Friday, April 7, 2017

Management Communication? Yes, MBA Students, We Need To Study It

I teach management communication for MBA programs. I often encounter this reaction from students when I tell them what I do: “I’ve gotten this far in my life. So I must know how to write and speak reasonably well.” These individuals balk at the need for further training and education. They believe they can tackle any strategic communication challenge with their current skills.

This resistance surprises. Employers emphasize strong oral communication skills when selecting candidates. Check out the 2016 GMAC Corporate Recruiters Report and this announcement for more details.  

MBA candidates would never question the need to study finance, contracting, or supply chain management. These arenas are technical. It's impossible to work in them without specialized education (and often experience as well). Most people thus recognize the need for additional knowledge, skill, and experience limits in specialized domains. 

Yet it’s different with management communication. But it shouldn’t be. For one, public speaking and writing are fundamental. An understanding of communication theory and strategies offers an indispensable conceptual framework, moreover. More importantly, you can excel as an engineer—but mediocre communication skills will retard your professional development. 

Second, there’s a lot to know about individual and organizational communication. I’ve studied the subjects for years (and consulted and taught about them as well). I see how much more I need to learn. Third, varied approaches to writing and speaking demand different skills. Business and academic writing, for example, are very different. There's no generic toolkit of communications skills that works across different organizational contexts. Ongoing education and training can help here. 

Finally, routine miscommunication and misunderstandings plague modern workplaces. Both result from poor communication skills. We cultivated them starting with the earliest days in our lives. Dubious practices in different work environments reinforce them. In short, we can’t fall back on mindless, habitual patterns. Nor can ignore the evolving impact of new technologies on our communications activities. We have to unlearn what we've learned. Then we can adopt  current best practices.  

Do excellent communication skills guarantee success in business and life? Not always but successes abound. Writing and speaking skills make the difference. The thoughtful application of relevant theory and practice play a major role as well. In short, MBA students thus should reconsider their perspectives on management communications skill building. They're critical in helping them realize the possibilities inherent when applying the fruits of their education. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Managing Social Media Profiles

I’ve spent a lot of time on social media sites over the years. That said, I recognized in late 2016 that my efforts lacked discipline. Two things jumped out at me:

  1. The accuracy and comprehensiveness of my profiles varied. Some were current; others were not. Several offered little more than an email address and phone number. I used several different photos. The profiles also lacked details on work projects, articles, and other information I consider important.
  2. I had included information on many more sites than I had realized. The sheer number complicated my efforts to keep them all updated. 
I began 2017 with an inventory of all social media sites where I had registered. In the process, I divided the list of sites into the following categories:

  • Primary: These are sites where I interact a lot with people who are important to me (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook)
  • Secondary: These professional and academic organization sites (e.g., ResearchGate, International Leadership Association) are important. But I don’t interact with as many people there.
  • Tertiary: I rarely frequent these sites (e.g., Brandeis University Alumni Association, Speakerpedia). Nonetheless, they provide opportunities to connect. 

I'll move sites from category to category as their relative importance changes. 

I completed this process over a period of weeks. I started by updating the primary sites. I provided as much professional information as allowed. I revisit the content on these sites every month to ensure it remains accurate.

Next, I turned to the secondary sites. I updated these sites to make sure the information was current. Participation in these sites overlaps the ones I included in my primary list. I thus spent most of my time providing links to my primary sites and less on providing the same or similar content. My goal here is to be efficient and effective. I revisit content on these sites once a quarter. 

I visit the tertiary sites at most twice a year. I update information and provide links to my primary sites.

I'm now clear on the relative importance of my social media profiles. I also know they're accurate, updated, and comprehensive. And I have a process to ensure they remain so.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Leadership Development Piece Published in International Journal for Transformative Research

The International Journal of Transformative Research (a peer-reviewed journal) has published my article about leadership development in its December 2016 issue. Go here to download and read it. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

17 Small New Year’s Resolutions to Build a More Courteous and Considerate World in 2017

The quickening pace of modern life seems to have brought out the worst in some of us. Political divisions have stoked this fire of unpleasantness and toxicity.  
Regardless of what’s going on in the world, the responsibility rests with each of us to righten the ship. To that end I believe that small gestures made every day can help to make things better (if not at least more civil). I ask you to consider including these 17 actions into your set of resolutions for the new year. They can foster a more compassionate, courteous, and considerate world for all. 
  1. Use your cellphone only where and when it’s permitted. Strive to keep your conversations private. That means you may have to excuse yourself in social situations. 
  2. Use your car's horn sparingly. You want to avoid potential accidents with drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and others.  
  3. Say excuse me when you brush up against a person or when you need them to move so you can pass through.
  4. Observe the right of way on the road (i.e., first to arrive, first to proceed). That's regardless of whether you're driving, cycling, or walking. 
  5. Maintain some distance between you and others in a crowd, whenever possible and practical.
  6. Look up while you’re walking.
  7. Acknowledge others you encounter. Nod your head or even say hello, when appropriate.  
  8. Give someone the benefit of the doubt.
  9. Hold onto your garbage until you come across the nearest trash can.
  10. Smile for no particular reason.
  11. Call someone you haven't spoken to in awhile just to say hello.
  12. Say please.
  13. Say thank you.
  14. Say you're welcome.
  15. Admit when you're wrong and apologize unconditionally. 
  16. RSVP for parties or events you've been invited to attend. 
  17. Focus your energies on solutions to life's difficulties, not the difficulties themselves.
May this list offer you a starting point for your own actions. There's more than enough for each of us to address on our own. We don't need to focus on what other people do (or might do, or don’t do). Let's together make it a great 2017. Happy New Year.

Monday, November 28, 2016

16 Pieces of Advice for the 50+ Job Seeker (Courtesy of Dan Weisberg)

I’ve learned that looking for a job in your 50s is very different than doing so in your 20s, 30s, and even 40s. Questions about age, relevance, and productivity, among others, loom large during interviews. Whether spoken or unspoken, and real or not, these concerns make the job search much more challenging. 

Some baby boomers have taken this challenge as an opportunity to reinvent themselves while they skillfully move to find meaningful employment. Dan Weisberg is one such person. Recently laid off from a long-term position at Cisco, Dan remains positive and full of energy as he seeks his next great job. 

The fact is that Dan’s attitude is nothing new. He’s called on it repeatedly throughout his career. He recognizes—and even embraces—the fact that layoffs and other job market vagaries are inevitable in our times. Here are 16 ways he makes himself ready to pursue new professional opportunities: 

  1. Dan is always reaching out to his network to keep them updated on his professional activities. Then, when he’s in the market for a new position, the lines of communication have been established. In Dan’s words, “It’s far better to start from somewhere rather than from scratch.”
  2. Dan seeks opportunities to help others. He’s “building a bank of favors” that he’ll undoubtedly tap into when pursuing his next professional opportunity.  
  3. Dan is reflective. He ruminates on his work and career regularly, so he avoids going on automatic pilot—and remains nimble in the face of sudden job changes. 
  4. Dan is clear about his weaknesses and strengths. He works to address the former and knows how to tout the latter. 
  5. Dan takes advantage of any and all resources available, whether that’s a workshop, introduction to a person, or any other tidbit that might help him land his next position.   
  6. Dan engages in micro networking. He focuses his efforts on connecting with a small group of people. That effort alone has reaped ongoing dividends for his job search efforts.
  7. Dan gets personal. He engages others about the entirety of their lives, not just their job. Dan starts every conversation with “how are you doing?” And he truly means it! 
  8. Dan uses LinkedIn to stay current on what others are doing. He uses this information to initiate conversations with people in his network. 
  9. Dan meets regularly with people in person. This contact is critical; he doesn’t rely on social media alone. 
  10. Dan works with accountability partners. These people also are seeking full-time jobs. They understand and support his process and often provide invaluable insight. 
  11. Dan embraces, and doesn’t apologize for, his age and experience.
  12. Dan demonstrates energy and candor when engaging prospective employers. 
  13. Dan keeps learning to fill in the gaps in his knowledge.
  14. Dan cultivates strong in-person interview skills, during which he highlights the three aforementioned commitments.
  15. Dan takes nothing personally.
  16. Dan recognizes you only need one yes to land your next job or contract. 

In short, Dan displays the kind of attitude and energy every baby boomer needs to succeed in today’s turbulent job market. I’ll continue to look to his example for nourishment as I help others in this arena—and continue to explore opportunities of my own.