As part of its social skills program, the University of Potsdam, in Germany, has started a master’s level course on flirting geared to engineers. The curriculum covers such topics as how to write flirtatious text messages and e-mail, impress people at parties, and deal with rejection. The university says the course is valuable because it will help students gain social skills needed to succeed both in their private lives and careers.
Do you think a flirting class is valuable for a budding engineer? Would you enroll in such a course? Why?
Responses to February’s Question
Experience Versus Education
A recent Center for Creative Leadership study found that only 10 percent of the knowledge needed to become an effective manager is learned in the classroom. Companies emphasize training courses to build their employees’ leadership skills, yet the study concluded that the best way to acquire such skills is through experience gained by working on challenging assignments.
Do you think on-the-job experience is more important than formal training when it comes to learning how to manage people?
Train through Action
Leadership is demonstrated by action, not awarded by a certificate. There are plenty of opportunities to demonstrate leadership in school, in the community, and on the job. Being involved often requires one to improve time management, teamwork, organization, and communication skills—the skills needed to manage people. If formal training offers the opportunity to develop those skills in learning how to manage people, then I believe it may be commensurate to on-the-job experience.
Waterloo, Ont., Canada
During my years in engineering school, I took one course on management and leadership from the university’s business administration school. I learned more from that one course than from many years of experience. Although job experience is necessary and beneficial, it is not sufficient.
Unfortunately, many engineering managers do not understand how to motivate or lead a team of engineers. Thus, the mentoring given to non-management engineers is lacking. Education coupled with positive mentoring is required.
Santa Clara, Calif.
Experience Matters More
I concur with the results that managerial/leadership skills are learned on the job, not from a textbook. I was fortunate to have had a strong mentor at my first engineering management position. I also attended a few psychology workshops such as neurolinguistic programming.
Such training certainly was not a typical industrial management/leadership program, but it was effective in appreciating such things as body language and eye movements.
Effective management is a full-time endeavor and typically causes managers to place people skills above technical skills. It takes unique individuals to succeed equally at both.
Charles E. Kramer
Port Angeles, Wash.
On-the-job experience and formal training complement each other. They are both needed to fulfill one’s curriculum. But there is no substitute for the classroom. It provides you with a kit of theoretical tools that are vital to real job experience. A university education broadens everyone’s mind. It must be a mandatory step for anyone.
Nicolas De Nadai
Santo Andre, São Paulo, Brazil
Don’t Give Up
I invested years in college preparation and six years in college, followed by a one-year management internship. I managed to screw up almost every management assignment that I undertook for the first few years after my “formal education.” Finally, I managed to learn what it was all about, and my performance improved remarkably.
The emphasis is being placed on the components rather than the essence of success—which I call competence. In a real-life environment, it is neither experience nor knowledge acquired through formal education that suffices to face the challenges. It is a whole blend of different talents, skills, knowledge, and motivational and emotional intelligence that develops competence. That is what we should focus on.
Our understanding of competence has been narrow, and too much emphasis has been placed on interviews and curricula vitae as the predictors of competence. Once we correct this misconception, we will be on the right path to identify, develop, and promote what matters in people.