Managing Upwards - Training for Managers and Professionals

Developing the Art of Working with Your Boss


Overcome Intimidation

Learn to stand up for what you believe in and answer questions confidently in the boss's presence.


Show increased confidence and competence in handling queries, complaints, and concerns from superiors.

Build Relationships

Develop skills for effectively managing superiors, building stronger relationships, and dealing with integrity and honesty.

Refine your communication skills by learning to harness your emotional intelligence with one of the UK's most acclaimed management training courses.

Why Choose This Training?

More Than Just A Course Of Lectures

What gets in the way of developing and holding on to new communication skills are old habits of thinking and speaking. Even if the advice is very good the reason why it rarely sticks are the mental habits people inevitably revert to, especially under pressure.

Unlearning those old habits and internalising a more effective and lasting approach to communication needs more than a short course of lectures on how to do it.

What Makes This Training Stand Out?

What makes this training stand out is the exceptional support through one-to-one coaching sessions and continuous feedback. Changing behaviour is not an easy task as old habits are hard to break.

With a 40-year track record we can help you cultivate practical skills, and build your confidence to so you can successfully navigate real-world challenges, ensuring lasting behavioural improvements.


Join thousands of participants getting results

"What I love about this course is that I didn't just learn about the topic, this course is about ME.  I'm confident I can reliably use my new skills, even when under pressure".

5 stars

A Project Manager At A Tech Company

"A lesson for life! The power of effective communication is incredible when one masters the skills "listening with empathy" and "speaking assertively"

5 stars

A Project Quality Engineer

Clients We Have Worked With

Well-known companies who have used this course again and again, over many years

  • Amgen 3
  • BBC
  • aunt bessies
  • Cargill 2
  • Heinz Logo 3
  • Civil service
  • NHS 2
  • Kelloggs Logo 2
  • IGT
  • JM 4 copy
  • Schweppes 3 logo
  • Castrol 3
  • Dewhirst 2
  • avon logo png
  • Nestle Logo
  • RSPB Logo 2022
  • Shell
  • UNHCR 3
  • unilever 2
  • BP 2
  • FBN 2

Course Summary

Training Objectives

This is a course designed to offer professional and tailored training on managing upwards. We will help you develop the skills and confidence to effectively manage up, by helping you practice listening with empathy so you can swiftly and accurately tune in on their wave-lenght. To the uninitiate it will look like you're reading their mind. Most people love it, becuase you'll be generously, and enthusiasitcally showing them how much you understand where they are coming from.

By taking this training course, you can develop strong relationships with your superiors, build trust more quickly, understand how to influence their decision-making, increase your impact and influence, better communicate your ideas, gain a better understanding of your manager's priorities and needs, navigate office politics more easily, and demonstrate the skills and confidence to succeed and grow in your role. This course is the perfect way to help you reach your goals and excel in your career.

Develop Your Emotional Intelligence

You will learn a set of powerful emotional intelligence communication techniques so that you can manage difficult conversations, handle challenging situations, build relationships and set firm boundaries.

Transferable Skills

The goal of this training is to equip you with the tools they need to build strong, lasting relationships in your professional life, although because these skills are so transferable many clients report vast improvements in their personal relationships as well.

Develop Skills

This is a skills development rather than just a theoretical programme, so the emphasis throughout will be on you taking turn after turn, practising your skills, while receiving feedback and coaching about your effect on others.

Repeated Practice and Feedback

In your coaching sessions you will be helped to practise dealing with the kinds of situation you find challenging, again and again, until you are confident you can do it successfully.

Video Analysis

We'll combine practical, hands-on experience with video replay and analysis and discussion of the principles involved to help you gain both skills and understanding. Special attention is paid to your individual training needs, so you can practise your skills in real-life situations that you have to handle at work.

Sustained Change

That's why as well as your place in a small group, this training includes a generous amount of private and confidential one-to-one coaching sessions online, spread over several months, ensuring an exceptional level of support. This will ensure the changes you make are sustained over a longer period of time and any obstacles are overcome. Choose between online training available worldwide, or in-person face-to-face courses in the UK.

Course Dates and Price

For a list of upcoming course dates (for online coaching and face-to-face training), the locations of the next 3-day public courses in the UK and pricing Click here.

Free Initial Session

This initial coaching session serves as an introduction to the "Skills with People" course, allowing you to understand the course's relevance and effectiveness for your specific needs before committing to it.

Related Articles

You may find this page on The Secret Weapon For Dealing With A Micromanaging Boss through emotional intelligence and assertive communication useful. It emphasises understanding the reasons behind a boss's micromanaging behaviour, like fear of mistakes or lack of trust, and offers strategies to manage this situation effectively. Key approaches include demonstrating empathy, setting clear expectations, and using emotional intelligence to foster a better working relationship. The training aims to equip individuals with practical skills for handling micromanagement, ensuring sustainable improvements in their professional interactions.

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People used to be scared of him - no longer

What Makes This Course On Managing Upwards So Effective?

Building Relationships with Senior Leaders

  • For more than 40 years this training course on how to manage upwards has proven to be one of the most highly acclaimed.  Over the years we've had thousands of managers and professionals through our hands.  Many have said it's one of the best professional relationship training courses they ever attended.  We have helped our clients develop their skills so they can communicate more effectively, and succeed in both their personal and professional lives.
  • On this training course you'll learn how to manage your superiors.  You'll be able to build stronger relationships, increase your impact and influence, and navigate the difficult dynamics of the workplace, and develop your skills and confidence so you can  succeed in your role and advance your career.  Here's how this training will get you there;-

Skills Taught on this Influencing and Persuasion Training Course

1.  Tuning in on manager's wave-length by combining active listening skills (paraphrasing and summarising), with an emotional intelligence skill of empathy.

2.  Getting manager to tune in on your wave-length by learning how to speak assertively in a way that won't be confused with aggressiveness, but instead will help other people to take you extremely seriously when you need them to.  They'll end up thanking you for your candour. 

3.  Leading from below and influencing decision-making

4.  Driving results and making a positive impact

5.  The art of persuasion without argument

6.  Speaking succinctly and getting to the point

7.  Aligning goals and creating mutually beneficial outcomes

8.  Empathising with manager and helping them articulate their vision

9.  Handling difficult situations and navigating office politics

10.  Developing skills and confidence to advance career


He's now far more aware of his impact on others

Is this the right training course for you?

Discover the two crucial emotional intelligence skills every successful leader needs for managing the people above

Yes, if any of the following is true for you...

  • I realise one of the most crucial people for me to manage successfully is my boss.
  • I'm much better at dealing with people below me than people above me. Unfortunately my boss has little first-hand experience of how well I deal with people in my department, only of how I deal with him or her, and that's often not very effectively.
  • If only I could treat my boss as an equal, but the trouble is I often feel intimidated in the presence of senior people, and then I'm not at my best.
  • When senior people ask me a question I feel in a panic and tend to dump information on them as fast as I can. I've noticed they're sometimes impatient with me or give me a glazed look when I do this.
  • When my boss asks me how I'm getting on I feel under great pressure to say 'fine', even when things are not fine.
  • My manager is often abusive. I'd dearly like to know how to stand up to this without putting my job at risk.
  • I need to give thought to managing my boss better.
  • Perhaps I need a different way of giving him support, handling his feelings, answering his questions.
  • The impression I give him, or the effect I have on him, matters for my career.
  • I need to know how to stand up to him, listen better to him, understand him better, be more honest with him, and respond to criticism from him with a more open and receptive mind.
  • I would like to be able to deal with my boss with total integrity.
  • My boss is no different from other people. I need to use the same skills and care in handling him as I do in handling customers.

Meet the trainers - Audio clip (20 minutes)

Are you stressed and worried about how creating the right impression?

Listen to a discussion about how to deal with difficult people e.g. a difficult or demanding boss 


What You'll Take Away From This Course

Are you a manager, leader or a professional looking to nurture your reputation?

Might your need to be more successful at managing upwards be met by this management training course called Skills with People?

One of the most valuable skills you can develop is your confidence in managing your boss. The skills you need to manage upwards are no different from the ones you need for managing downwards or sideways, but they're even more crucial. When it comes to getting the best out of people, bosses are no different from anyone else. The approaches that get the best out of other people get the best out of bosses, too. The main difference is that we tend to be more afraid of them than we are of other people.

This course offers a simple but powerful set of skills with a very wide range of uses when managing upwards. Specifically;-

  • No longer being intimidated in the boss's presence,
  • Not being panicked or flustered or fluffing when being asked a question by a senior manager,
  • Standing up for what you believe, even when being challenged by the boss,
  • Being able to support your boss better, by answering their questions more convincingly,
  • Being more confident and competent at handling queries, complaints and concerns from above,
  • Showing that you can understand where the boss is coming from,
  • Being able to deal with the boss with integrity and honesty.
Learn how to be soft on the person yet tough on the issue

A Practical Guide - How to Manage Upwards

How emotional intelligence can help you manage upwards more successfully

There are two crucial skills you need for managing upwards successfully. One is listening with empathy. The other is speaking assertively. We'll help you master both of them on this course. Here are some examples of situations where these two skills can help you be much more successful at managing upwards.

Example 1 - Getting a busy person's attention

When people are busy it can be difficult for them to switch from what they're doing and pay attention to you. Here are two approaches, the first without, and the second with empathy and assertiveness (empathy and assertiveness are the two core skills taught on the Skills with People course). Imagine the BUSY PERSON in this conversation is your boss:-

First approach - without the two skills

  • YOU: Excuse me, could I see you for a minute? It's urgent.
  • BUSY PERSON: I'm rather busy right now. Can't it wait?
  • YOU: Afraid not. Sorry.
  • BUSY PERSON: Well, all right. But be quick. I must get on with this report.

Yes, he has agreed - but reluctantly, and you therefore have only half his attention. The other half is still on the report he's writing. He's understandably on the defensive, protecting his time from your intrusion. That's because you appear to be aware only of your own needs. You showed no awareness of or concern for his needs, you gave him no time to let off steam and mentally adjust, and you weren't honest about how much of his time you needed.

Second approach - using the two basic skills

  • YOU (using empathy): I can see you're busy. I don't imagine you it's a good time to be interrupted.
  • BUSY PERSON (feels his time is being respected and so he can let off steam): True! I've got this report to get out. I'm up against a deadline. What is it?
  • YOU (being assertive - which doesn't mean being aggressive - it just means being honest and matter-of-fact about what you need): I need to talk - urgently.
  • BUSY PERSON: I see. How long will it take?
  • YOU (clear and definite): Ten minutes.
  • BUSY PERSON: Okay. Just let me finish this sentence, and I'll be with you.

Now when he is ready you're much more likely to have his full attention.

Summary of the method

  • Always start with empathy, e.g., “I can see you're busy. I don't imagine you want an interruption.”

Wait for him to let off steam.

  • Then be clear and assertive, e.g., “I need to see you, urgently. It'll take … minutes.”

Wait for him to register your need and give you his attention.

A combination of these two skills is so powerful and hard to resist that it works irrespective of the relative status of the person you're dealing with. It's a very effective way of managing upwards.

Example 2 Saying what you want

Many of us learn very early in life that it's unfair, rude, and perhaps punishable to ask for what we want, because it might clash with or deprive someone else of what they want. This may have been part of the necessary and well-meant social training provided by our carers when we were little. But many of us have taken it to mean that it's safer to keep quiet about what we want, and this has become one of the underlying beliefs that have shaped our personality, our relationships, and the way we handle our bosses. In order to avoid conflict we've acquired the habit of suppressing one of the most vital and empowering questions we can ever ask: “What do I want?”

But that early lesson in life was wrong. Provided we also consider what others want, asserting what we want usually works very well. Saying what we want does not mean we are insisting on it. It simply means we are putting it on the table for discussion. If there's a clash of needs, we can either discuss how to divide up the limited resource, or - even better - create a way to both have what we want. Provided our aim is to satisfy one-another's needs as much as our own there's no conflict and the conversation can be harmonious. This works as well with bosses as with anyone else.

This robust but harmonious way of negotiating about what we want is made possible by using empathy and assertiveness together. Using this approach in the conversation with your boss, you'd say:-

  • “I want to persuade you to say yes to an idea of mine. Of course the decision is yours, but I believe I can convince you, and I'd like to try.”

He's very likely enjoy your frank approach and allow you to try. From this point onwards the main skill you need is not beating him over the head with the advantages of your idea, but showing how well you can understand his reservations, in other words, listening with empathy. If you can satisfy him you understand his reservations, and allow him to let off steam about them, he'll begin to be receptive to your idea.

Example 3. Receiving criticism without being defensive

Most people experience criticism as a personal attack even when it's not meant that way, and have a strong instinct to defend themselves. This is the hardest of all situations to handle gracefully. But reacting in a defensive way to criticism always raises the tension, because it fails to take the criticiser's underlying concern seriously, and therefore makes him feel even worse about you. It therefore diminishes you in his eyes. An un-defensive response, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. It increases your stature in his eyes and enhances the relationship. And far from showing submission, it actually shows strength.

Another thing to bear in mind is that much of the criticism you receive is false. A common reason why is given below. An understanding of this can help you stand firm and not submit to it. What you need is a way of being firm yet un-defensive in the face of false criticism. This might sound like a lot to ask for, but, as we'll see shortly, a combination of empathy and assertiveness places it within your grasp.

Of course some of the criticism you receive probably is true, and you need a graceful way of responding to this, too. You also need to be able to tell the difference between true and false criticism.

Imagine someone senior in the hierarchy says to you`;-

  • “Judging by the performance of your team it's obvious you are completely lacking in leadership ability”.

Which of us, on receiving this, would not experience a rapid increase in blood pressure? Not only is it a heavy blow to our self-esteem, but it also threatens our reputation and career prospects.

But hold on. If instead of panicking we examine it closely we can see in it a number of very interesting things:-

  • It is so sweeping and unhelpful a generalisation that it's meaningless.
  • Because it's so unhelpful and so general, it's the kind of thing no confident leader would say.
  • On the other hand it's precisely the kind of thing that would be said by someone who secretly feared that he himself was lacking in leadership ability.

So why does he say it? The answer is that by pointing an accusing finger at someone else he can get relief from the self-critical voice inside his own head. This process is well known, and we all do it - it is called projection, or scapegoating. We see in others the very qualities we're trying to deny in ourselves. We attack them because at some level we feel this absolves us from an attack we secretly fear we deserve. Most of the time we're not aware we're doing this. But even though - or perhaps just because - it goes on beneath the surface of the conscious mind the impulse to do it is very strong.

Therefore destructive personal criticism usually says more about the person giving it than about the person receiving it. But if such criticism so clearly deserves to be dismissed as false, why are we so easily hooked and disturbed by it? The reason is that we too have an inner critic. The criticism we hear from others seems to confirm the truth of our own worst fears and self-criticisms. Of course, it's all highly irrational and really deserves only our laughter, but we take it seriously and feel drawn to it as to a magnet. This is one of the universal frailties of human nature.

But although seeing negative personal criticism for what it really is can help us be less disturbed by it, we still need to respond in an effective way. So let's return to the example and see how we might respond with a combination of empathy and assertiveness:-

  • SENIOR PERSON: Judging by the performance of your team it's obvious you are completely lacking in leadership ability.
  • YOU (listening with empathy): You seem to feel very bad about my team's poor performance. I imagine that's because it could reflect badly on the department as a whole.
  • SENIOR PERSON (spontaneously lets off steam, calms down a bit and feels a little less vitriolic): Exactly!
  • YOU (now being assertive - frankly telling the truth about how you feel and the reason why): I feel undermined when you say I'm completely lacking in leadership ability. Of course I've a lot to learn, but I too feel bad about my team's performance, and I'm trying hard to improve it.
  • SENIOR PERSON (taken aback by your frankness he backs down; his respect for you rapidly increases because it is obvious to him that no-one who was totally lacking in leadership ability would be able to stand up for themselves in the way you're now doing): Okay, sorry, perhaps I misunderstood.
  • YOU (continuing to speak the simple truth): If you have a specific criticism of how I'm managing my team I'll be grateful for it because I'm very keen to improve.
  • SENIOR PERSON (may be unable to respond to this because he may not have anything specific to say; if he does you can only gain by it): …

Your integrity is intact. You've stood up for yourself under severe attack with both courtesy and grace. You've acquitted yourself well and have gone up in his estimation. What has enabled you to do this is a combination of empathy and assertiveness. Your empathy opened his mind. Your honest assertiveness brought him to his senses.

But what if the criticism you receive is valid?

Of course, if it's skilfully given it won't be so difficult to receive, but if it's given insensitively or aggressively you may still have a problem receiving it without becoming defensive. The example below is of receiving valid criticism undefensively:-

  • BOSS: This report is far too long. The MD will be much too busy to read it.
  • YOU (reeling from the unexpected criticism - and admitting frankly how you feel and why): That hurts! I've been working on this round the clock!
  • BOSS: What counts around here is how smart you work.
  • YOU: Are you saying it's total rubbish? If not, can you give me a clue what's wrong with it. I'm very keen to get my proposal accepted.
  • BOSS: There's nothing wrong with the idea, but you're swamping us in detail. The MD just won't have time to read it, so it's a waste of time.
  • YOU: Oh (thinking hard). I've got it. I'll write a clear summary at the beginning. Do you think that will make a difference?
  • BOSS: Yes.
  • HANS: I should have realised. Thanks for pointing this out. I'll do it right away.

What's the problem about manage upwards?

The underlying problem is fear, and how easily we let it inhibit us.

There are two practical questions here. One is - can you do anything about the fear, apart from honestly admitting it and learning to live with it? The other is - can you learn how to behave in more impressive ways even when you're afraid?

In the Skills with People course we encourage you to focus mainly on the second question. In other words, we help you find impressive ways of dealing with your bosses even when you feel intimidated. Of course as you do this your confidence increases and you begin to feel less afraid, but you don't need confidence to start with.

What not to say to your boss

When your boss asks how things are going, don't say everything's fine if it's not. There are better ways of managing upwards. Imagine what you'd be thinking if you were the boss and received this answer. You'd be thinking, "But can I trust this person - isn't he/she just saying what he/she thinks I want to hear?" On the Skills with People course we'll coach you in how to speak the truth and be respected for doing so.

Learn to get taken more seriously

Proven Training

This training gives managers, leaders and professionals the exact steps you need to confidently manage upwards and convincingly reassure your boss

For ore information on this website relevant to managing upwards you might also find our pages on feedback, listening skills and personal impact relevant and useful.

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Free exploratory coaching session

The first session is free so you're not committing yourself until you're sure this training is relevant for you. You will also learn something practical you can use right away that'll help you handle a difficult situation more successfully at work.

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