The Art of Managing Up: Crucial Questions for Your Manager

By PeopleLeaders | People Leaders Podcast

one-on-one with manager

In our recent podcast, we delved into the art of managing upward, specifically focusing on questions to ask your manager during one-on-one meetings. Many of us are familiar with the term "managing up," but mastering this skill can significantly enrich your relationship with the person setting your workplace expectations.

Whether it's understanding their strategic focus or seeking advice on improving your performance, the right questions can pave the way to a more productive and collaborative work environment. Let's break down some of the key insights and questions that can help you maximise your one-on-one meetings with your manager.

You can watch or listen to the interview here or read the summary below.

Understanding Your Manager's Priorities

One of the most effective ways to get insights into your manager's focus is by asking, "What are your key priorities at the moment?" This question not only provides you with valuable information on their strategic focus but also gives you the opportunity to offer your support. 

Follow-up with, "What do you think I can support you with?" to keep the conversation flowing. Remember, it's crucial to avoid double-barrelled questions; focus on obtaining a full response before diving into more details.

Clarifying Your Own Priorities

It's equally important to understand what your manager sees as your key priorities. Rather than asking, "What do you think my key priorities should be?" frame it as, "Are there key priorities that I should be focusing on that I'm not at the moment?" By sharing your current priorities and seeking their input, you can ensure your efforts are aligned with the broader goals of the team.

Enhancing Communication

Communication styles vary, and understanding how best to communicate with your manager can prevent misunderstandings. Asking, "How do you think we can best communicate?" or "What's the best way that I can communicate with you?" can help establish a more effective communication strategy. Whether your manager needs more frequent updates or detailed reports, this conversation sets the stage for smoother interactions.

Building Trust

Trust is the foundation of any high-functioning team. Initiate a conversation about trust by expressing your desire to strengthen your relationship: "I really want to strengthen my relationship with you as my manager and with my colleagues. How do I earn your trust?" 

A softer approach could be, "What would you see me doing, saying, or being that would lead you to trust me completely over the next six months?" Providing your manager with time to think about their response can also lead to a more thoughtful and meaningful discussion.

Seeking Specific Advice

When asking for advice, specificity is key. Instead of a broad question like, "What is one piece of advice you would give me?" tailor it to your needs: "Is there a piece of advice you could give me that would benefit my skill in leading the team or managing stakeholders?" The more focused your question, the more valuable the response is likely to be.

Identifying Stakeholders

Understanding which stakeholders are crucial to your team's success can be invaluable. Ask your manager, "Are there people within or outside the business that you think I need to develop stronger relationships with to benefit the team?" 

Demonstrating proactive relationship management can set you apart as a high-performing individual.

Learning from Top Performers

Gain insight into the criteria for success by asking, "Who do you rate as a top performer in the business and why?" This question helps you understand what your manager values in terms of technical competency, communication style, and relationship management.

Managing Conflict

Conflict is inevitable in any workplace. Seek your manager's advice on handling difficult conversations: "What tips do you have for managing potential conflicts or difficult conversations?" Additionally, discussing how to communicate effectively during conflicts helps establish a protocol for maintaining a healthy working relationship.

Integrating Performance Feedback

Utilise your one-on-one meetings to revisit performance feedback. Mention previous feedback and discuss your progress: "In our last performance discussion, you mentioned [specific area of feedback]. I'd like to discuss my progress in that area." This approach keeps you on track and demonstrates your commitment to continuous improvement.

In our next podcast, we'll be tackling team-building activities, a topic we've received numerous requests about. If you have any specific questions or areas you'd like us to explore, please send us an email at info@peopleleaders.com.au.


By incorporating these strategies and questions into your one-on-one meetings, you can build a more open, productive, and supportive relationship with your manager. Remember, these meetings are an opportunity not just to receive feedback but to actively shape your career trajectory and workplace environment.

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