Whether you are starting out in professional life or have been part of it for some time, you have a boss and a responsibility to manage him of her like the other resources for which you’re responsible, according to William Smullen in his book Ways and Means of Managing Up: 50 Strategies for Helping You and Your Boss Succeed. The author has had 50 years of experience in managing others, most notably as chief of staff to former US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Managing Up means different things to different people. In most work environments it means working out how to overcome the weaknesses and over-sized egos of people who hold senior positions in the organization in order to get things done. It is usually about trade-offs, politics, persuasion, and ensuring that credit gets appropriately misallocated. However, this book is about a different type of “managing up”. It is about how to be an executive assistant and maximize your contribution to the success of a boss whom you admire and believe in.
Indeed, the first chapter is entitled “Believe in Your Boss or Find Another”. The difficulty with this advice is that it really is a rare thing to find a great boss. Moreover, the vast majority of jobs are not chief-of-staff or executive assistant type jobs in which the primary job responsibility is to help the boss. In most jobs the primary responsibility is to serve customers or perform tasks, and keeping the boss happy is only a small part of the job.
Nevertheless, the author’s advice will be useful to anyone who has a boss who needs to be kept happy. Key pieces of advice include: