Exploring Management Conference

October 24, 2008

Yesterday I had the honor of serving once again as “table coach” for five sessions at the Exploring Management Conference. (A table coach sits at a large table and leads a discussion on a given topic for about 20 minutes; then the attendees change tables and you do it again.)

First, I encourage any experienced manager to do this. If you’re at Microsoft in Redmond, participate in the formal Exploring Management sessions. Otherwise, gather a bunch of folks who wonder about moving into management and have an open, honest discussion about some of the pros and cons — and your experiences with them. You’ll learn as much as those you coach, not just about them but about yourself and your assumptions.

My topic this time was “Tradeoffs: Manager vs. Individual Contributor.” I’ve done considerable coaching on this topic with newer managers working for me.

One day some years ago, a new manager threw himself down on the couch I’ve squeezed into my office and asked, “Why do I feel so bad about my job as manager? I work hard, I like everyone I work with, I even like you, but at the end of the day I feel exhausted and like I haven’t accomplished anything.”

Think about that for a minute. Have you been there?

We came to a realization through coaching. [My coaching technique is to pose clarifying questions to the person I’m working with and help them work out an answer — an answer that I myself may or may not know.]

  • – As an IC, you get a win every day. Tasks are bounded and relatively short. Code a function, contact a customer, prepare a report. Tasks usually have a clear beginning and, more importantly, a clear end, one at which you are present.
  • – Managerial problems beyond the administrative tend to be formless. They drift up on you, you work the levers of influence and coaching, and eventually there is improvement in the situation. You probably spend the same amount of time on a given task/problem, a day or two. But it’s discontinuous time. These tasks often lack a clear point marking the start of your ownership. And they almost never have a clear end, an “aha!” moment. Three weeks or three months later, you may notice the change, the improvement. But by then, a dozen other tasks and problems have drifted down on you.

In other words, a manager spends much of his or her time setting wheels in motion — but at the end of the day, she has dealt far more in moving problems along than in exulting in solutions. Closure is hard to come by.

And if you don’t recognize that, you go home miserable, sometimes kick-the-dog, hate-the-job miserable. Or you start doing more and more IC tasks to get those endorphins flowing — which deleverages you and makes your team wonder why you’re micromanaging.

That’s the cost; what does the manager get in return? I got a sense of pride in helping my team grow, and a sense of accomplishment in making progress on larger problems than I would normally see as an IC. But there were many days where I had to think about that consciously.

What’s your experience?

  — Steve


Exploring Management, The Event

October 7, 2008

One of the goals of ChannelMEC is to provide some transparency into the management pipeline here at Microsoft — to discuss the roadmap to becoming a manager, and to share our collective experiences. As part of this roadmap, Microsoft offers a program called the Exploring Management Program, facilitated by the Management Development Group (MDG). Here’s a quick overview of the program:

The Exploring Management Program (EMP) is focused on developing an intentional pipeline of potential managers across Microsoft. The EMP focuses on exploring the manager role at Microsoft. The program provides opportunities for participants to develop managerial skills and to make an informed decision about whether to pursue a management career. The EMP is a 12 – 18 month program that contains a sequence of on-the-job learning activities, opportunities to learn from others, and formal learning events within the rhythm of the business.

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of this program, participants will have:

  • Gained an in-depth and realistic preview of the role of a manager at Microsoft.
  • Built a network of exploring management peers and Microsoft managers.
  • Used the provided tools to hold ongoing discussions with their manager regarding a management career path.
  • Completed a self-assessment with their manager to determine their managerial readiness.
  • Completed a development plan to use to explore management and to develop managerial skills.
  • Made an informed decision, with their manager, on whether or not to pursue a management career path.

As program participants explore the Management Career Path, the program provides an opportunity to investigate the Management Career Stage Profiles (CSPs) defined for management roles in each profession to see how their current role and skills might align. In November 2008, newly revised CSPs will be available which will more accurately reflect the scope, impact, and complexities of the manager role at Microsoft. These new CPSs will be introduced and used throughout the EMP.

Participants

Participants in this program have:

  • Been a full-time Microsoft employee for at least six months.
  • Achieved or exceeded commitments in their last performance review.
  • Never been a manager (with at least one FTE report) at Microsoft.
  • Not attended previous Exploring Management Conferences.
  • An interest in pursuing a manager role within 12–18 months, and in becoming a great manager.
  • In the opinion of their current manager, demonstrated management capability in their current role.
  • The endorsement of his her manager.

Program participation begins by attending an Exploring Management Conference. Within Puget Sound, managers self-nominate themselves and their managers decide whether or not to approve their nomination based on the program requirements. In the U.S. Field and International, managers directly nominate participants to the program.

I was able to participate in the Conference this past week, led by MDG’s Leah Wedul, who focuses on the pre-manager space. My role in the event was as a “table coach” — a group of current managers who share their experiences on a number of topics important to prospective managers, such as making the IC to Manager transition, how to develop your team, and so forth. It’s also a great opportunity for the participants to network, and just ask questions. The event is newly redesigned — instead of a single, huge event twice a year off-campus, the new format is to hold weekly events on campus for a month, allowing more people to attend. In October, there will be 4 different one-day events.

I thoroughly enjoyed participating, and will be coaching again the last week of this month. For those interested in attending, there will be another event held next spring — so be sure to self-nominate and start discussing this event with your manager.


Monthly MEC Mixer Monday Mania

September 30, 2008

Yesterday was the kickoff of the new Monthly MEC Mixer Monday (Mmmm) events at  various locations around Microsoft in an effort to get localized networking off the 100_0603ground. Our hope with these events is to provide a regular event at multiple locations, so that no matter where you are on campus or around the world, MEC members can get together and discuss topics that are important to them and their teams. All events are held on the same day, same local time (11:30am to 1:00pm). There are no agendas, no formal programs — just drop in, meet people, and talk. One of the benefits of this format 100_0604is meeting MEC members outside of your own organization – and outside of your building.

The attached photos are from the Mmmm event held in Redmond Town Center. Other locations holding Mmmm events yesterday include Buildings 37, 43, and 34, Westlake Terry (downtown Seattle), Redwest, Millennium, New York, and Dublin Ireland. In October, we’re looking to add Sammamish and Advanta locations here in the Puget Sound, Charlotte NC, Las Colinas TX, Mississauga Canada, Singapore, Germany, and the Netherlands.


Steven Smith, co-author of Egonomics

September 19, 2008

As part of the Management Excellence Community (MEC) Speaker Series, about 25 MEC members were able to spend some face time with Steven Smith, co-author of the book Egonomics, and share our thoughts — and listen to his advice — on the management culture here at Microsoft.

It was an interesting conversation, which ended up on the topic of Microsoft’s brand, and the company’s recent marketing efforts to remake our image.

Instead of a lengthy post, I decided to pull together a quick video podcast (click to download):

The next Speaker Series will include Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, where once again the Management Excellence Community will have an opportunity to spend some “quality time” with the author in a small group. Watch for those invites.


Monthly MEC Mixer Mondays

September 13, 2008

So…you attended the Foundation Event, joined the Management Excellence Community (MEC), and now what? How do you stay engaged?

Why not participate in a monthly networking event – just for MEC members – in your local cafeteria? The Monthly MEC Mixer Monday (Mmmm) is being launched this month (September 2008), with 10 locations currently planned worldwide. The goal is simple: wherever you are in the world, on the last Monday of the month from 11:30am to 1:00pm, there is (or will be) a MEC Mixer nearby.

Current locations, and their sponsors, are as follows:

  1. Redmond Town Center, B5/3rd floor lounge – Christian Buckley and Scott Harris (MS employees can join the DL)
  2. Westlake Terry – Ryan Asdourian
  3. Building 37 – Donnell Baker
  4. Mississauga, Canada – Jordan Sheridan
  5. Cardinal Place, London – Gary Gilligan
  6. Building 42-44 cafeteria – Chris Pick
  7. Redwest – Michael Talbert and Gavin McMurdo
  8. Building 34/35 cafeteria – Brian dos Santos and Abel Cruz (join the DL)
  9. New York – Jason Dennie
  10. Dublin, Ireland – Ciaran Burns
  11. Millennium, MilE/1375 – Tiffany Yun

Another 5 sites are being proposed for October (Sammamish, Advanta, Germany, 50, and 25).

If you’re interested in attending one of these events, please contact the appropriate host to be added to the DL or meeting invite. And if you’re a MEC member and would like to help launch an event in your Microsoft building, please take a look at the event overview (available on MECweb under Make an Impact, Get Involved), or contact me directly (cbuck@microsoft.com).