Neal Freeland

Engineering/marketing manager, family guy. My personal blog with a few work thoughts mixed in.

Management Excellence Training

with 2 comments

I spent last week in manager’s training. There was one day of standard didactic training to get things going, and then we were off on an experential learning project that lasted 3 more days. It was intense – 8am to midnight, with lots and lots and lots of peer and facilitator feedback. Exhausting, really, but so worth the effort.
I don’t want to give too much detail so as to preserve the value for others (however unlikely that any potential managers at Microsoft actually read this blog). Suffice it to say it’s one thing to learn stuff in class (yeah, yeah, I get it, that’s obvious), but it’s totally another to do them (I can’t believe I just made that obvious mistake again!). The main learning: we’re our own worst enemy as managers. The problem is not too much workload, or lack of executive support, or whatever. The problem is that we just don’t carve out enough time from the frenetic accomplishment of daily tasks to do what it takes to be good managers, which is supporting and growing our people. The good news, though, is that we can solve this problem on our own. We put ourselves in the box, and we can take ourselves out of it.
A couple of other things I was reminded of or learned for the first time:
  1. Positive attitude snowballs. Just taking time to give a kind word of encouragement can transform the climate. It was amazing to see how a bunch of type-A competitive Microsofties could become a nuturing, supportive, and helpful group. Of course, reviews, bonuses and promotions were not part of the experience, but still the possibility exists to create the kind of climate we’d all like to work in.
  2. Leaders create meaning. We looked at the De Beers model of leadership, which says leaders do the following:
    • Manage the present. They make sure the work gets done by providing vision and clear roles, and by solving road blocks.
    • Nuture identity. People need a sense of who they are and how they fit into the organization.
    • Foster the future. People also need a sense of where the organization is going and why they come to work every day.
    • In a sense, leaders help provide an answer to the metaphysical question "Why am I here?" It’s a bit like the role of a pastor or philosopher, but only for work of course.
  3. Organizations are a system. Everything is connected. During my day as manager I was in a hurry to blow past a couple of peer managers working on other projects – they were just talking and talking and I wanted to start doing. The facilitator obliquely cautioned that ignoring them would result in the whole system suffering, which by inference also meant my team. So I learned I had to put as much effort into managing my peer managers as I did my team.
  4. Shared experiences create connections and change culture. This training was hard and exhausting. People struggled, made mistakes, cried, got angry at each other, but also blossomed, learned, and supported each other. I now know a bunch of people at the company in a way I never did before, and when I see them in the hallways there’s a real sense of connection due to this common experience. It’s sort of like boot camp, serving as a common reference point to which we can refer in the workplace in useful ways. This is how the Management Development Group is trying to change and improve the Microsoft culture and it feels like the only way to actually succeed.

Written by nealfreeland

February 2, 2007 at 10:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Great to hear Neal.  Sounds like an interesting class.  I bet the people who work for you will really benefit from it in the future.


    February 6, 2007 at 12:44 am

  2. Merhaba from Turkey.


    February 20, 2007 at 12:52 pm

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