Five Ways to Master the Art of “Managing Up”

By Dave Wilner

As a young sales manager I was once told that I was “virtually unmanageable” and “the most exhausting direct report” my boss had ever had. This was news to me. My team was killing it – the top-performing sales team across a $6 billion-plus business. How on earth could I have been anything other than her favorite employee?

Some two decades of experience later – nearly all of it managing teams – I have more insight into the agony I inflicted on my former boss. Here are some tips on the fine art of “managing up” and making life easier for the higher-ups.

Don’t Whine
It can be easy to get caught up in the negative – especially if, like me, you are a grump by nature. But perpetual grousing about team members, organizational shortcomings, or the negative aspects of your job in general can prove to be the proverbial death-by-a-thousand- cuts to a boss with much bigger fish to fry than your day-to-day gripes.

You will, of course, encounter roadblocks, concerns, or challenges that warrant discussion with your boss. Rather than forwarding problematic emails or dropping by their office with random, transactional beefs, aggregate those issues that require constructive conversation; then, work through these items with your boss in a regularly scheduled bimonthly or monthly one-to-one.

And, as for straight venting – which we certainly all need from time to time – save it for someone else. The same stream-of-consciousness rant you would communicate to a peer or friend will not necessarily reflect you in the best light to your boss. Save the venting for your friends, family, or the unlucky soul in line next to you at the coffee shop.

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6 questions on the future of L&D with Microsoft’s learning leader

by Jennifer Colletta

Learning and development have become one of the cornerstones of many companies’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as organizations seek to arm their employees with the skills needed to navigate the frequent change and disruptions, while also preparing them for ongoing digital transformation. In order for such efforts to be sustainable, companies must have a true commitment to fostering a learning culture, says Joe Whittinghill, corporate vice president of talent, learning and insights at Microsoft.

Whittinghill has spent more than two decades with the tech giant, including the last five helming its learning initiatives. His work was influential in the development of the Microsoft Learning Center and the creation of Microsoft’s Leadership Principles—a driving force in the company’s cultural transformation. Whittinghill recently sat down with HRE to talk about the role of learning in culture, particularly at a time of rapid reinvention.

HRE: What were L&D leaders at Microsoft spending most of their energy on prior to the pandemic? And how did the pandemic shift those priorities?

Whittinghill: At Microsoft, we have long been focused on creating a culture of “learn-it-alls” by developing a personalized learning journey with cutting-edge learning and development, content, platforms and services. Our approach to learning has moved rapidly to be grounded in neuroscience, and more fully understanding how the brain functions, to truly enable our best work and best lives. While the pandemic hasn’t drastically changed our overall approach, it has certainly accelerated it. What has changed is the move to fully virtual, both real-time and asynchronous, and the development and optimization of these durable capabilities within our portfolio of available learning methods. Now more than ever, we’re looking at bringing new ways of learning to our employees and ensuring that we continue to prioritize a learning culture by offering time and space for learning.

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Two issues CIOs need to watch out for in 2021

by Bruno Aziza

January is a month CIOs often use to look back on the past year to build plans for the next. 2020 was a year like no other, and when Data Executives reflect on the “tech-celeration” their company experienced, they could find it challenging to prioritize opportunities for 2021 and beyond.

There is a lot to look forward to in 2021:

  • CIO budgets are expected to rise by at least 4% this year according to SiliconAngle and Enterprise Technology Research (ETR).
  • Almost 92% of companies report that the pace of investment in Data and AI will continue to accelerate, and
  • This year is the “no turning back year” for Chief Data Officer (CDOs): 65% of companies now have one, according to the latest Big Data and AI Executive Survey.

Still, a lot needs to be solved: over 3/4 of executives admit they have not succeeded in building a data-driven organization and while investment in Big Data and AI remains high for 99% of them, results continue to lag.

In this post, I examine two phenomena that could make or break the future of CIOs. One is a favorable one. The other, a distracting one. I’ve labelled them the “Organizational Shuffle” and “VendorSpeak”. Let’s dive in! Continue reading

To see the future more clearly, find your blind spots

by Eric J. McNulty

After being bombarded with disruption in 2020, executives can better prepare for the next crisis by considering new perspectives.

It was the year we saw it all. And 2020 was also the year we didn’t see it all coming. Wildfires. Floods. So many storms in the Atlantic that meteorologists had to resort to the Greek alphabet to name them. Global protests over racial and economic inequality. And, of course, the pandemic.

What is surprising is that we were surprised. In a recent PwC study, 69 percent of responding organizations had experienced a crisis in the past five years and 95 percent expected to face one. We all watched Australia aflame in the months before the pandemic. California, too. It was only three years ago that multiple storms rattled the Gulf Coast in the United States in rapid succession. And climate watchers had been predicting that there will be more of these severe weather events in the future.

And the pandemic? Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, H1N1 influenza in 2009–10, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), first reported in 2012, and the Ebola outbreak in 2014–16 foreshadowed that a deadly, global, infectious disease outbreak was overdue. I warned about MERS, and public health risks in general, in this publication in 2013. It was not the most shared article of that year. Not by a long shot.

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How Companies Will Stand Out Post-Pandemic

by Ulrik Juul Christensen

(Hint: It’s Not AI.)

In a post-pandemic world, companies undoubtedly will turn increasingly to advanced technologies — artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and automation — to accelerate growth and improve profit margins. Such an arms race, however, will not be sustainable as even the latest technology will eventually become commoditized. Instead, the true point of differentiation will be well-educated human capital deployed dynamically to tackle challenges so complex that AI and automation will come up short.

To be clear, technology will be the foundation of digital transformation. As two experts from the World Bank wrote in Harvard Business Review, “Increases in efficiency brought about by digital technology can help businesses expand. Digital platforms can create entirely new occupations and jobs.”  Yet that opportunity will not be realized unless people are well-educated, not only when it comes to job-specific technical competencies, but also in 21st century skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity, as well as character traits of leadership, ethics, citizenship, and grit.

Based on conversations I’m having with business leaders across multiple industries, and even what I see in our own company, I believe the key to future success — through this decade and beyond — lies in learning engineering. Essentially, that means offering the right learning opportunities to build relevant skills and ensuring that people take advantage of learning and development (L&D). As a chief learning officer (CLO) told me recently, “The pandemic has exposed the fact that L&D is not a ‘nice to have’; it is a ‘need to have.’”

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