How to Manage Your Manager

Apr 30, 2019 |Posted by Jared Simmons | Coaching

Do you know what it means to manage your manager?

My assistant recently told me a story of switching direct managers within the same firm. The first manager, with whom she’d worked for a year, had a very hands-on management style. She liked to be involved in the day to day, be kept up to date regularly, and be consulted on all decision making.

Had she taken a moment to manage her new manager, she would have been off to a much smoother start. There are several key elements to growing and building a strong relationship with your manager – and most of it requires you to do the managing. 

Get aligned upfront 

At the onset of a new job or job responsibility, it’s critical to ask for specific expectations upfront. Understanding key expectations is essential to meeting them. Ask questions if the expectations are unclear. Reiterate instructions to your manager to make sure there’s a mutual understanding. 

Maintain consistent, regular interactions 

Stay present without being overbearing. Touching base with your boss regularly helps keep the doors of communication open. 

Provide regular updates–written and verbal

Updates offer a peace of mind that the task assigned is being fully owned and managed. Set an “update schedule” for yourself – daily, weekly, or bi-weekly updates, depending on the task – and be consistent in your follow-through. Communicating project updates builds trust. 

Voice concerns early and constructively, but pick your battles

This goes hand in hand with expectation alignment. If there is a goal or expectation communicated to you at the onset of a project that raises a red flag, constructively voice your concerns surrounding it. It might be helpful to present the concern as a possible obstacle to success without completely dismissing the request. Communicating concerns early on shows foresight and critical thinking and also helps to calibrate expectations. Be wary of being overly critical – this can easily be misconstrued as laziness. 

Confirm the next steps

When a task is completed, take a moment to regroup and assess the path forward with your manager. Come prepared with ideas – a broad-scope environmental assessment is an excellent way of exhibiting foresight and initiative. Communicate your ideas, listen to your manager’s, and confirm the best path forward. 

Prepare for 1:1 meetings and joint meetings with other people

Prior to any meetings with your manager, take a moment and curate a list of discussion points. Then, gather the materials you’d like to present, progress updates, outstanding questions, and any other relevant materials. Being prepared, on time, and on task is essential to maximizing efficiency and effectiveness. 

Maintain a working solution to the problem

We are all hired to be problem solvers. When you become a manager, it’s easy to see your role in terms of what you’re “responsible for” and lose sight of the fact that your impact on the business is through solving problems–for the customer, the company, its suppliers. Having a clear idea of what problems you’re working on at any given time and what the solution to that problem would be will keep you a step ahead of your boss 

Own up to your mistakes–the cover-up is always worse than the crime

The stories I (or my first boss) could tell about the unnecessary chaos I caused by trying to fix something before she found out about it. Or worse, just hoping it would somehow magically resolve itself. When you mess up–and if you’re trying at all, you will–engage your manager early as a problem solving partner. This keeps them from having to take a less collaborative position later as they do the cleanup work. 

Get to know your boss

Believe it or not, there’s a human under there! You don’t have to become best friends with your manager, but as with any relationship, it’s important to appeal to the individual humanity. Building an appropriate, respectful relationship is an excellent way to build trust. 

Ask for feedback often on small things

An email, meeting, simple document, etc. It’ll make the bigger feedback discussions easier. 


Managing your manager is essential to success. It gives way to goal and expectation alignment and bolsters communication. Managing your manager is a way of taking ownership over your job responsibilities and setting yourself up for the best possible results.

Which of these tactics do you plan to try? Let me know in the comments!

Picture of Jared Simmons

Jared Simmons

Jared is the founder of Outlast Consulting LLC, a consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations with strategy, process improvement, and professional development. He is an engineer by training with experience in market research, product development, innovation, management consulting, and strategic planning at P&G, McKinsey, and Coca-Cola.


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