Sycophancy isn't my style. I find suck-ups loathsome. But I can't help admiring the manage-up business technique I've seen so skillfully deployed by ambitious intrapreneurs. No fawning or flattery, they use technology cleverly to make their boss look good.
For example, the boss's boss at one marketing firm had given a
keynote speech at a major industry event. A 20-something analyst easily
found a couple of complimentary tweets referencing the talk. He emailed
them to his 40-something boss, who barely knew what Twitter was but was more than pleased
to bring them to his boss' attention. Win. Win. Win. Everyone was happy.
A simple 90-second investment made his boss look good.
At another firm, a project manager found that her boss's boss had an offbeat sense of humor and liked politically correct ways of injecting levity into boring project reviews. She made it her mission to find the appropriate New Yorker or Dilbert cartoon to paste into a PowerPoint slide for presentations. Of course, she didn't do this for her own presentations; she selected amusingly relevant options for her boss's talk. He was grateful, and the boss's boss liked them.
What I like about "MYBLG" (Make Your Boss Look Good) is that it is the mirror image of the marketing mantra about knowing the customer's customer. Understanding the boss is vital. But researching, knowing, respecting and appreciating the boss's boss ought to give valuable insight into what makes your boss effective — and frustrated. That shapes how to better position your boss in the mind of his boss.
In other words, if you saw your boss as a brand, how would you sell him to your boss's boss — the customer? Indeed, if your organization is matrixed, how do you make your boss's bosses look good? Answering these questions well requires market research. Accomplishing tasks in a manner that simultaneously enables the boss to look good to his boss and peers is an interesting design problem. Disciplined thinking about what tools and technologies help ensure that turns out to be a good investment.
That's the exponential design difference from a decade ago. The economic and technological "barriers of entry" to figuring out appropriate MYBLG approaches have collapsed. Most managers are but a LinkedIn connection or a blog comment away from insights into their boss's boss that makes a win-win-win outcome a good bet. Should this occur daily? Only if you like having a brown nose. But there's nothing wrong with having MYBLG be a part of your brand.
In my own advisory work, I've found myself more conscious and self-aware about the marketplace of internal perceptions at a client. It's not enough to solve the client's problem as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible. It's important to solve the problem in a way that also helps the client look good to his colleagues and his bosses. I've seen technical consultants solve expensive and important problems in a manner that revealed how foolish the client really was. Similarly, I've seen subordinates make themselves look really good to their boss's boss at their boss's expense. That tends not to end well.
It's undeniably true that you might have a boss who is almost impossible to make look good. Or that it would test the outer limits of your creativity and authenticity to do so.
But give it a try. Think of it as a marketing challenge: What are the two things you could do in the next three days that would make your boss look better to their boss? And, as you look around the organization, ask yourself: Which of your colleagues or subordinates are using techniques or technologies to make you look better to your boss?
Check Out Paragon Strategies Managing Up the Art of Managing Your Boss