John in  
Management Consultant  

How to manage “up” / impress your manager? Here's how:

1. Remind them where you left off


You've been working on one specific task for quite a while now -- and you want to update your manager.


Unlike you, your manager is switching between tasks all day.

In fact, they are probably reading your email or message in the 2-minute space they have between meetings.


You should assume that they are thinking about other things. And you should remind them where you left off, so they can switch tasks faster.


⛔️ Don't do this:


"Here's the updated doc."


✅ Do this:


"Here's the updated steering committee presentation. I've updated the document with the updated financial forecast. Let me know if you're happy with this version and I'll distribute to participants tonight."


2. Make sure your "ask" is clear


Your boss isn't a mind reader.


Even if they are across the detail of your work, you shouldn't assume that they know what you need from them.


Most managers assume that, unless you tell them otherwise, things are progressing as planned.


Don't surprise them by telling them you've been blocked for days.

You should be specific and explicit about what you need from them. And ensure that you ask them early.


⛔️ Don't do this:


"I've updated the financial model with most of the new assumptions. But still waiting on sales assumptions from FP&A before I can finalize the model."


✅ Do this:


"I've updated the financial model with most of the new assumptions. However, I've been waiting for the sales assumptions from FP&A for 5 days, and they're no longer replying to my emails. Can you please email James today and CC me to help get this unblocked?"


3. Make sure your "non-ask" is clear


You shouldn't just be emailing your manager when there's an ask. You should also be sharing regular status updates.


And it's also very important that your manager knows that these emails are just an FYI.


Don't make your manager guess.


If you're sending an update as an FYI, you should explicitly tell them that no action is required.


⛔️ Don't do this:


"I've updated the financial model with most of the new assumptions. But still waiting on sales assumptions from FP&A before I can finalize the model."


✅ Do this:


"I've updated the financial model with most of the new assumptions. But still waiting on sales assumptions from FP&A before I can finalize the model. I'll give them another day and then let you know if I need you to help follow up to unblock this, so no action right now."


4. Demonstrate a bias to action


As a manager, there's nothing worse than having to hand-hold somebody to complete a task.


Don't get me wrong, a good manager should unblock their team member if they are stuck. But the team member should have tried to work independently first.


The best way to show that you're independent is to show a bias to action.


You should always be trying to achieve the task, even if it requires trying a number of different approaches. Communicate this with your manager.


⛔️ Don't do this:


"I couldn't start writing the memo because the distribution team was too busy to share the audited view of this year's sales data with me."


✅ Do this:


"I've finished a first draft of the memo. The distribution team hasn't had a chance to share the audited view of this year's sales data, so I've used unaudited data as a placeholder. They should be directionally correct and I'll update the numbers as soon as I get the audited version."


5. Communicate your thought process


Because managers aren't doing tasks themselves, they have a constant underlying concern that the work or decision isn't correct.


And as a team member, the best way to give your manager reassurance that you've done the right thing is to share your criteria and assumptions.


Best case scenario is you impress your manager with your rigor.


Worst case scenario is they help you address any gaps in your thinking.


When sharing your work or communicating a decision, always share your criteria and assumptions.


⛔️ Don't do this:


"We should outsource our technical development to an agency."


✅ Do this:


"We should outsource our technical development to an agency for three reasons: we'll get to market faster, they'll use best practices, and we can scale up/down quickly. The risk is that we lose context and knowledge of any technical decisions when they leave, but we'll assign one of our staff to do a comprehensive handover."



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slolearnerdnProgram Manager  
I love this, do a lot of it "instinctively", but was recently told I need to give an update of the stuff that's going well to "inspire confidence and allow win celebration". I never give the "nothing to see here, but you should know..." email updates.

Assuming it is in good faith and not micromanagement or my typical toxic team that i am actively working to leave, I'm happy to adjust my thinking from "if there's risk or static, I'll communicate early and often", to "out of sight, out of mind: I'll keep you updated on the main tasks like you're my mom and I'm pregnant".

Can't wait for a manager that we have a mutual understanding (ideally, almost unspoken) of good, bad, and boringly normal. Had this a few managers back, and have been trying to bottle lightning since then.
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