their life easier, not more difficult. Rather than creating an impression of endless crises and problems, these managers know how to identify the true priorities in the business and communicate the right headlines upwards to senior management. These managers also take full responsibility for dealing with the problems and only escalate to get additional resources or authority to implement the solutions they have already come up with.
Bosses in the knowledge era know they are totally dependent on their line managers to solve issues, as the line managers know more about their functional area than they do. They want to see evidence of good management that allows them to sleep easily at night, knowing the functional area is under control. A manager that has learnt to manage upwards well, will have an easier time in getting support, will be valued by the business and is more likely to get promoted themselves!