EricBloom

/Eric Bloom

About Eric Bloom

Executive Director IT Management and Leadership Institute

Teaching Life Lessons Will Build Your Management Legacy – Be a ‘Larry’

If you want to truly be remembered by those who work for you, teach life lessons, not just task execution to those who work for you. In 1979 I was a college intern, working as a computer programmer on Human Resource systems at Honeywell Information Systems. During my time there I was trying to learn about business and how to make my mark in the world.   I had a manager named Larry whom I will never forget.  He was my first manager in a true business setting.   He also took the concept of a “college internship” very seriously and felt a responsibility to teach me about more than just my daily tasks.  He also tried to teach me about business and life in general. On the business side, he told me to be ethical and good to people because, after a few years, it would seem that only 250 computer people worked in New England (I’m in Boston) and they just cycle from company to company.  At first glance, this may seem like a meaningless piece of advice, but it was actually incredibly insightful, very true, and extremely valuable to me.  Certainly, there are tens of thousands of computer people in New England, but over the years, you run across the same people again and again. Therefore, good, bad, or indifferent, your reputation precedes you in almost every professional endeavor, particularly if you stay in the same industry and technology throughout your career. On the personal side, Larry asked me “If I wanted [...]

By | 2019-02-22T02:20:48+00:00 April 25th, 2019|

Willingness to Let Your Staff Fail Drives Growth, Innovation and Change

This may sound a little harsh, but once you understand the meaning behind this statement, I believe that you will see that I’m suggesting a way to help, not hurt, those who work for you. Within certain bounds, giving the members of your team the opportunity to fail provides them with a safety net over which they can feel comfortable taking calculated professional risks and, in turn, help advance the organization and simultaneously grow professionally. By allowing members of your team to fail, I don’t mean losing a major client, hurting their professional reputation, or costing the company a large sum of money that could cost them their employment.  It does, however, allow them to: Define new techniques that improve existing department processes Design new product concepts Make a client presentation with you sitting in the back of the room helping them succeed if needed Try to develop a new skill that’s good for the company and their career Sit for a certification exam that they only have a 50% chance of passing Experiment with new technologies that could create company value if they are successful In essence, you are creating an environment that facilitates experimentation, innovation, teamwork, and the chance to have a real business impact.  By not giving your team this opportunity to fail, you are in essence telling them not to try anything new unless they are 100% sure that it will be 100% successful the first time and if not successful, their promotion, future pay raise, or even their [...]

By | 2019-02-22T02:17:34+00:00 April 18th, 2019|

Take Advantage of Hidden Team Abilities to Fill Skill Shortages

Do you know all the non-task-oriented skills and abilities of the people on your team?  Does someone in accounting have an undergraduate degree in English?  Is your administrative assistant fluent in French and Spanish? Does your Human Resources Representative fix computers on the weekend for extra money?  Is the new writer just hired into the marketing department also an accomplished artist or photographer? As a manager, these questions and questions like them can dramatically increase your department’s success, if you can find innovative ways to take advantage of these hidden skills. Using an example from above, as the Marketing Manager responsible for the company's website, having someone on your team who is an accomplished amateur photographer may provide the opportunity to save company money. Asking the person on your team to take headshots of the senior executives for the website's "About" page, rather than hiring an expensive external photography agency. As a second example, if you have an English major turned accountant in your midst, this person may be able to help you proofread department presentations before presenting them to customers and/or senior management. Being aware of your team members' hidden skills has a number of advantages for both you and those working for you.  Let's begin with the advantages for your team: Allows employees to illustrate greater value to the company Provides the employees the opportunity for multiple potential career paths Gives employees a way to expand their professional accomplishments Allows employees to enhance their expertise in currently unused skills Increases the [...]

By | 2019-02-22T02:14:32+00:00 April 11th, 2019|

Who Inspired Your Management Style?

Who are the managers you have had in the past that have inspired your management style? The interesting thing about this question is that inspiration can come from many unexpected places. Have you ever had a great manager that you looked up to? As a child did you have a sports coach that you looked up to? Did you volunteer your time to a charitable, religious, or civic organization and are spellbound by the leadership’s ability to lead and inspire others? In many ways managing people is like raising children. That said, can you draw management inspiration from your mother and/or father? Did you have a high school teacher or college professor who changed your life? If you think it’s easy to properly manage a classroom, you should try it.  Like most things in life, it’s much harder than it appears. Is there a person in your life, such as a relative or friend, who you admire and try to emulate? Management inspiration can also come from negative experiences.  Have you ever had a manager who was indecisive, unorganized, professionally incompetent, uninterested, or just plain mean?  The reason it’s very appropriate to learn from your worst managers is because it teaches you what not to do.  Working for a really poor manager teaches you what it feels like to report to this type of person.  Chances are you don’t want your team to look at you the way you look at and think about your less than desirable managers. The reason that it [...]

By | 2019-02-21T23:07:51+00:00 April 4th, 2019|

Great Managers Are Also Great Teachers

As managers, we wear many hats, including delegator, commander, disciplinarian, leader, decision maker, facilitator, and role model.  Great managers, however, are also teachers, providing instruction and insights to their staff on topics such as: Job specific skills Navigating company politics Leadership skills Interpersonal skills Professional growth and career advancement Life skills, when asked for personal advice Incorporating teaching into your management style has many advantages for your company, your staff members, and you personally. Regarding the advantages to the company, teaching your staff is a triple win.  First, improving the skills of your staff can enhance company morale, boost productivity, increase quality, and reduce employee attrition.  Second, as your staff becomes more highly skilled, due to your tutelage, they increase the company’s bench strength as new projects and challenges arise.  Third, you may be the manager, but you are still an employee. Hence, the more you learn by teaching, the more valuable you become to the company in regard to future promotions. Regarding the advantages to your staff, they’re learning new job skills, gaining insights on navigating their professional careers, have the benefit of working in a nurturing environment, and are enhancing their future professional marketability. The advantages to you personally include: You learn by teaching. The reason you learn when teaching a topic is because students’ questions cause you to consider things from different perspectives, this giving you deeper insights into the topic/subject you are teaching.  Also, teaching makes you break down tasks into steps so you can explain them to the [...]

By | 2019-02-21T23:07:18+00:00 March 28th, 2019|

Leadership Requires of Vision and Articulation

When some people see or hear a statement that resembles the title of this column, they often say something to the effect of “Ya, ya , ya, I know, to be good a leader you must have a vision and then communicate with others. Bla bla bla." The reason for this, dare I say, uninspired attitude toward defining leadership as a combination of vision and articulation is twofold.  First, is because it seems to be stating the obvious. Second, is because vision and articulation is only part of the leadership story.  Let’s discuss these reasons one at a time. Regarding leadership, vision provides the direction of where you want people to go.  Articulation is the process of communicating your vision to others. If done correctly, this communication is much more than just stating what you are thinking and how you would like things to be.  The problem is that doing it correctly is very much harder than it looks. At its best, this communication is a combination of the following: Clearly defining the current state: This tells those you are trying to lead, what you are leading them from. Clearly defining the end state: This tells those you are trying to lead, where you want them to go. In essence, this is your vision of the future. Providing compelling rationale: This describes the “why” behind the “what”. This provides the reasons that your vision is worthwhile to pursue. Facilitate transference:  This is the process, through your words, passion, body language, tone, and stature, [...]

By | 2019-02-21T22:57:25+00:00 March 21st, 2019|

Management’s Decision Shades of Grey

Experienced managers know that most business decisions can’t be judged as simply right or wrong or as black and white.  Most of the decisions made in a management capacity, particularly if the issue deals with employees, risk minimization, future planning, sales forecasting, are more art than science. There is an old expression that says “You gain the experience you need to effectively deal with a specific situation about fifteen minutes after the situation happens.”  A second old expression deals with the experience needed for proper decision making is “Hindsight is 20/20.”  The reason that these expressions have endured the test of time is because they’re true and provide various insights, including the following: When making an important decision, try to sit back and reflect on your potential actions, rather than simply shooting from the hip and making a quick decision. Seek out the advice of your peers or more experienced managers who have previously dealt with that type of situation. When you make a decision, both good and bad, make a mental note of the situation, your decision, and the ultimate outcome. This personal reflection will help you: Grow as a manager Reduce the chance that you will make the same mistake twice Increase the chance that you will be successful more than once Provide you with examples to use when mentoring less experienced employees Help you grow as a person, because very often interpersonal lessons learned at work can help you grow personally Another thing to consider when making a business decision [...]

By | 2019-02-21T22:54:44+00:00 March 14th, 2019|

Managers as Mentors

As a manager, I believe you are not only responsible for the well being of your department and its role within the company at large, but you are also responsible, if not legally then morally, to help the members of your staff grow professionally, and in some cases personally.  As their leader, you are a figure of authority in their life. They may love you. They may hate you. Hopefully, they respect you. If you are a history buff, you may be interested to know that the origin of the word “Mentor” is from Greek mythology. Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who asked him to nurture his foster brother when he left for the Trojan War. As a result, the word “mentor” historically came to mean a trusted advisor. Of course, not all of your staff members may want you as a trusted advisor, but for those that will listen, it could be of advantage to you both. The best managers I had in my career also acted as mentors and teachers to me, and other staff members. They taught me many valuable lessons related to technical topics, office politics, management processes, such as writing a good performance review, making presentations, and in some cases to be a better person, both professionally and personally. Understand, that as a manager, being a good mentor to your staff members is not totally altruistic. It’s also good for your department, your company, and you personally. Let’s begin with how mentoring your staff is good for [...]

By | 2019-02-21T22:52:18+00:00 March 7th, 2019|

Surviving and Thriving During Organizational Change

When people think about organizational change, it seems that the same old sayings always to come to mind. The more things change the more they stay the same The only constant is change Even though I don’t personally like these sayings, having been employed by corporate America for most of my life, I have found them to generally be true. That said, I believe these sayings to be self defeating, look at organizational change as an ongoing negative, and provide no value when a changing work environment is thrust upon us. I like these expressions much better. Change brings both risk and potential reward Those that embrace change can profit by it I find these expressions to be forward thinking, energizing when faced with change, and helpful when trying to instill a positive attitude in others. Companies change for many reasons. Some organizational change is self-induced, meaning the company management has made the decision to strategically move in a specified direction. Sometimes however, change is forced upon a company in order to survive. That said, organizational change may be initiated for various reasons including the following: Company mergers and buyouts, and takeovers Market pressure caused by innovative competitors Changes in the economy, both good and bad Change in company leadership At a micro level, maybe you just got a new boss Early in my career, I worked for a large software company and truth be told, I loved working there. Then one day, our parent company bought our major competitor and merged the [...]

By | 2019-02-21T22:46:52+00:00 February 28th, 2019|

Managers Are Communication Highways

By design, a manager’s job is to manage people. This requires telling your staff what to work on and then providing them feedback on their job performance. It also requires that you provide upper management with the status of projects, accomplishments and issues. At a department level, it’s also your role to facilitate the coordination with other department such as HR, finance and your peer departments. The bottom line is that the better you communicate, the easier it will be for you to become an effective manager. Depending on your professional area and your personal strengths and weaknesses, good communication can be a difficult thing to achieve. From an educational perspective, I went to college for accounting and computer information systems. Of the fifty classes I took over four years as an undergraduate student, only one optional elective dealt with personal communication. This was a class on public speaking. For many of us, particularly those of us in technical roles, we were told that we did such a good job as an individual contributor in our profession area, that we should take a new job (as manager) where we had no formal training, no on-the-job experience, and no formal education on proper business communication. Thus, a new manager was born. As a manager, communication takes many forms, as outlined below. Justify your budget requirements Write status reports Make presentation to justifying hiring needs Giving work direction to your team Write and give performance reviews Facilitate staff meeting Participating in cross-department activities When looking [...]

By | 2019-02-22T02:53:56+00:00 February 21st, 2019|
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