Anyone who’s worked in an accounting firm knows things can get pretty busy. There are quarterly deadlines, end of year deadlines, and then there’s tax season. When it’s busy, no one has extra time for anything, so it’s essential to be as efficient as possible. For me that means constantly asking the question: what can I be doing better when it comes to working with my boss? Another name for this approach is Managing Up.
What’s Managing Up?
The Harvard Business Review describes Managing Up as being the most effective employee you can be and creating value for your boss and your company. There are many benefits to the practice; it gives me greater job satisfaction, a better relationship with my boss, and it’s good for my career. Ultimately, my efforts impact everyone at the firm by helping to create a more efficient, productive environment. The lessons I’ve learned could apply to anyone whose job requires them to wear many hats and juggle multiple priorities.
Here are three things I do to Manage Up.
Block Out Time for a Weekly Meeting with Your Boss
Your boss is the key to success at work. While they have the answers to all your questions, they are busy people, which means they’re not very accessible. When you have a question, chances are they’re not going to be able to drop everything and talk to you about it. The solution is to schedule a weekly meeting with your supervisor, so you have uninterrupted time to ask questions, discuss projects, review performance, and remove potential barriers. Regular meetings also provide an opportunity for you to get to know your boss and find out about their goals and priorities. As you come to understand what’s important to them, you’ll be able to anticipate their needs. There is probably nothing more valuable to a boss.
Stay Organized by Planning Ahead
The busier you are, the more vital it is to stay organized, so nothing slips through the cracks. No matter how much you have on your plate, planning allows you to be proactive rather than reactive. One of the best tools you have for planning is your calendar. Use it to look ahead at upcoming events, seasons or holidays that could affect your workload. One of the most important habits I’ve developed is to make a to-do list at the end of every day, so I know what needs to get done tomorrow. By taking a few minutes to plan at the end of the day, I can hit the ground running in the morning because I know exactly what I need to do.
Set SMART Expectations
All projects come with some preconceived perceptions and assumptions. If your assumptions are different from your boss’s, you’ll run into problems fast. The secret to a successful project is clear communications about things like priorities, deadlines, budgets, etc. A great tool for getting that clarity is SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. SMART helps you work with your boss to define the parameters of a project. Here’s a breakdown for how it works:
- Specific – When talking about goals, clarity is a virtue and ambiguity is your enemy. Don’t be shy about asking as many questions as it takes, such as:
- What needs to be accomplished?
- Who’s responsible for what?
- What steps must be taken to achieve the goal?
- Measurable – Quantifying your goal makes it easier to track progress and know when you’ve been successful. Work with your boss to come up with appropriate benchmarks.
- Achievable – Goals need to be realistic, which means you need the time and resources to get the job done.
- Relevant – In any endeavor, it helps to understand what makes this project worth doing. Your boss should be able to explain the reason for the project so you can see where it fits in the big picture
- Time-Bound – You and your boss should be on the same page about the timeline for completing the goal as well as the timing for different stages of the project.
Work with Employers Who Value Your Growth
Managing Up is a path to professional and personal growth. I’m fortunate to work at a firm that truly values and rewards me for my efforts. No matter where you work or what your job is, it’s important to be part of a culture that encourages you to grow. I have no doubt that if you follow the steps I’ve outlined here, you will find yourself on the path to a satisfying and successful career.