Why Managing Needs to Be More Silicon Valley than Soviet Union

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

Monique Valcour

Monique Valcour

“I really believe that an effective manager is a steward of energy and meaning,” says Monique Valcour, professor of management at EDHEC Business School in Nice, France, a seminar-leader at this year’s inaugural St. Gallen Publishing Management Course, developed by the University of St. Gallen’s MCM Institute and the Frankfurt Academy. “If you can help employees to have a sense of meaning and growth with what they do and promote positive energy, that is the key in to driving outstanding performance in an organization.”

But how do you keep those employees motivated? How do you lead them to be the best that they can be, particularly when there can be decades of experience and insight separating managers from from the millennials on your staff?

Valcour believes that the answer lies in establishing a thoroughly modern corporate culture, one more Silicon Valley than Soviet Union. “The old command-and-control management technique dampens down learning and innovation. Instead, as a manager, you have to foster an agile organization, one stocked with rapid learners who respond to change.”

In the context of publishing, this may be the best way to ensure that you can still attract talented employees, be they editors, designers or marketers, in an environment where DIY is increasingly appealing and independence may be more alluring than taking a job with a traditional publisher. “For example,” says Valcour, “you cannot attract top authors unless you can provide services beyond what they can do for themselves. You must offer something that represents effort saved. The same goes for employees.”

This may seem like counterintuitive advice to publishers, particularly those in Europe, who are working in a “buyers market” when it comes to hiring millennials as employees. With the high unemployment among the Europe’s youth, especially in countries like Spain and France, why cater to employees when you have your pick?

Again, that type of thinking represents the old “command-and-control” mentality: one that doesn’t work with Millennials or Generation Y. As Valcour explains in her recent article, “Hitting the Intergenerational Sweetspot,” for the Harvard Business Review, “Millennials want the same things from their employers that Generation X and Baby Boomers do: challenging, meaningful work; opportunities for learning, development and advancement; support to successfully integrate work and personal life; fair treatment and competitive compensation.”

The key is fostering empathy, and to achieve that, Valcour uses a classroom exercise called ‘peaks and valleys’ that has people reflect on the times in their own career when they felt they were working at their peak. “I have them reflect on the nature of interaction, what were the tasks and circumstances where they were really energized,” says Valcour. Students then work in groups to come up with common themes. “What people often learn from this experience,” she says, “is that their idea of what they do to become an effective manager isn’t always consistent with the things they thought they would be.

But why would someone subject themselves to a re-education process mid-career, when the skills they already have have gotten them this far?

The fact is that today, as a manager “you need to be a coach and facilitator of people’s ability to learn, as well as task manager,” she says. “If you’re talking about a 50-year-old who been in the industry for years and viewed the evolution of the industry with a sense of chagrin, you need to step back and reassess.”

An essay contest for two scholarships to the course is currently open for submissions and will close June 30. Learn more about the course, apply for a scholarship, and register at St. Gallen Publishing Management course online.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.