March 2016 | 

Moving Up to General Management? Here’s How to Stay There

Moving Up to General Management? Here’s How to Stay There

Why do more than half of all new managers fail in the first two years? The number one reason is a lack of training. You don’t need an MBA, but you do need to develop basic business literacy and knowledge, shifting from a micro view of your organization to a macro one. You need to understand how different functional areas work and how to communicate and collaborate across them. You need to understand what motivates people and how to help them excel. These critical skills, and others, are taught in Wharton’s Essentials of Management.

Led by MBA faculty and covering what managers need to know about every area of business, the six-day program readies executives who are moving into a general leadership role. “Participants are looking for the basics of finance, operations, marketing, strategy, and leadership,” says Wharton professor Jack Hershey. “Some of them have a strong background in one of these areas, but want to round out their knowledge. We show them how it all works together.”

It is this focus on integration — developing an organization-wide view — that makes the program unique, according to Mario Moussa, who teaches Working Across Boundaries in the program. “Managers must communicate and motivate across organizational and even global boundaries. You can’t do that through a narrow lens or with one language. It takes knowledge of how each area works and what is important to it. The program gives you a way to work effectively across the different parts of a business.”

Working effectively, though, takes more than an intellectual grasp of the essentials. Moussa says to incorporate them into your unique leadership skill set, you need practice. “Sessions in the program are more workshop than lecture, with continuous opportunities to try what you are learning. Participants get tools to help them with implementation, and we facilitate building relationships that will last beyond the program and provide them with support when they’re back on the job.”

Hershey and Moussa begin the program by creating a learning community. “Managers need a social network. It is the foundation for implementation, working across silos, and generating support for a point of view,” explains Moussa. “Participants come from a wide range of functional backgrounds, cultures, and industries. We pay particular attention to building relationships among them because, first, it models what they need to do when they get back to their organizations.”

Fellow participants are also an important source of learning. They share stories about current challenges, and discuss ways in which they will apply learnings. Faculty encourage them to find a partner who will hold them accountable for the changes they seek to implement once the program ends.

“The program is highly practical,” says Moussa. “Its combination of personal development and business acumen provides a distinctive way to prepare for a general management role. You will develop the skills you need not just to know what a strategy should be, but to align people around it and get things done. Knowing is one thing — but doing is another.”