Managing Up

Almost everyone who works in the entertainment industry can be considered a middle-level manager. We all have a boss that we report to on a regular basis, and most of us have a team that reports directly to us. Even those that hold entry-level positions probably have interns or event staff that report to them. As a result, middle-level managers have spent countless hours and a great deal of focus on ways to better manage our event staff while attempting to create the best ways to motivate, encourage, and empower our staff to help our buildings run smoothly and ultimately create a fan experience that keeps our customers happy. We are also very familiar with the struggles that that come with managing an event staff of hundreds, but what we often don’t talk about are the struggles that come with managing the other way—managing up.

We middle-level managers must put a big focus on making our managers happy. We’re supposed to make them look good at all times, provide them with endless information, complete reports and projects, all while balancing our own workloads and personal lives. Some of us have more relaxed structures and a great working relationship with our supervisors, but what did we do to build those relationships? Or if we don’t have a seamless relationship with our boss, how can we achieve one so that we work in a relatively stress-free, fun environment that makes us want to continue doing the job we love, every day?

Get to Know Them

Wanting to impress your boss is natural, so what are some of the best ways to handle difficult situations with your boss? Get to know them! Figure out their schedules and priorities, what they expect from you, what their pet peeves are, how they prefer to communicate, and keep them informed.

We all have different schedules and different priorities, so whether it’s joining the company softball team, volunteering at the local community center, or going home to see the kids, understanding where the priorities lie with your bosses will help you understand what drives them. In turn, you will be better prepared to handle any issues that arise. If there’s a possibility your boss has to leave in the middle of the day because a child got sick at school, you should prepare for it.

But wait! Didn’t you have that big meeting? Next thing you know you are scrambling to prepare their material. If this is something that only happens once, it may not be a big stressor, but if this is something that happens frequently you will have to manage up. Learn the material ahead of time and be prepared to jump in and help present. Additionally, even if your boss is there physically, doesn’t mean he or she is not thinking about the child that is now at home sick with the babysitter. If your boss knows you are there to back up, support, and jump in with relevant information, he or she will feel more comfortable to rely on you in the future. At that point, you will have successfully managed up and will have a much more stress-free time on a day-to-day basis.

Expectations

What are your manager’s expectations and pet peeves? Do you have a manager who has realistic expectations, or are they totally off the wall? Often managers (good ones) will push us to new limits and will ask for more work with tighter deadlines. I know myself, and I work best under a deadline. If someone asks me for a report I could certainly get it to them by the end of the week, but if they ask for a report by Thursday at 3 p.m. I know for sure it will be there and done to the best of my abilities. Just as you should know their priorities and schedule, do your bosses know yours? Have you tried to communicate with them? Did you tell them you cannot finish the report by Thursday, because you have your grandma’s birthday dinner on Wednesday night that you have to attend? With that, know your bosses’ pet peeves. If they hate last minute requests, make sure you are communicating often and early. Let them know you’ll have to leave work early for family dinner a week in advance, not the morning of. If spelling errors bother them, double and triple check your emails before sending them out. Knowing what they expect of you and what drives them crazy will help the day-to-day interactions with your boss and again, create a stress-free, fun environment we all entered this industry for in the first place.

Communication

Know how your supervisor prefers to communicate and make sure you communicate often! Good communication is the key in all relationships, especially those that require teamwork to get a job done. Do they prefer face-to-face interactions, email so they have everything in writing, or text message because they are always on the go? It’s also important to know when they like this information. Are they up early and prefer to have reports and conversations at their desk first thing, do they hate when you send an email too late, because they just got the baby to sleep and they need downtime? Or is the evening after the kids are all in bed the best time to get their attention? Again, knowing your bosses and what drives them will ultimately help you be successful in managing up and ultimately reduce your own stress level.

Make Them Look Good

Lastly, it is our job as middle-level managers to continually make our bosses look good. We’re expected to pay attention to detail while moving at the speed of light, stay up on the latest trends including technology advancements, new equipment, and industry stories/articles. As well as consistently go above and beyond our job descriptions to help lessen our bosses’ workloads, bring our bosses with solutions instead of problems, and attempt to catch their mistakes before their bosses find them.

We have a lot of responsibility as middle-level managers and sometimes it can feel as though we are running in circles. But the bottom line is to get to know your supervisor and connect with them on some level. Most people love to talk about themselves, so find some time when you are both in the office early one morning, or after an event late one night and ask about their kids, their families, their golf tournaments over the weekend, etc. A little conversation could go a long way in continuing to keep a fun, stress-free environment where you continue to grow as a professional and hopefully have someone who will be willing and able to manage up to you one day. FM



(Image: Mikel Ortega/Creative Commons)