Managing the Manager of the Managed

We’ve talked about being a good manager but haven’t delved into the people in charge of them. Often referred to as upper management, higher-ups, grand boss, or the board of directors, depending on the type of organization. In each case, managers answer to someone or a group of people. When you’re in this position, there are numerous things to consider about your role as the overseer. Indeed lists six things: 


  1. Understand their teams
            1. This is a common mistake I’ve seen happen on numerous occasions. The manager’s boss knows little about the team and makes little effort to remedy that. On the flip side, many in upper management make a solid effort to build relationships with their manager’s team. Staying involved and making sure your manager has what they need to lead the team. 
      1. The Harvard Business Review published an article on this topic by Amy Gallo, which states, “It can be tricky to know how much you should interact with your direct reports’ teams… On the one hand, you need to be familiar with the players so that you can give the manager relevant feedback and coaching. But, on the other hand, you don’t want to undermine their authority. “Don’t allow yourself to get into the situation where you’re hearing things they’re not telling their manager,” Hill says. Any interactions should be above board with the explicit goal of trying to better understand the team and help the manager. “Be clear with everybody that you’re aligned and there are no secrets,” says Hill. But don’t close off all communication. “If there is a serious concern, it’s best to have an open door policy.”  
  2. Show them respect
    1. Everyone likes to be treated with respect. This is especially important when you’re with the team and the manager. Showing confidence and respect for the manager will help them maintain a positive leadership role with their team. 
  3. Lead by example
    1. Being an excellent example of responsible leadership for your manager to exemplify is always a good idea. They may or may not model their leadership after yours, and that’s ok. They will have their own way of doing things. 
    2. The Harvard Business Review published an article on this topic, written by Amy Gallo, which states, “So be sure that you are managing your people in the way that you expect them to manage their own teams. “It’s useful to be deliberate and aware that people are paying attention,” says Finkelstein. So always walk the talk. For example, if you want your direct reports to give their team members autonomy, be sure that you are doing the same for them.”
  4. Coach them
    1. According to the article, “By ensuring that you have regular and open communication with these managers, you can identify areas that require improvement and coach them in ways to improve these. You can do these through weekly coaching sessions and even get other managers to join to learn together.”
      1. A supervisor I used to work with had an open-door policy that worked fairly well. Her door was literally open unless she was on a Teams call. 
      2. One of her direct reports didn’t have a door but was so kind that everyone knew they could go talk to her at any time. 
      3. Another manager usually had his noise-canceling headphones on, so if you wanted his attention, you had to wave, knock, or message him. 
  5. Encourage independence
    1. Micromanaging should be avoided unless your employee requests it. As the article published on says, “…micromanage them or exert too much influence over how they operate, you can actually make their jobs more difficult. Conversely, you may find that newer managers are unsure of what to do and may frequently seek your guidance. In both situations, giving them space and encouraging independence is important…”
  6. Communicate clearly
    1. Foggy communication helps no one. Some people are naturally adept at communicating their thoughts, while others struggle. In either case, be encouraging and supportive. Provide kind but helpful resources for communication improvement if needed, and follow up with them to ensure it’s going well. 


The HBR article also stated a few main review points:


  • Treat your direct reports in the same way you want them to treat their team members.
  • Look for opportunities to observe them in action.
  • Spend time getting to know their team members.


  • Dictate exactly how they should manage. Instead, give them advice and let them find their own authentic style.
  • Criticize them in front of their team. You should be looking for opportunities to bolster their credibility.
  • Wait until the annual review cycle to ask for input. Regularly seek feedback on how you’re doing as their manager.


Being a manager isn’t easy, especially when you’re in charge of other managers. Being kind, open, and helpful is your best quality management approach. Remember, not everyone thinks the same, so their methodologies will differ from yours.