Friday, June 08, 2007

Managing Up

My experience of managing a team of people has taught me that there are a few rules to follow (mainly HR-driven ones) and that after that, it’s a case of good manners, good planning, good sense and experience. Each person is different so trying to define ‘how to manage a person or team’ can only ever be boiled down to a few basic principles.

Managing upwards is something that I suppose we all engage in (even if that only ever looks like ‘I can get that ready for you by the end of the week’ type of comments (expectation setting) but I wanted to read a bit about how to do it well so did a little research. It would seem that every HR consultancy has written something on the topic (some articles more helpful than others) but two principles kept emerging:

  • Know yourself: know what your strengths and weaknesses are
  • Know your manager: know what motivates them, what their priorities are, and how best they ‘digest’ information
On the back of these two principles, you can look for the best overlap of strengths (yours) and priorities (you manager's). Using your communication skills (and as librarians, we should have a bit of a head start over some of our non-librarian colleagues with this one), make sure that you are presenting the most useful information at the most appropriate time to your manager in the format that works best for your manager. I think it also helps to have some credibility with your manager and to have some vision as to where things (at a business, department, team, and job level) are going. After that, I think that we’re back to my earlier principles of good manners, good planning, good sense, and experience.

So where does this leave me in terms of gaining something that I can apply to my day-to-day working life? Well, I’m not too sure. I think that I know my own strengths and weaknesses reasonably well (had to do a fair bit of this sort of thing as part of the first module of my diploma in management, including some interesting exercises around things like management techniques and learning methods). I think that I’m pretty tuned in to my manager’s priorities and given that every time that I suggest a new idea or project, he asks me to write it up, I guess I can pretty much figure out how he likes to receive information (though I have also noticed that the organisation I work for has a keen leaning towards having everything in a paper of some description).

I suppose I could do a more formal analysis of my strengths/weaknesses with my manager’s motivations/priorities but it looks like it’s a case of experience and communications skills. Experience only comes one way so I guess I’ll focus on trying out some different ways and combinations of communication with my manager and try to figure out to which one he responds best. Rereading that last sentence makes it sound like a bit of a lab experiment and I suppose that to some extent, it is…here’s hoping I recognise the results when I see them.

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