How to manage your boss more effectively

Vanessa Vallely, founder of, the little black book for the female workforce in London, with more than 20 years experience in financial services in the City, offers insight into how PAs can manage their managers more effectively.

Top five tips to manage up effectively

Be prepared
If you are invited to join a meeting with your boss, always come to a meeting fully prepared. Be on time, look the part, have everything you need to conduct an efficient and timely meeting. If you are meeting external companies always carry some business cards for your manager. About five minutes before the meeting, collect your boss on the way, so you both have time to discuss the plan of action before the meeting.

Act as a confidant
It’s a dog eat dog world out there and invariably there will be individuals in peer groups that have their own agendas. Build trust with your boss and become their sounding board. Your boss should be able to tell you most things (without compromising confidentiality); safe in the knowledge that what is discussed will stay within your circle of trust. Trust is something that comes with time, but it’s useful to let your boss know you have their back. Being seen as shunning idle gossip will increase the trust between you and your boss.

Think like the boss
If you are preparing a document for your boss and you have discussed what they need you to do, put yourself in his/her shoes before handing the completed work back. Does it tell a story? Would it be better if you added something else to complete the picture? If you are left asking a question, no doubt someone else will too. You could create a copy and add what you believe the document needs and show them both to your boss – this shows initiative.

Manage your to do list and theirs
Always have an eye on what your boss needs to do. One-to-one meetings with your boss are a must and a good way to ensure that you are kept informed. You should not only turn up to meetings with your to do list, but ensure there is a process whereby you discuss your manager’s key tasks.

What are their top three priorities, what is keeping them awake at night from a work perspective? Once you find out offer help where you think you could add value. Verbally remind your boss of things he/she needs to do. Be careful here as you could come across as overly managing them – ensure you offer to help in a way that gives them a choice as to whether they want your help or not.

Bring them solutions not problems
Ideally you should have explored every opportunity to solve a problem before bringing it to your boss’s attention. Don’t delay if it’s urgent. The last thing any boss wants is to find out from someone else that something has gone wrong or when they are not prepared, as it makes your boss look like they are not communicating with their team.

When you bring a problem to their attention, explain the avenues you have explored and moreover, what you believe needs to be done to solve the problem. Don’t just turn up and tell them something is broken.

[box]Vanessa’s debut novel, Heels of Steel, will be published in September, unveiling the hard truths and dispelling the frustrating myths of what it’s really like climbing your way up the corporate ladder in a male-dominated industry. Vanessa admits to the mistakes she’s made along the way and the lessons learned, particularly the importance of finding solace in the form of women’s networks, and how she got to where she is today.[/box]