Thursday, November 18, 2010

Now That You Are Manager....

You've just been appointed manager of your business team.

This is your first official role managing professionals. Your team includes four analysts, three associates and others who until now have been your peers. It might be a trading desk, a client-relationship team, a product sales group, an investment-research unit or a banking team focused on deals and corporate finance.

You have little managerial experience. You might have led the finance club in business school, directed special projects within your firm or supervised interns the previous summer.

What do you do? How do you recruit, hire, fire or transfer employees? How do you evaluate performance, promote talent, or encourage exceptional people to go elsewhere to reach their own goals? How do you articulate expectations and objectives?

How do you get the most out of team members day in and day out? How do you manage people, processes, business activity and operations to ensure all goals are exceeded?

Financial institutions are notable for not grooming management talent. They expect MBA associates to hit the ground ready to contribute significantly to deals, trades, investments, analysis, client relationships, product sales, risk management, business growth, and new client relationships. The pressure to win the deal, bring in more clients, or book the big block trade supercedes the firm's desire to help associates become competent, successful managers of business teams or larger units and sectors.

Analysts and associates spend several years in the trenches doing deals and winning business. They seek to build an inhouse reputation of being an outstanding trader, deal-doer, researcher, investment analyst or salesperson. And then one day, the firm appoints the associate to a vice president spot. Soon afterward, the one-time associate with little experience leading an organization is asked to manage a team of finance professionals.

Some institutions and companies have known track records in preparing people to be business managers and leaders from the day they start. We've heard about them and may have studied them in business school. Many are familiar with Jack Welch's management and leadership sessions at GE or the company's obsession with management depth charts and grooming those who will be division heads in the years to come.

Senior managers at GE or other large companies with deep management bench strength spend enormous time and resources identifying management potential. Recognizing and developing management talent is a priority.

Some big banks, singularly attentive to the next big deal, the next big trade, or the new big client, haven't always developed management talent sufficiently. They haven't devoted resources to help star deal-makers and client managers transition into critical business-management roles. Some know they have more work to do, but just don't get around to it.

Yet because of business demands, fierce competition from others in the industry, business mishaps or financial crises, or perhaps because of regulation, reform and pressing demand to develop new products, providing guidance to associates to become strong, effective managers and shrewd leaders is not necessarily a priority.

What can you do in your new management role, with a staff, a budget, and tough expectations about what you must accomplish? How do you motivate your team? When thrust in this new role, how do prepare without having to revert to old b-school texts in organization management, organization behavior, management accounting, or business leadership?

1. First, set team goals, objectives, and expectations. Define them and share them with all.
Get input on them. Review progress toward goals regularly. Be prepared to adjust goals and objectives if business conditions change.

2. With the team, be tough about those goals and expectations. Be serious about them, but be fair, flexible, and understanding of how people will reach them.

3. With staff members and employees, listen, be attentive, and be patient.

They have their ears to the ground. They understand markets, models, clients, operations, processes, and operations. They know people, have experience, and know how to get things done--whether responding to clients, regulators, internal auditors, or senior managers.

4. Communicate clearly, regularly and consistently. Provide constructive, prompt, logical feedback. Evaluate individual performance by evaluating goals, expectations and career next steps. Evaluate and provide feedback on an ongoing basis.

The team should never be confused or befuddled about priorities, expectations, and objectives. The team should not misunderstand how it has performed, where it fell short, or where it is making noteworthy progress.

5. Support employees' own desires to grow, get promoted and reach the next level. Support their efforts to develop, network, and increase knowledge in a specific topic or area. But do so within the framework of daily work responsibilities, project deadlines, client requests and other urgencies.

6. Show poise, be in control, and be calm. Speak sternly when necessary, but never in a rage, in a disrepectful way or in a profane way.

7. Professionals want to be respected and acknowledged. Show respect, be courteous, don't ridicule or be condescending. Don't taunt, talk down, threaten or instill fear.

8. Have confidence in the team and what members can do and accomplish. Boost confidence in those who have potential and talent, but are not sure of themselves.

9. Give team members a chance to have input, feel empowered, be accountable and feel like an important participant. Encourage others to speak up or insert their views without repercussion.

10. Let employees, staff members, colleagues and even those senior to you know that you are serious about what the overall mission is. Be serious about deadlines, projects, targets, goals, and tasks, but be readily available and helpful in all efforts to meet and complete them.

11. Professionals want to be well-compensated. Take compensation seriously, and strive to be fair and have a methodical, logical approach to it.

Professionals, too, like attention when they do well. Highlight publicly the importance of individual roles, notable accomplishments, good deeds, or special efforts. In other words, reinforce good behavior or exceptional performance.

12. Be comfortable and secure with letting team members have the attention, headlines or honor, if they deserve it.

13. Accept constructive input or new ideas, take them seriously and implement the best ones at once and with your strong endorsement. Informed, constructive feedback--even from staff members--leads to constructive progress and also new ideas, new products, and efficiencies.

14. When team members show progress, give their best or are developing steadily, show and express your commitment to such development. Be their champion or best advocate enthusiastically.

15. Be comfortable with allowing outstanding performers to depart and move on to the next level, if that is the only way they will continue to progress or if they prefer to be challenged differently.

16. Showcase and focus on the strengths of individuals. Provide support and assistance to manage weaknesses.

The best managers appreciate, recognize and nurture the talent from the team that works around them. They allow the team to support and inspire them in the overall effort to lead.
Managing people, a team, group, sector, or the entire company is complex. By focusing on goals, objectives, and the strengths and talents of people, it can be rewarding.
Tracy Williams

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Yet Another Ranking of B-Schools?

Yet another elaborate ranking of business schools? Like all others, does this provide the most comprehensive and useful assessment of business schools around the world? Or with the growing numbers that claim ranking authority, do they confuse prospects, professors and alumni all concerned about the value of MBA degrees? Do they help or undermine prospects' efforts to decide whether they should pursue an MBA and where they should attend?

The Economist magazine recently announced its latest rankings in a publication called ("Which MBA?"). (See Its rankings are not new. The magazine has been at it for nine years. This year, however, they may rankle those who care about lists and rankings, because of the substantial shifts among schools in its top 10 and top 25.

As with many who dare to provide top 10 or top 50 lists, criteria matter. The magazine altered criteria significantly enough to produce a demonstrative change in its rankings. Critics will ask: Do business schools change that much from year to year to alter rankings that much? Or supporters will respond: Should criteria change whenever appropriate to ensure that business schools are emphasizing the right objectives or serving the most useful purpose?

CFN addressed concern, apprehension and usefulness in rankings in a May, 2009, blog (, and provided guidelines on how to use them or when to ignore them. Numerous publications (BusinessWeek, USNews, WSJ, et. al.) produce their lists with fanfare and contribute to confusion and panic about which schools are tops and which schools are lagging.

Still, rankings proliferate, and those who read, study and perhaps care about them have gotten used to, say, a Dartmouth being no. 1, no. 5, or no. 11. All depends on who ranks and when. Eighteen months later, the advice is probably essentially the same. Take a peek at the rankings, but don't get obsessed by them.

Notwithstanding The Economist's latest rankings (where Consortium schools Dartmouth and Cal-Berkeley rank no. 2 and 3, respectively, on a global stage), it makes sense to review criteria. It focuses less on GMAT scores of entering students and evaluates schools based on the job they do to get students employed and get them into high-paying, meaningful positions (meaning, MBA-level jobs, where they use MBA-learned skills and are on a rapid MBA-influenced pace). It gives this a 55% weighting.

It also tries to measure the extent to which alumni networks can help spur an MBA graduate's career. Some b-school alumni become indifferent to or removed from their b-school experiences for many reasons. The Economist's criteria measure the efforts b-schools make to reach out and manage alumni networks for the benefit of students. The criteria suggest schools should spur alumni to want to turn back and assist recent graduates.

GMAT scores and a school's ability to attact smart students are acknowledged, but not weighted significantly. Starting compensation is weighted more heavily, although it understands that schools (especially international schools) that attract older, experienced students will likely produce graduates with higher starting salaries.

Business schools, of course, do teach courses, offer classroom instruction, promote inquiry, sharen knowledge in many business disciplines and sponsor invaluable research. The Economist understands how all that contributes to a high-quality graduate. But it is unapologetic when it says that these factors count less in its rankings. Hence, the prospect assessing a school based on the quality and depth of research in finance, accounting or operations or the experience of faculty wouldn't pay much attention to these rankings. And The Economist even says so.

As with many rankings, the familiar schools appear in "Which MBA?", even if the order or rank is different from list to list. Consortium schools fare well in this ranking and in many others. Sometimes there is no pattern in rankings from list to list.

In The Economist's sub-categories, Dartmouth, Cal-Berkeley, USC and Virginia are top-10 schools in helping students transition to new, different careers. Cal-Berkeley and USC are top-5 schools in presenting networking opportunities to graduates.

If actual order of rank is not obsessed over, rankings can be useful. They provide information or highlight schools that might not otherwise be known or might deserve more attention. If obsessed over, they detract from the major objectives of going to b-school or the experiences and knowledge that can be attained from attending.

Tracy Williams