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Why Business Schools Cannot Develop Managers

David Maister posts on the important difference between management skills and business knowledge.

‘Business’ as a subject (and a degree program) is all about things of the logical, rational, analytical mind: Mike Porter’s five forces, the numerous P’s of marketing, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, etc, etc. It’s about knowledge.

Managing, on the other hand, is a skill, and has nothing to do with rationality, logic, IQ or intelligence. It’s a simple issue of whether or not you can influence individuals or organizations to accomplish something. It’s about influencing people, singly or in groups (or in hordes.) No amount of intelligence will help if you are not able to interact with people and get the response you desire….

And of course, this is not accomplished by taking a college course in psychology, sociology, anthropology or any other ‘ology’ where we sit around and intellectualize about ‘human resources’ but never have to actually deal with a real live human being. (It reminds me of the Linda Ronstadt / Dolly Parton / Emmylou Harris song which contains the line – you don’t know what a man is until you have to please one!)

To help people develop as managers doesn’t mean discussing management (or even worse – leadership), but rather requires putting people through a set of processes where they have to experience it, try it out , and develop their emotional self-control and interactive styles.

These observations are important to keep in mind when assessing people for management positions and when charting a professional development program for new managers.

Effective business communications

The speakers and attendees at the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario convention held recently in Toronto offered a wealth of practical advice for communications in the workplace according to Globe and Mail columnist Virginia Galt.

Management consultant Peter Taylor of Peter Taylor and Associates Inc. in Oshawa speaks of the need for face-to-face meetings to communicate about contentious issues:

If an issue is contentious, it’s better to handle it in person. “A face-to-face meeting is probably most important when you are afraid to have it; the more contentious, the more you need to be there,” Mr. Taylor says.

Ms. Alderson says people will often hide behind e-mail when they have unpleasant news to deliver and, like Mr. Taylor, she recommends that the most complex matters be handled in person.

Ms. Alderson says e-mail is effective and convenient for conveying messages and information, but less effective as a communications tool. Face-to-face communication is best, when possible, and telephone contact is the next best option for genuine dialogue. E-mail adds “another degree of separation,” she says. “Communication is a two-way street. Most of what we are doing today is not communicating; we’re simply sending messages.”

Mr. Taylor, who counsels clients on the importance of operating with “emotional intelligence” — including being aware of how one’s actions affect others — says it is much easier “to pick up people’s reactions if you have some sort of live interaction, be it face-to-face or voice contact.”

James Gray, principal of Toronto-based Media Strategy Inc., has some good advice for those of us who are prone to turn to the phone while on the fly:

Ms. Alderson says it is important, as well, to make sure that you are in a time and place where you can give the person on the other end of the telephone your full attention.

Conducting a phone conversation while you are on the treadmill breathing heavily into the telephone, or tapping on your keyboard at your desk, sends a message that you are “distracted, disorganized or disinterested,” she says.

Mr. Taylor says it is important to listen to telltale signs that the other person is rushed or distracted as well. Ask if it is a good time, and whether they prefer to conduct business by e-mail, by telephone or in person. If they say it is not a good time, don’t ignore them and launch into a long discussion anyway, Ms. Alderson adds.

Conversely, it is not always prudent to pick up the phone when you are in the thick of something else. “Be selective” and let voice mail pick up at times, Ms. Alderson says. Avoid, too, the common trap of responding to every e-mail as soon as it lands in the inbox.

Good, practical advice that’s worth remembering and putting into practice.

IABC Communications Commons: Is there an appetite for a "Consulting Principles" forum?

Shel Holtz tells us that the IABC Communications Commons has been launched. The Commons is billed as a “Blog Community for Business Communicators.”

In his initial posting on the Commons home page, Shel says

IABC’s goal for the Commons is to provide a gathering place for communicators to focus on their own areas of specialization and learn about others. … This is the place for communicators to gather to exchange ideas about their craft, guided by experts in the various, diverse specialties that make up our profession.

IABC membership is not required to read or participate in the Commons. In the spirit of the blogosphere, the Commons is an effort provide open access to some of the thought leaders from within IABC’s ranks. These Commons bloggers will share their wisdom, report on goings-on in their field, and — most important — engage in comments-driven converations.

To get things rolling, we’re starting with three corners of the organizational communications world: branding and marketing, employee communications, and communication measurement. More will be added as we iron out the wrinkles of this network of communication blogs. First on the list for inclusion down the road are media relations and communications creative.

Each of the Commons blogs are group blogs. That is, more than one author will contribute posts. This will add diversity of opinion as well as a broad range of experience and expertise within each subject matter area.

Kudos to Shel, Natasha Spring, Chris Hall and all the folks at the IABC who are behind the Commons. It is a great initiative.

And now a suggestion. One of the best things about PRSA/CPRS membership is the Counselors Academy. The Counselors Academy runs a great program of seminars and conferences on topics of interest to senior communicators and agency principals. I think the IABC Commons could provide a similar service to its members by adding a “Consulting Principles” section that would enable principals and senior practitioners to talk about the principles and practices that the leading public relations consultancies have adopted or are moving toward.

What do you think? If IABC hosted it? Would you be prepared to contribute to this type of forum?

Quacks like a duck. Walks like a duck…

This courtesy of CBC news.

John Reynolds, the man who co-chaired the Conservative national election campaign, is now offering advice to some of Canada’s largest companies on how to access the government.

“If I wanted to be a lobbyist – and I had lots of offers to go with some of the major firms in Canada – I would have done that. What we’re doing here is different,” he said.

Reynolds said a lot of his job will involve giving companies what seems like simple advice – approach your MP if you need to get your point across to cabinet. And although Reynolds may have the prime minister’s private number on speed-dial, he said he won’t use it.

“If a CEO of a company listens to my advice, he’ll be able to get that done, without me having to make a phone call.”

Read the full text of Lang Michener’s release .

Local businesses can project personality through blogs

Ted Demopoulos makes some good points in Blogging for Business regarding the value of blogs to local businesses.

Search engines love blogs, and can quickly help catapult a local website in the rankings, sending them more potential customers. They can also help turn “dull” into “dynamic” (or at least less dull!) and encourage repeat visitors.

Many local businesses are relationship based, even more so than Internet and 1-800 businesses, and the personal nature of blogs can help increase the feeling of knowing Joe Blow @ Seacoast Tub and Tile, even if we’ve never met him. This increases the likelihood that people will stop by and make a purchase.

Some local business people are likely to wonder what they could write about. In approaching the content of their blog, they should remember that they are the “experts” in their business area. If they mix this expertise with a passion for their business, they can write about things that will be of interest to the consumer such as new products, specials, examples of good customer service and ways in which the local business tries to make itself special.