I received an email last week from a 20-something whom I've coached in the past asking me, "have you ever had to hold your boss accountable?" She's frustrated because a large part of her role is providing administrative support to a director who is, shall we say, less than effective in teensy areas like time management, prioritization, and communication. What I believe she was really asking me was, "how do I manage up?"
What is managing up? It's building a successful working relationship with your boss or superior so that everyone wins. Powerful people need powerful people surrounding them - ones who are creative, take initiative, and have their back. When you manage up, your boss feels supported, you feel challenged, and the organizational goals are met.
It's more than being a "yes" person. It's about creating a scenario in which you have the ability to influence, even when that means taking a hard line or delivering bad news.
Chemistry is key when it comes to managing up. So your first step is to build a relationship. While it is true that there can be instant chemistry, healthy relationships rarely develop overnight. As with any healthy relationship, this one must be one based on respect and trust, so start now looking for ways to demonstrate those critical qualities.
And before you start staying, "well, what about her? where is she in all of this?" keep in mind, this is about managing up. My views on effective leadership are well documented.
The next step is to learn and anticipate needs. Find out what her priorities and goals are. Find out what she values. Find out where she needs help. Find out what sends her over the edge. And then take these into account when managing projects, deadlines, and most importantly, your own behavior.
And finally, remember that leaders are people too. You have absolutely no idea what is going on in her world - both personally and professionally. She has a boss that she reports to too, and she's probably trying to manage up as well. Don't automatically assume the worst. A little tact and diplomacy can go a long way in getting to a win-win result.