Managing upwards is about making your boss’s agenda your agenda, according to a senior leader at Citi. But isn’t it just as vital for bosses to convey what their agenda actually is?

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‘The subtle art of managing your boss’ was the subject of a curated thread of posts on LinkedIn earlier this month (LinkedIn News, 6 October 2020).

As its springboard, the thread highlighted a post from Citi Private Bank, South Asia chairman Lung-Nien Lee – an update that, at time of writing, has garnered almost 3,500 views. Lung-Nien’s primary tip for how to manage upwards? “Make your boss’s agenda your agenda.”

He explains: “This means making sure you align with your boss’s priorities and goals… and when you communicate with your boss or someone at a higher level, keep your communication clear and concise. For example, if you want to highlight a problem, that’s fine – but a general rule of thumb is to keep a long story short, and [focus on the] issues which are important … Outline the problem, offer a few key implications if it’s not addressed, and then propose two or three workable solutions.”

Lung-Nien adds: “Managing upwards relates to the question, ‘What are you doing to make your boss’s life easier?’ Put yourself in their shoes: What qualities would your ideal team possess? How would they communicate with you? Whether you’re managing up or down, perspective-taking is a key skill and one that demonstrates big-picture thinking.”