Managing Upwards

by Ian Saunders

Getting alignment with your boss

Key action

Always aim to get alignment between what you want and what your boss wants. Differences about direction or approach often cause problems.

Alignment means getting things pointing in the same direction. In relation to achieving this with your boss, there are three areas you might like to consider:

  1. Differences in personal style
  2. Roles, responsibilities and objectives
  3. Personal aspirations.

Differences in personal style

On no account should you try to become exactly like your boss. Alignment by ‘cloning’ does not work. Instead, use the page How does your boss differ from you? to establish where your major differences lie. Once you have the answers, seek out a conversation with your boss about these differences and discuss how you can make them work to your mutual benefit.

Find ways that will allow both of you to be yourselves. If you are able to be yourself, you will almost certainly be more effective.

Spend time with your boss agreeing where your differences will hinder performance and seeking out ways to minimise them. Also discover on which occasions your strengths are most valuable and seek to highlight these.

Always work to allow your boss to be themselves and encourage them to allow you to be yourself.

Roles, responsibilities and objectives

The section on your boss’ role and accountabilities highlights the need to understand and fit in with these aspects of your boss’ job.

You also need to ensure that your role, responsibilities and objectives are clearly understood and agreed with your boss.

It is important for you to be absolutely clear about what your boss wants you to achieve and how they will measure it. Without clarity in this aspect of your job you will not be fully aligned.

Personal aspirations

If you want to support your boss effectively, you need to know what they are trying to achieve. So ask them what they are trying to achieve and how best you can support them in this.

Tell your boss about your aspirations and discuss how they can best support you in achieving your ambitions.

Find out which projects or special pieces of work will support both your own and your boss’ aspirations. These are clearly those with most positive influence and opportunities.