For anyone working in technology with dreams of becoming
senior management, you might be surprised to find that while your hard
technical skills will get you so far, it will be your softer skills that will
take you the rest of the way.
By soft skills, I mean those skills that are part of day to
day life as a senior manager: Writing a
clear and concise memorandum, listening, communicating, public speaking,
running a meeting, conducting interviews, and managing people and resources to
These skills are not found in your study guide for your MCSE
or your Oracle Database handbook. They
are acquired by some if they are lucky through formal education, while others
have had to pick them up over time by modeling others. Often times, it is a combination of both.
I was most fortunate to have a class while pursuing my
MBA at the University of Louisville that was called Leadership. It was taught by the Executive in Residence
at the time, T. Ballard Morton. It was
and remains the most important class I ever had in a university setting and the
one class whose content I use every single day of my work life. I want to publicly thank Mr. Morton for
coming up with such a class in the first place and for making such an impact in
my life. You can read his thoughts here
on the class and how he came up with it as well as what he stressed to us
For those of you who do not have a T. Ballard Morton in your
life, I wanted to share a few of the golden nuggets with you that he provided
to me during that wonderful semester under his tutelage.
The first nugget is this book: The Elements of Style. If you
dont have it, go get it. If you do, reacquaint yourself with
it. What is this book? I quote Wikipedia The Elements of Style (“the
little book” 1918,
“Strunk & White”) is an American
guide originally detailing eight elementary rules of usage, ten elementary
principles of composition, “a few matters of form” and a list of
words or expressions described by its prescriptivist
authors as being commonly misused. Updated editions of the
paperback book are often required reading for American high school and college
composition classes. It is
invaluable. I had lost my copy after a
few moves and just recently reacquired it.
It is not just must reading,
you need to try to commit as much of it to memory as possible.
The second gem is public speaking. You dont need a book here per se (although there are some good
ones out there) you need practice.
How to get it? I had the luxury
of doing a great deal of it in class before having to do it in a work setting,
but if you cant find a class, Toastmasters International is a great way to get it.
The third gem: How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less by Milo Frank. It is an oldie but a goody. I also recommend his How to Run a Successful Meeting in Half the
Time. Both books will aid in your
effective communication with those around you.
The fourth gem
Listening: The Forgotten Skill: A Self-Teaching Guide by Madelyn
The fifth gem is MANAGEMENT & MACHIAVELLI : A Prescription for Success in Your
Business (Paperback) by Antony
Jay. This book will give you some insight into
corporate politics and is a great book for reflection on your own organization.
The sixth gem didnt come from his class but I
have found it very valuable when having to run meetings using parliamentary
procedure. Roberts Rules in Plain
Lastly, try and find a mentor. If you are fortunate, you have one working
with you everyday; you just havent taken advantage of it yet. They dont have to be in the same department
as you or even organization. Here is an
excellent article on finding mentors.
I hope that by pointing out some of the tools that were
placed in my toolbox early on in my career you too can benefit as you climb
your way up your career ladder.
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