Managing Up - The Key To A Strong Relationship With Your Boss

People in leadership positions are responsible for encouraging growth within the workplace, promoting healthy company culture, and ensuring smooth and profitable operations. It’s then common for management to have a top-down approach to communicating and decision-making. But what about the managing up approach?

What is Managing Up?

Managing up is the ability to clearly communicate what is essential to leadership in a timely, efficient manner that helps them make sound business decisions with the most accurate and up-to-date data. If done well, it allows you to be efficient and effective in your role by having transparent conversations about what is expected of you and what you need.

It is one of the areas in which many leaders struggle.

When You Don’t Manage Up

Many challenges arise when you don’t correctly manage up. According to a study done by Karen Ferris, author of the book Game On: Tactics to Win when Leading Change is Everyone’s Business, “Only one in three CEOs (34%) said their organization’s frontline leadership quality was ’very good’ or ’excellent.’ Only 38% rated their mid-level leadership quality as high.”

You’ll begin to see this when your CEO starts to:

  • Question what you and your team are focusing on.
  • Make general statements like, “I don’t think the team is working hard.”
  • Question how you are spending your time.
  • Request ad hoc reports on sales performance, margin levels, number of new accounts landed this year, etc.
  • Become very skeptical of forecasts.

Get ahead of this by coming to your boss in your one-on-one meeting and covering the most critical areas.

What Areas to Cover

Understanding what your CEO would like to know about could be as simple as asking them. However, you’ll also want to cover topics that impact the company and your team the most, such as:


One of the most significant areas your CEO wants to know about is what your forecasts are saying. They don’t want a pipeline review, but instead want to learn how full the funnel is and how things are moving through it. They want to know what is coming in, and when.


Your CEO is wondering what your plan is. They want to know what you are working on, what skills you’re developing, what your initiatives are, whether you are off or on the plan, and if you have had to adjust.


The CEO wants to be in alignment with you. So explain what your priorities are, what adjustments you’ve had to make, where your focus is, etc. Sharing this current information will help them understand where they can better serve you with resources or time.

What Should Good Managing Up Look like?

After you have compiled everything that you and your CEO want to hear, it’s time to manage. If you manage up effectively, it may look something like:

  • You anticipate problems, actively work to prevent them and bring solutions to your CEO.
  • You adjust your style and approach to better meet alignment.
  • You are willing to say no to your CEO when you aren’t aligned.
  • You navigate prickly or difficult topics effectively.
  • You understand the impacts of the information they want and the appropriate level of urgency.

These are just a few of the things that create good managing up.

When Managing Up is Poor

Nothing hurts your relationship more with your boss than poor communication. Trust is a key factor in any successful team. Team members need to rely on one another to do their part, deliver on commitments, and be accountable to one another. This is the same for CEOs and their leaders.

Lost trust in an organization can cause stress, low morale, lost sales, conflict, etc. Compared with people at low-trust companies, Harvard Business Review reports that “ high-trust companies have 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.”

Another thing lost when you manage up poorly would be your credibility. Credibility is the foundation of leadership. If people don’t believe in the messenger, they won’t believe the message. So, if you aren’t speaking to your CEO, their minds could wander about the worst-case scenario.

In the End

Managing up isn’t easy. Understanding your boss can be challenging — and that’s precisely why it is so important and so impactful. Unfortunately, many sales leaders don’t take the time to manage up actively, so the ones who do truly stand out from the crowd.

If you are facing a challenging situation that is preventing you from managing up effectively, reach out to us at info@PivotalAdvisors.com.

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