Building a strong relationship with your manager is important to your career. Your manager can support you and help you gain visibility to move up in your career or they can also be the person that holds you back from progressing any further. Managing your manager or managing up is focused on finding the best ways to work together which ultimately supports you.


  • How can you help them achieve their goals (which can provide you additional opportunities for visibility)?
  • What strengths do you have that they don’t and how can you leverage those strengths to support them?
  • When was the last time you asked your manager where they could use your help? This allows you to understand how to support them (so they look good) and it helps you and your team look good in their eyes.

Benefits of Managing Up

Aside from having a strong relationship with your boss, this will also allow you to gain additional benefits. A trusted relationship will give you insight into the organization in ways that you may not be privy to from where you sit. Information on conversations that have happened, the politics of who is doing what and upcoming changes that may impact you or your team are all examples of what you could learn.

Each of these pieces of information is like a puzzle piece that helps you fill in the picture of how things work and how to get things done. All of this information allows you to increase your influence, better understand how things work and helps you navigate through upcoming challenges.

This relationship with your manager is critical to achieving career success in an organization.

Helpful Information To Know About Your Manager

There are some key things that you need to know to have an effective working relationship with your boss.

For instance:

  • What are your manager’s strengths and opportunity areas? No leader can know or be good at everything so it is important to do some of this research.
  • How can you help support your manager in the opportunity areas?

Look for the things that will increase the value of your relationship and will provide ways that you can build trust.

It is also a good idea to see who they have good (or not so good) relationships within the organization. Are there bridges that you can help them build with key people to improve those relationships? How can you help your manager have a stronger influence with these people?

All of these examples will help your manager improve their perception which creates a positive view of the organization and ultimately reflects on those who work on their team.

If your manager isn’t doing well then it has a ripple effect that could be negative. They could be replaced or your team could be changed or eliminated. The opposite can also be true that if they are doing well, they will move on to their next role sooner and you will have to build a new relationship with the new manager.

Change is always going to happen and you can’t prevent it. However, you can do your part to ensure the success of the whole team regardless of the outcome of the manager at the top. This is what will make you shine as a leader no matter who your manager is and how they are doing.

Building Trust With Your Manager

Do you know what your manager expects of you?

If the conversation about expectations doesn’t happen, then you don’t know if you are doing what your manager wants you to do. Having this conversation early on in the relationship allows for clarity on the ways of working together and communication. It sounds simple enough. Why don’t people do it?

There may be a fear or anxiety that people may have about this type of conversation. Will they be able to meet the expectations? Do they have the skills and capabilities that are needed to do the job well? This type of uncertainty may lead to avoiding the conversation altogether. Without the discussion, there are assumptions and frustration by both the manager and the team member.

Here are some of the basic questions to gain clarity:

  • What is the best way to provide updates to you?
  • How often will we meet together?
  • Do you want to follow a specific format for the meetings?
  • What are your biggest concerns?
  • Who are the key people in the organization that I need to meet with regularly?
  • What does success look like for someone in my role?
  • How can we work together and stand for each other’s success?

This is an area where agreements about the ways of working in the relationship can be so beneficial. What will you do if things get off track? How will you handle disagreements? Using agreements is a much stronger way to stand for each other’s success than expectations or assumptions.

This relationship will get stronger as you leverage consistent communication and the agreements that you make together. Building a trusted relationship with your manager takes time and doing it well will ultimately serve both of you as a team.

Susan M Barber, President of Susan M Barber Coaching & Consulting, LLC, works with individuals, teams, and organizations to build skills that leaders need to attain breakthrough results. Her passion for coaching and leadership development is driven by seeing the transformation of leaders as they reach far beyond their own ideas of success. She continues to drive custom programs for groups that want to make changes in their careers to become more powerful leaders.

Coaching leaders on authentic ways to show their value & create visibility for their personal brand | Leadership Coach & Consultant|