Collins: Why Managers Should Attend ‘Boss School’
In my career, I’ve had to deal with replacing valued employees who have chosen new positions, involuntary separations, employees with medical problems, others with unexpected family crises, and a myriad of other complicated managerial issues. As a friend and colleague once said to me, managers deal with people and people are messy.
Graham Media Group’s ‘Boss School’
While I made it through each of these situations, I know I made mistakes along the way. I sure would have benefited from a resource like Graham Media Group’s (GMG’s) internal leadership development program. Those who know about the program affectionately refer to it as “Boss School.” Developed in the 1980s, it has helped more than 600 Graham employees gain the kind of leadership skills that may not be covered in a typical management training course.
“Boss School has three main purposes,” says Julie Dreixler, the company’s VP and chief human resources officer. “It helps to develop newly minted managers in a secure environment. Our company’s culture, philosophies and values are explained. And managers are given resources and a general understanding of employment law.”
In a column she wrote for MFM’s The Financial Manager member magazine, Dreixler summarizes several Boss School case studies including an example involving employment law. This scenario describes a situation with an employee who had struggled with her job from the beginning.
Trained multiple times to handle various tasks, she made some progress but never seemed to understand exactly what was expected of her. In addition, the same employee consistently showed up late for work and would disappear from her desk for long periods.
The employee’s manager had met with her about those concerns along the way. The breaking point came when one of her mistakes cost the station money and caused embarrassment with a client. In response, her manager told her to “go to HR and talk about an exit strategy.” However, she did not go to see human resources. Instead, she emailed the general manager and asked to talk. The GM, unaware of the circumstances, scheduled time to see her the following day.
The next morning, the GM received a voicemail from the employee. Citing transportation issues, she said she would not be able to make it in that day and asked to reschedule for the following day. When the employee finally met with the GM and HR on the third day, she told them she had gone to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and engaged a lawyer, claiming a hostile work environment.
“Trainees in Boss School figure out how managers should handle that kind of situation, with lots of scenario building,” Graham Media’s Dreixler explains. “The program delves into basic principles for interactions with colleagues. It also teaches future leaders about employment laws pertaining to discrimination and harassment.”
A Curriculum For New Managers, A Refresher For Others
Each session of Graham Media’s leadership development program, which is held every other year, covers the entire employment process including hiring, orientation, goal-setting and job expectations, performance management, performance improvement and termination. “Communication, listening and recognition skills are also big topics of conversation,” Dreixler says. The company also uses a personality assessment tool, the DiSC profile, to discuss behavioral differences.
Dreixler observes that the program’s exercises and resources give graduates “greater confidence and competence — as well as access to a slew of resources.” She also reports that the friendships attendees form with other leaders from across the company and senior management help them to tap into additional resources when faced with a difficult management challenge.
Program feedback is very impressive. Graduates comment about how the program not only builds leadership skills, they also say it shows how much Graham values its employees.
Among the notes from attendees that Dreixler shared, I particularly enjoyed this one: “It was informative and insightful. My biggest take away: Listen, don’t be a jerk.”
The “don’t be a jerk!” reminder from this Boss School alum is also the title for Dreixler’s item in TFM. If you would like to read the entire piece, which I recommend, it appears in the magazine’s July-August issue, which is available on MFM’s website for a limited time.
#MeToo: A Reminder To Update Company Policies
An educational session addressing employee performance and HR issues is also scheduled for MFM’s upcoming Media Outlook 2019 seminar, which will be held in New York City on Wednesday, Sept. 12. The session, which will address legal and policy changes responding to #MeToo along with other employment law issues, will be led by David M. Wissert, chair of the employment group at Lowenstein Sandler LLP, which is hosting event participants at its mid-town offices.
With the help of our seminar co-chairs, Jeana Stanley, VP of finance for Hearst Corp., and Stuart Benson, CFO of Helios & Matheson, a global provider of information technology services and solutions, the half-day (8 a.m.–noon) event will address many of the challenges facing media companies in the coming year.
Topics are expected to include economic factors, which are likely to affect media advertising and subscriptions, as well as a discussion of the technological innovations that are helping to drive digital media revenue generation. Updates to the agenda and registration information are available online.
Later this fall, on Thursday, Oct. 25, MFM’s BCCA subsidiary, the media industry’s credit association, will provide a follow-up program focused entirely on the latest consumer, business, and legal developments that will challenge credit and collections professionals in 2019. This seminar will also be held at the mid-town Manhattan offices of Lowenstein Sandler. More information about the event, which will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., can be found on BCCA’s website: www.bccacredit.com.
As one GMG Boss School veteran observed, there is a direct correlation between the growth and happiness of a station’s employees and its bottom line. This relationship is one of the reasons employee relations topics are a mainstay of MFM’s educational programs.
We certainly welcome your suggestions on subjects you would like to see addressed in upcoming programs including Distance Learning webinars and other seminars. You can reach me by email or posting a comment below. After all, even the best managers can benefit from a little “Boss School.”
Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary, the media industry’s credit association. She can be reached at [email protected] and via the association’s LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook sites.