Dashboards To Help You Manage Up
“An effective relationship with your boss increases the likelihood of success in your job.”
— John Ballard, Decoding the Workplace: 50 Keys to Understanding People in Organizations
I once had a boss who was paranoid and trusted no one. When I look back on it now, I think it was because he was managing so many pieces of data, had so many people providing that data, and received so much conflicting information that he didn’t know what to trust. While he knew that I was highly proficient at spreadsheets, he still even questioned my results because he feared that I might be manipulating them. At the same time, he considered me an “Excel Wiz” and asked me to validate other people’s analyses.
For the record, I am not an Excel Wiz. He just happened to be completely inept with the spreadsheet.
Here was a guy who was clueless and completely overwhelmed by his job. From working with him, I started to get the idea that it might actually be to my advantage to help him out proactively. Not just to wait for him to ask me for help, but to think about how I can help him gain a little more control over his responsibilities and even help him look good in the eyes of his employees and superiors.
What we now call “managing up.”
If I only had business intelligence dashboards to help me back then! Dashboards may just be an employee’s best friend when it comes to influencing, informing, and supporting your own boss’ performance.
Help Your Career While You Help Their Career
Your boss may not be the most important person in your life, but they likely have an outsize role to play in whether or not you are happy at work. They can decide to give you the projects that are most fulfilling to you or they can decide to assign jobs arbitrarily, without concern for whether it’s at all aligned with your interests and skills. They can either give you the recognition and visibility you deserve that can get you promoted, or they can be ignorant of your good works, look the other way, or worse, stand in the way of you getting ahead. They can influence others on your behalf, or they could not care enough to spare a breath to speak up for you.
Bosses are so important to most workers that in one survey, 65% of those surveyed reported that they’d rather get a new boss than an increase in pay.
That’s where managing up comes in. What is “managing up” exactly? It’s when you not only do your job, but you spend time attempting to influence the effectiveness and success of your boss. Whether you’re supplying her with insights about project performance or informing her about trends in the market so she can respond wisely, you help her look good.
And for all your hard work, you can get a lot in return. Done right, you can end up standing out as an employee and get recognized as a valuable, even necessary, asset on the job. You get recognized as a team player whose focus is in the right place: helping the team, department, and organization succeed. In the meantime, you become more knowledgeable about what his job involves, making you more attractive as a candidate for promotion.
Just as importantly, by “managing up,” you nourish your relationship with your boss, which will set a foundation of trust between you. That, in turn, will help the two of you more quickly work out issues when the inevitable stressful times arise. He will have a lot of reason for investing in keeping you around and keeping you happy.
How Dashboards Can Help You Manage Up
Advanced dashboards can be crazy-helpful when it comes to managing up. At the same time, you help raise performance levels of teams and departments by providing everyone with real-time, actionable metrics that draw from clean, company-wide data that can be trusted. It’s the short-cut window to bottom-lines, trends, and up-to-date performance.
Get everyone more informed
Great dashboards do much more than list statistics; they help to predict where KPIs are headed. So one place to start managing up is to work to increase the frequency that reporting on performance metrics are delivered. Include metrics on trends and forecasting to help your manager predict upcoming spikes or lulls in sales, customer responsiveness, systems performance, or whatever else as accurately as possible. With reliable predictions, they can jump on opportunities that arise and avoid too much fallout downturns.
Help the clueless manager
“The Arsonist” was the name we gave another boss I had. It was due to the fact that, at least once a week, the entire management team had to put out some sort of fire due to this guy’s sheer lack of subject matter knowledge. Like the boss I mentioned earlier, this one simply needed help with the facts just to stay afloat. Whether your boss is as clueless as the supervisors I had to deal with, or just somewhat submerged in the volume of data, you can use a good business intelligence dashboard to help sort out the facts and, in turn, create a more stabilized work environment. Consider how the following would help to quiet the confusion around your department:
- Dashboards that draw on clean, reliable data, company-wide
- Departmental or organizational performance metrics that everyone trusts
- Anytime access to company or department real-time KPIs
- Easy-to-use cloud-based data warehousing that seamlessly accesses data from multiple platforms
- Customizable, automated alerts when metrics reach a certain benchmark
Reveal the insights within the data
I learned a long time ago that the guy in operations knew before anyone else who was ahead or behind in their numbers. When I worked for a very large software company, the Executive V.P. would get the entire department together at 4 p.m. every week for a sales committee meeting. So, every Friday for two months, like clockwork, I’d bring our Director of Sales Operations a large coffee and an Everything Bagel, extra schmeer. This was his bribe and he knew it. In return, he ran a report that he created just for me. It included a number of important results, including an in-depth comparison of sales, representative territory activities, and reseller involvement. I was able to take what was most important to my boss (the KPIs) and help him see how they interacted with each other.
What a concept!
From that small effort, I gained huge credibility and respect in the department as I transformed our Friday afternoon forecasts from a torture-fest to a cakewalk. While everyone could rattle off the names of the KPIs, I became the KPI weatherman.
If this were to have happened today, I could have made it even easier on myself. With a great BI dashboard, I could have accomplished the same thing without having to run out for coffee and bagels! That’s because advanced BI dashboards can:
- Provide immediately understandable KPIs metrics and trends
- Graphically report the KPIs’ impact on internal and external factors
- Show how relevant internal and external factors influence KPIs
- Easily validate the accuracy of KPIs that are being monitored
- Reveal actionable insights that suggest best options and direction for improvement
Be the bearer of cost-saving solutions
If you struggle with understanding certain KPIs or their usefulness, you’re not the only one. Your peers and your boss might be struggling with the same things, only they don’t have the time or know-how to deal with it. That’s an opportunity to make things easier for yourself and your boss, and perhaps your department or your entire organization.
While anyone can recognize when something isn’t working, most people keep it to themselves, not wanting to be pegged as a complainer. One way to set yourself apart from others in your organization, and help your manager at the same time, is to turn problems into solutions. And while anyone can point to stats and be able to say that revenue is up or that customer satisfaction is down, when you work with dashboards you can provide much more valuable insights and metrics to those who could benefit from them.
Dashboards help you see the forest for the trees while also letting you examine the trees for answers. They can be a reliable, objective tool to communicate quickly and convincingly where resources are being wasted, where money is being drained, or where change is needed. And you get to be the hero by providing a solution to a current or forecasted problem and helping to steer your superiors towards better outcomes. It’s win/win.
And of course, you win points with your manager because you’ve helped them identify the issues before they wreak any sort of damage. And you’ve helped to supply them with actionable insights they can use to strategize a game plan to remedy the problem. Here are more ways that BI dashboards support you to be the hero:
- Provide data-supported, objective reporting of performance and operations
- Let you drill down to review and evaluate the factors that are feeding into undesirable outcomes
- Allow team members to collaborate, review, and problem-solve issues
Have more time to do your job and steer your career
Learn to leverage a cloud-based, real-time dashboard and you’ll find that you have more time to do your job. Use it to manage up and you’ll get more recognition while you streamline the work you do at the same time. And remember that a “boss” is anyone you answer to—directly or indirectly—whether it’s your manager, the board of directors, or simply, your clients. Involve data as you manage your bosses with intention. Use dashboards as a tool to help you guide them to where you can help them best. And they will love the unique value you bring and begin to trust the direction you want to drive things.
Ready to try it out for yourself? See ClicData’s cloud-based dashboard designer to get started managing up in your company!