Helping executive assistants break through the limitations of their role and advance to their next level with confidence

Kate Minogue, Executive Assistant Career Strategist
Executive Assistant Career Strategist

Are You Managing Up Yet?

Managing up is an essential tool to have in your executive assistant toolkit.

Learning how to effectively influence people above you in the reporting chain not only makes you better at your job, but also unlocks new opportunities in your career.

Bottom line … employers want Executive Assistants who can influence a person of authority — even when your position doesn’t carry much authority.

The problem is, you haven’t been trained to manage up. So, how will you overcome your inhibition and influence someone who has more experience, knowledge, and a heck of a lot more decision-making power than you? It’s a daunting task.

When is it appropriate?

And, how will you manage up tastefully?

I have 4 tips to share with you in the follow up to this blog. Today, let’s look at why and when to employ the technique of managing up.

Why Manage Up?

Adding value beyond your reporting level is one of the fastest ways to open doors to cool stuff, such as:

  • travel
  • promotions & raises
  • flexibility of your hours and work location

Not to mention that it’s fun and incredibly rewarding to see yourself move the needle.

Ironically, influencing people without using authority is one of the best and most effective ways to make an impact.

It’s the difference between doing something that’s mandated from above and doing something by choice. One way feels like freedom. The other way feels like an obligation.

When to Manage Up?

When I was 25 and interviewing for an EA role in Boston, my interviewer told me that they were looking for someone who could “manage up” and help my prospective bosses do the things that they didn’t want do — like the boring online company trainings and employee social opportunities. Important things that tend to take a backseat.

But I was completely intimidated by the prospect of having to influence 3 powerful dudes. They were moving a million miles an hour, working on big, complex problems that I knew little about. I was there to take their orders, not give them homework!

Who was I to manage them? And why would they listen to me?

Well, I learned that managing up was a magical thing that added huge value to my role.

Look for Problem Patterns

Consider this … you work more closely with your boss than anyone else in your organization. You see her calendar. You know his travel preferences. You know what time she starts sending emails in the morning. You probably know his list of specific development goals.

Knowing those details gives you influence.

If you’ve been supporting someone for a while, no doubt you’ve observed recurring themes:

  • What are the pain points that keep cropping up?
  • What does she never have enough time to do?
  • What’s frustrating him?
  • What activities drain her?

Combine your observations. Then, help your boss make time for the important things that get shoved aside for endless meetings, emails and putting out fires.

Help them make space in their schedule for big-picture thinking and creative problem solving. Also, help them connect with employees lower in the organization — such as a lunch or coffee with members of their group or other departments who they might not normally interact with.

Okay, But How Do I Actually Manage Up?

I’ll cover that in the next blog – so stay tuned!

In the meantime, share this blog with other Executive Assistants and let me know what ideas and questions you have about managing up.


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