Advice from Managers: the Strategy of Listening not Talking

I would like to thank the managers who provided my students with advice and Ms. Taiba Hussain, an instructor at Zayed University and a PhD Candidate at King's College, London, for her invaluable data analysis and collaboration. Sometimes the best strategy we can take is listening to the wisdom of others (and actually following their advice).

A year or so ago my three classes of Introduction to Management at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, one on the male campus and two on the female campus, interviewed a total of 74 managers working in the UAE.  While most of the managers are based in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, there were also several interviewees from Dubai, Sharjah and the Northern Emirates.  After the prepared questions were asked and answered, several managers also shared their words of advice to the students.  The advice was interesting and at times surprising…

1. Be Affectionate

The most cited piece of advice was to be “affectionate” and to care about others, your subordinates, your colleagues and your bosses.  In the West, this term would not be used I think, with worries of harassment suits and perhaps a misunderstanding of the word affection.  I think what they meant was “care” and an emphasis on EQ rather than IQ.  Researchers know that emotional intelligence is a bigger part of personal success in business than simple “smarts”.  Knowing “how” and “why” and “who” will set new employees apart from others than simply knowing “what”.

2. Rearch your targets

The second most cited piece of advice was to achieve the goals that you have set, for both you and your organization.  This pre-supposes that you have made goals or fixed objectives or targets, but measurable, attainable future ambitions that new managers (or employees) need to fix, strive for and attain.  Also, to shine in the workplace it would be a good idea to understand for new employees to understand their role in reaching the goals of their team, group, department or organization.

3. Have patience and be determined

Of course, to attain these goals, especially long term goals, one needs patience and determination, the third most cited piece of advice.  When we are young, and even when we are not so young, when we finally decide on our destination and the path that we need to take we tend to want to arrive now… even if that means we are unprepared for our destination.  The managers interviewed, from experience, know that the path (or process) is as important as the destination.  If we skip steps along the way, we simply won’t be prepared.  That being said, we need determination to step around road blocks and accomplish what we set out to do.

Other, great pieces of advice are be a hard worker, committed to your job and your organization, cooperate with others and work on communication skills… yes, it might sound like advice we got from our grade school teachers… but all of us know these are invaluable tips for success in life and in our careers. 

Now we just need to implement these valuable suggestions into our actions to improve our careers - or change our careers. Whether we are newly minted graduates, recently promoted or pre-retirement, words of wisdom should never be ignored.

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