I was recently asked to facilitate a workshop for a group of university students participating in an industry based internship program. A key objective of the workshop was to unpack the value of proactive managing up in the workplace.  To maximise the effectiveness of managing up, we overlaid the True Colours personality types where taking time to understand our own personality type and that of our direct line of report is fundamental to getting the most out the relationship for yourself, your manager and the organisation.

Throughout the workshop there was much interaction with participants offering insightful contributions and asking great questions.  Many of the participants had completed several intern placements and were already experiencing first-hand the value in effective managing up along with the challenges that can arise when the relationship with their manager is not developed intentionally and is not operating constructively.

This workshop led me to think about common themes that have been surfacing in a range of recent executive coaching conversations I have been facilitating.  It really hit home that this is also a common pain point for individuals working at senior levels that is not always proactively managed. When someone has a team or business unit to lead, and reports to a member of the organisations executive level, the relationship they have with their executive report, and their key teams are critical.  These key relationships can be the cause of significant angst and limit the performance and effectiveness of individuals and teams.

Common challenges raised by managers and leaders:

  • Distress caused by a lack of clarity and alignment around expectations and priorities between the individual and her/his leader
  • Inefficiencies due to poor communication and lack of clarity around priorities
  • Individuals not feeling valued by their line managers
  • Inaccurate assumptions around the achievements (or perceived lack thereof) of individuals due to methods of communication
  • Unsustainable workload commonly experienced by managers trying to protect their teams
  • Unsuitable responses to events or activities that occur that impact on the relationship between individuals and managers

At BRS we have had success using the Human Synergistics Constructive Styles as a basis for individuals and teams to develop effective relationships:

  1. The Constructive Styles are an outstanding basis for leaders to identify how they will continue to have a Constructive impact on their teams and the organization.
  2. The Constructive Styles can be used to inform specific Constructive behaviors individuals can identify as a developmental focus.
  3. Team-based approach to identifying agreed behaviours / values based on the Constructive Styles.  This blog by my colleague Heath Colebatch provides a great summary of how the Constructive Styles can be a useful guide for teams:


A key take away from my perspective is the need to take 100% responsibility for our professional relationships, whether it be the teams we lead, or the relationship with our higher level manager.   This requires a 100% commitment from both parties to aligning and delivering on what success looks like in their relationship.   Happiness equals reality less expectations.  Managing up directly links to this simple equation which all starts with understanding and aligning first before working together.