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Working within a support role can mean that you’re often on the receiving end of instructions; but management isn’t something that just happens down the organisational hierarchy.
It also needs to happen upwards so that your manager understands the extent of their responsibilities and perhaps how they can best approach tasks, as you are the person with a bird’s eye view of their commitments.
Your role is to ultimately help your manager to be better at their job or facilitate the smooth running of their personal life, so do not underestimate the vital contribution you make to their achievements.
Here’s some practical ways you can ensure you’re managing up effectively:
Find out what works
Everyone responds differently to different ways of communication, so learn to adapt the way you behave to achieve the best results.
You might find that you’re able to maintain an effective relationship by taking control of situations and setting specific tasks, or you might find that taking a softer approach works best.
When you first begin working closely with someone, try to pick up on this as quickly as possible so that you help to create the best dynamic from the offset.
Use information to your advantage
If you’re a personal assistant or private PA, you’re likely to be the person who has the most information about your principal’s diary, business commitments and personal preferences.
When working with external suppliers or executives within the company, use this insight to your advantage and manage their expectations accordingly.
Often, you are the person who will have the most information about a specific task or situation because people are likely to feel as though they can be completely honest with you, which can be difficult to do with demanding executives.
This means you’ll be in a position to talk to your manager through all elements of the decision-making process and guide them to make the most appropriate decision.
Put it in writing
After you’ve had a discussion with your manager, it is useful to put all action points in writing with deadlines (if possible) so that you both have a clear understanding of what is expected of you and of them.
You’re likely to need them to complete certain tasks or give you information so that you are able to complete yours; if they aren’t keeping up their end of the bargain, it will be clear and you’ll know when to give them reminders, if appropriate.
Writing everything down will also force you to obtain specific information from them in advance of the task, which can reduce any margin for error.
Create processes and enforce them
It is invaluable to create working processes that are agreed by you and your manager so that you both know what specific steps to take when completing various tasks, and what you can expect from each other.
This works for individual projects as well as regular duties; you can clearly set out how you will handle certain requests and create a step-by-step plan that can be easily followed by you and your manager and applied to different tasks.
Doing this will demonstrate your ability to use your initiative and drive a project forward by implementing a pre-agreed approach.
Compensate for weaknesses
Your manager is likely to have individual quirks that can make your life difficult at times. For example, are they usually late in the mornings? Or, do they dislike conference calls?
You’ll need to develop a plan to mitigate their shortcomings so that they make as little impact as possible on their home life or business.
By helping to facilitate them in this way, you’ll be perceived as the person who can get things done and fast become an invaluable resource in your manager’s life.
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