Beyond the MBA: Three Interpersonal Skills Every Manager Should Master


A very experienced mentor once said to me, “You are hired for your technical skills and fired for your lack of interpersonal skills.” Over the years, I’ve seen the truth of this play out time and again.

With that in mind, an article in Chief Learning Officer magazine[1] recently caught my eye. It posed the question: Are MBAs still a valuable development tool? A senior research associate with Development Dimensions International was quoted: “When you have an MBA, you earn more money and are more likely to be hired and promoted.” However, his research also suggested that while MBAs have better business and analytics skills, they’re often weaker in interpersonal and emotional intelligence.

The obvious conclusion here is not to dismiss valuable technical training and education programs, but to realize that they’re not the be-all and end-all for ultimate success (at least my definition of success). People need the right skills to be proficient at their jobs. But they need something more if they want to be the kind of leader who forms lasting meaningful relationships and makes a difference in other people’s lives. To this end, there are three key things that every manager can cultivate:

1. Invest in the success and well-being of those around you.

Being absorbed by only our own issues holds us back from achieving our full potential. When we act in the best interests of our colleagues, we act in our own eventual best interest. Make it a practice to ask regularly, “How’s the job going for you? What’s standing in the way of your success?”

2. Foster self-awareness through feedback.

We all have blind spots, and they’re dangerous. As a manager, the things I say and the way I act have consequences, but not always the way I intend. Throughout the day I leave an emotional wake behind my words and actions. The only way I can fully comprehend its impact is to seek specific feedback. After talking at a team meeting, I might ask someone, “How did I do?”

This usually elicits a very general response. But I gain entirely new insight if I ask questions like, “When I mentioned our poor business results in the meeting, what did you think? What concerns did it raise for you? Did it come across in some way as blaming the team?” When you receive honest answers to these questions, it’s critical that you listen without argument or reproach.

3. Communicate clearly, honestly, and transparently.

My preference has always been to “wing it” in meetings. However, I’ve learned that this is a recipe for disaster when discussing important things. Plan what you’re going to say. Test it out on a trusted peer, and remain open to what should be added or left out. Good communication is one of your strongest tools for building your team’s trust and loyalty.

There are several robust leadership development programs that can help you develop these skills in a safe environment, where you can practice and learn from others. Your investment in such a program will pay dividends for years to come.

Learn how Gillespie's New Manager Series can help your team develop these skills.


[1] Chief Learning Officer October 2017

Gillespie Nimble Member Feature: Andrea True, Director of Client Experience

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Andrea True, Director of Client Experience at Allied Financial Partners, enrolled in the Gillespie Nimble New Manager JumpStartseries this summer. Here she shares lessons learned and advice to other Gillespie Nimble cohort members.

1. How long have you been in a manager position? 

I am coming up on three years in my current position. While I don’t have any direct reports, I do manage quite a few projects that involve participation from many different team members, ranging from the administrative staff up through the managing partners of our firm. 

2. What was your reason for choosing the Gillespie Nimble program?

This training program was selected by the managing partner of our firm based on his previous work and relationship with Gillespie Associates.

3. What did you find to be the most valuable part of the Gillespie Nimble program?

Michelle has been the most valuable part of the training at Gillespie Nimble. She has put together engaging, comprehensive, and relatable examples of the principles being discussed, and I have found her mentorship and facilitation of the group discussions to be the highlight of the course.

4. What are your thoughts on the design of the course?

I have enjoyed the flexibility that the course design allows. If there are projects or activities that relate more than others to my specific circumstances, I can explore them without feeling rushed to meet a deadline.

5. Are there any aspects of the course that you have already been able to implement?

As early as the first week in the program, I was able to apply the skills that we were discussing.  Since there are a number of us going through the program at the same time, we are able to identify when others are exploring and applying the skills we have discussed. An added benefit to this is that we are able to provide feedback for each other as we attempt to master these new skills.

6. What advice do you have for future Gillespie Nimble cohort members? 

Be open, be brave, and participate. The skills discussed seem simple, but they can be challenging to apply and to maintain. The activities may shine light on things that make you uncomfortable, but they will lead to growth. If you are willing to be open, you will get more out of the program not only for yourself but for other members of your cohort.

Learn more about the Gillespie Nimble program for new managers.

New Hire Orientation: From Dead Bore to We Want More!


Devon is excited to start his new job. He shows up bright and early Monday morning and meets his new manager, Carl. Carl gives Devon a manual and sits him at a computer to start his week-long new hire training. After lunch on Friday, Carl interrupts Devon and says, “I need your help! We’re shorthanded and I need to get this report out. You learned about it on Day 2 of training, so you should be all set. I really appreciate it!” Devon’s excited to do some real work, but has no memory of learning about the report, and definitely has no clue how to complete it! He finds nothing in the manual, and dreads the idea of weeding through the boring eLearning. He’s scared to let Carl know he’s clueless, so he completes the report as best he can. Carl has to entirely redo the work, thinking, “Another flop of an employee and another 40 hours of training wasted!”

Sound familiar?

The problem isn’t Devon and it isn’t Carl. It’s the training system that’s designed to shovel every possible bit of knowledge into a new employee’s head with the expectation that they’ll be able to apply that knowledge on the job. Does a new employee need to know everything on Day or Week 1? No. They don’t even need a fraction of that. And the knowledge they do need has to support their performance in the moment.

Picture this: On Day 1, Carl greets Devon and provides a tour of the facility, describing their customers and services or products. Carl explains the daily processes of Devon’s job, and gets him started exploring an interactive, scenario-based eLearning course that features common experiences Devon will encounter on the job. Day 2 includes more interaction with Carl and some hands-on training. On Day 3, Devon gets to shadow a senior performer and try things on his own, using job aids and his new mentor for support. Day 4 has Devon branching out on his own with frequent touchpoints with Carl and the mentor. On Day 5 Devon is ready to try it solo, but knows he has the full support of Carl, the mentor, and job aids to help as well. Extremely different experience, right?

What your new hires need to know and do after training depends on your industry and organization. Whatever it is, here are some tips to make sure that knowledge and those skills are retained after orientation:

  • Make it relevant: Communicate to the new hire how and when they’ll use the knowledge and skills on the job. If you can’t think of how or why they need to know this information, they probably don’t need to know it.
  • Let them practice: Give new hires opportunities to practice on the real system or a dummy one just like it. Let them practice people skills with actual people and mechanical skills on real machines.
  • Give them support: There’s nothing worse than sitting a new hire down at a computer on Day 1 and next checking in with them on Day 5! Provide support and guidance throughout the learning period and beyond, through mentoring, coaching and job aids or other performance support.

Training doesn’t have to be a “waste of time” anymore. Give your new hires a training experience that directly translates into how to do their jobs. Download our free training planner today!

Deep Dive: Budgeting for Your Organization’s Training Needs


It’s that time of year again—budget season. A time of evaluating, strategizing, planning, and allocating. Organizations have to anticipate what kind of spend they will have, and hopefully a decent portion of that spend will go toward training and development initiatives.

Organizations also have to anticipate any changes and occurrences that may happen during the coming year. This can include new strategic plans and goals, training staff availability, incoming talent volume, new products or services, budget cuts, and much more.

According the 2016 Training Industry Report, here are the top reasons that small, medium, and large organizations saw a fluctuation in their training budget:

Increased training budget due to:

  • Increase in the scope of their training programs and added training staff
  • Increase in the number of learners served
  • Purchase of new technologies or equipment

Decreased training budget due to:

  • Reduction in training staff
  • Decrease in scope of training
  • Attendance at fewer outside learning events
  • Other (acquisition costs, legislative cuts, new director does not see the importance)

As a training professional, you need to be strategic in your planning to ensure that you get the portion of the budget that you need to adequately serve your learners. Start planning for next year’s training by doing a little primary research around your organization. What are the key business goals for the year?  What gaps are there in terms of knowledge and skills that prevent employees from meeting these goals? What innovative ways exist for me to close these gaps within my budget? Asking these questions and seeking them out will help you to allocate your budget much more effectively.

Remember that from an organizational point of view, every training initiative needs to directly or indirectly further an organizational goal. From a learner’s perspective, effective training needs to be engaging, relevant, and timely. Perhaps consider:

1.  Shifting to online training

Online training has allowed organizations to cut costs dramatically. Learners are also becoming more exposed to and accepting of this training delivery method. The 2016 Training Industry Report tells us that classroom instruction made up 41% of training hours—down 5% from the previous year. Alternately, for that same period, online training jumped from a little over 26% to more than 30% of training hours.

2.  Measuring your results

Your use of the training budget will be judged in terms of its ultimate contribution to organizational success. You need to be able to articulate how your programs have contributed. Designing a methodology for measuring the effectiveness of your training programs is critical to getting ongoing budget support. Design your measurement approach up front and not as an afterthought. Become skilled at using Kirkpatrick’s approach to learning evaluation: Reaction, Learning, Behavior, and Results.

Looking for more on budgeting and developing your training program? Download our comprehensive and interactive Employee Training Planner for Maximizing Budget and Effectiveness.