Managing in All Directions

By Allison Scudder • January 11, 2023

Everyone has heard the phrase “people don’t quit the job, they quit their boss.” Whether you are reporting directly to the Board of Directors, Executive Director, or other internal leadership, your working relationship is the biggest influence over your ability to succeed. By honing your skills to not only manage up but also across and down, you will create a better work environment for everyone, reach your strategic goals, and help your association further its mission.

Managing Up
Managing up is the process of understanding your direct supervisor’s goals and aligning your day-to-day activities to help meet those goals. This style of work can help build a trusting relationship with your superior and anticipate needs. This can be especially helpful when reporting to volunteers and working with a committee. Volunteers already give so much of their time and energy to the association, being one step ahead on projects will help them focus on areas where they are most needed. Here are a couple tips to help kick off a new relationship with your supervisor.

1. Clear and Concise Communication. 

Ask your supervisor questions on how to best communicate with them. Is it a 15-minute huddle at the start of every week, a longer meeting once a month, or emails at the start/end of every day? By setting up a regular feedback loop with your supervisor, you can ensure you are meeting them in the best way. Remember that being more vocal does not mean you are communicating better. Be thoughtful, intentional, and explain what you need to be successful in your position.

2. Understanding The Goals

You know your association’s mission, but how does your position have a positive impact in furthering that mission? When you learn how your piece fits into the overall puzzle, you can better anticipate and respect the needs of your supervisor. The road to anticipation is not always an easy one. There could be hiccups or miscues along the way, but it is on the path to truly understanding what drives your supervisor’s decision-making. It builds your trust with your supervisor to take on more responsibility over time.

Managing Across
Think beyond your department. Managing across is about building relationships with your “peers” who work or volunteer in different departments. Working in silos can cause confusion and miscommunications in achieving the ultimate strategy. Change comes from learning about the motivation and stressors in every department and how to work together in the most effective way. Here are some questions to ask yourself on your relationship with your peers:

1. Are there opportunities to collaborate that will further our mission?

2. Are there communication systems in place to help you collaborate to meet your goals?

3. Do you address conflicts between departments as they arise directly?

Managing Down
The first thought of management is the managing down relationship. Managing a staff is a career milestone and is a skill that can always be fine-tuned. You directly influence how motivated and productive your employees or volunteers are. A successful leader is one who has positive relationships with their employees and empowers them to grow in their careers. Set the same expectations that you want from your supervisor while managing up. In addition to this, here are a few tips on how to effectively build relationships with your staff or volunteers.

1. Serve as a mentor. As a supervisor, you are only as successful as your team. You are no longer measured by your individual accomplishments alone. You can easily inspire them to take their careers to the next level. Build on their strengths and guide them to be the best employee, and person, they can be.

2. Provide autonomy. There are a lot of things you cannot control. Instead of trying to control, set the expectations and let your team do their job. Trust your gut that you hired them for a reason and they can do the job to the standards that are set. Ensure that they know they are supported if any challenges arise.

3. Accept that mistakes will happen. It is inevitable, what separates the best leaders is how you respond to mistakes. Use them as a learning opportunity for your team. Analyze the mistake, assess what’s wrong, and provide guidance on how to do better next time.

It is your responsibility as a leader, or future leader, to meet the needs of your team, supervisors and association. Learning how to start managing in all directions can transform you from another staff member to an essential part of your organization. It is an ongoing process. Open communication between volunteers, committees, and departments will set everyone up for continued success.


About The Author

Allison Scudder is a corporate marketing specialist at Naylor Association Solutions. Reach her at [email protected].