Another View: Graduation advice for managers

Mimi Browning

The graduation season is one of optimism and inspiration. Today, with the emphasis on lifelong learning, many managers get their college degrees or certifications while working. This is an occasion to celebrate and to think about the future.

For the seasoned managers who are graduating, for the starry-eyed college graduates and for the rest of us in the workplace, here are five thoughts to consider this June.

Think larger. Think beyond your immediate environment when you deal with important issues. View challenges through different lenses. Stretch your mind to ensure that relationships, options and secondary effects are considered before final decisions are made.

How to begin? Take a small problem and think beyond the usual solutions. Envision yourself as the organizational owner of the problem, steer clear of the naysayers and collaborate with other strategic and progressive thinkers.

Mentor more. An exceptional manager takes the time and effort to be a coach and a mentor to subordinates, peers and occasionally superiors. In today's environment of new hires, skilled professionals, teams of all varieties and changing dynamics, mentoring and coaching skills are a necessity.

How to begin? For every few meetings and each bushel of e-mail, take time to help individuals understand both the formal and tacit expectations for success. Consider also reverse mentoring'seeking out a trusted expert to advise you on a new skill or talent.

Begin a legacy. When you leave your current job, what will you be able to say about the contributions you have made? This is not about resume sound bites, but rather programs or ideas you have seeded and grown.

How to begin? Consider a program or practice you wish to improve or a new idea you want to pursue. Be passionate and make that your long-term goal, something your organization will remember and retain.

Work with people, money and politics to leave your brilliant legacy a sound base to sustain it when you depart.

Lighten up. Years ago, a bon vivant at the Pentagon (yes, they do exist!) inscribed deep in a thick systems requirements document, 'If you read this far, I'll buy you a double martini.' Sadly, no one gave him a call.

Work is tough, inside the Beltway is a workaholic's dream, and places to mine workplace humor are all around.

How to begin? Acknowledge your own mistakes in a lighthearted vein. Sprinkle humor around the workplace. Lastly, not all problems are equally important; let the lesser ones go.

Build more bridges. One of the most daunting challenges is establishing relationships that will foster seamless information sharing among different government cultures and between government and industry.

The way to do this is to continually enlarge your circle of contacts and build and maintain the trust of these individuals.

How to begin? Interact frequently with others who share your 'battlespace.' Work through formal and informal organizational channels and professional organizations. Work cross-governmental projects'so you understand the perspective of others.

Mimi Browning is a former Army senior executive who is a principal at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va. She can be reached at browning_miriam@bah.com.

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