Shadowing a manager

manager
Jorge Tello Aliaga, subject of the work observation report

Presentation of the company

The manager I chose to shadow for the day works at PERS company. PERS is based in Lima, Peru, and California, USA, and it was founded in March 2003 by the owner and manager I am shadowing, Jorge Tello Aliaga. This business born out of passion, is dedicated to creating books, apps and toys for children of all ages. Their main product on the market at the moment are the “Blobbies” toyline, which has won dozens of international awards, including Toy of the Year for the “Blobbiemorphers” toyline and Best New Childrens Book of the Year.

The manager and his role in the company

Mr Tello is the owner and general manager of PERS. He is a writer and designer born and raised in Lima, Peru. His dream has always been to write and publish books for children. His job currently consists of both designing the toyline and managing his team of trusted full-time employees to promote and sell the books and toylines at several events spread throughout many Peruvian bookshops in Lima. Mr Tello has over 25 years of experience in Design, a career to which he was dedicated to before settling down his own company. He has been an Interface Designer for Apple Inc, Oracle Corporation, Cisco Systems, and a Design Manager at Adobe Systems. Now, he dedicates himself to managing his own company. His job includes answering employees’ questions, making sure they are all carrying out their corresponding tasks, sending and answering emails, and interviewing new employees.

Organogram

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Log of Activities

April 11th, 2017

I arrived at the office of PERS in the Miraflores district (Lima, Peru) on time. I was greeted warmly by Mr. Jorge Tello and the rest of his team, and treated to a small breakfast in the lounge area before the meeting started at 10:00 am. He explained how every Tuesday they hold a general meeting with the Sales Manager, Store Manager, Logistics Coordinator and Marketing Coordinator, to update him on each department’s progress during the previous week. Before the meeting officially began, he introduced me to the other managers and explained my presence in that meeting.

Mr. Tello and the rest of the managers gathered in the meeting room at 10:00 am sharp to start off the meeting. Mr Tello led the meeting with a PowerPoint presentation displaying all the recent tasks that he had given the managers from the previous week, in order to discuss if they have achieved their tasks or what the progress with them was. Overall, I notice that he asks employees how they are doing with their given assignments and he discusses with each one of them the problems they have encountered and gives them their full attention and his opinion and advice on the problem.

Topics discussed during the meeting included scheduling the opening hours of the store during Easter holidays, discussing an interview a Peruvian magazine editor wants to conduct, how to best attract buyers to the store where the products are sold, brainstorming where to promote the books best apart from in libraries/bookshops (schools, fairs, etc) and discussing a recent problem the staff experienced when promoting the product at a city fair.

The meeting ended and there was a work break for everyone to have lunch. After that they resumed their work in the respective offices and so did the manager.  I stayed with him in his office, with him being busy replying to business-related emails that concerned the logistics aspect of the company and the distributors of the product in Lima. I made sure I typed everything he was doing down on my laptop so that I could remember later on. After a while I proceeded to conduct the interview with the questions I had thought of beforehand.

The Interview

Questionnaire

  1. What are some of your responsibilities/duties during a typical day?
  2. What are some of the problems or aspects in the job that you dislike?
  3. What are the most interesting aspects of your job?
  4. What is the hardest aspect of having to manage a team of employees?
  5. What are the main/most important personal characteristics for success in the field?
  6. What steps besides meeting education and experiential requirements are necessary to “break into” this occupation?
  7. How would you describe the atmosphere/culture of the work place?
  8. Is there much variety in the job on a day-to-day basis?
  9. Do you have a set schedule (i.e. – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or are the hours more flexible?

To start off the interview, I asked him more specifically what his responsibilities are during a typical day of work. He said that apart from doing follow ups on his employees’ progress, he also has to answer their questions, send and reply to emails, answer and make phone calls to the distributors of the product and to retailer who sell his toy line and to bookshops who sell the children’s stories, amongst other things, it really depends on the day he says. There is much variety in the job from a day to day basis, which he says its what keeps his job exciting for him, he has a set routine, he works from 10 am to 6 pm most of the days, but depending on the day, the job he needs to carry out changes a bit. Some days he will spend going to meetings with distributors, and others he will just spend time doing office work, etc.

When I asked him to share what he considers to be some hard aspects of having to manage employees for him, he mentioned that being strict and severe when it is needed. He personally doesn’t enjoy being severe with his employees when something isn’t done properly, he believes in second chances, but when the employees still don’t react, he knows what needs to be done for the sake of the company. His work mentality has always been to create a personal connection with his employees. He is the type of manager that looks towards blurring the hierarchical lines in the company and work as a united team with his employees, rather than a boss and his subordinates. This method has worked for him, there are employees who have been a part of his company for over 9 years now.

However, he still makes sure that some boundaries are set in the job and makes them clear to all of the employees, boundaries that sometimes make them the bad guy, like the no cellphones policy! His responsibility is to make sure that all employees are completing their job successfully and with no distractions. He tells me he has encountered problems with employees in the past where employees promise to have something done by a certain time, but they don’t realize how long it takes them to get a job done and they fail to meet their own deadlines. He also doesn’t like when he has to be always ‘behind someone’ to make sure they do their designated tasks. This has been a problem for him in the early days of the company, which has caused him to fire employees, something he tells me, he really hates doing, but knows that he needs to maintain a balance in the workplace.

Another problem area for him is making sure the employees stick to the deadlines and that they don’t forget exactly what they need to do. He is constantly doing a follow up on his employees, interacting with them and answering their questions and doubts. Employee engagement and organizational culture are very important to him as a manager he said. He always makes sure that employees feel trusted and treated fairly. He also said that in creating a sense of loyalty with them, he believes employees will work better and more efficiently, they will be more satisfied with their job, making them also much more committed towards the collective objectives of the company.

Some personal characteristics he considers important to be successful as a manager and as an entrepreneur as well, are having charisma, merit, so that people will follow your lead and believe in you. He also thinks having vision is very necessary, that you have to be completely certain of what you want to do, you have to have it clear in your mind, or else how can you tell your employees what to do. Being organized and disciplined are key, as well as having patience with your staff. He regulates the employees’ progress and he keeps a work calendar with every meeting and thing-to-do written down. He also says you need to make sure you know all about the business you are stepping into. And last but definitely not least, make sure you have capital!

Finally, when asked how he would describe the atmosphere of the work place, he says it is very familiar and friendly. He is most comfortable in a relaxed work atmosphere, no tension or stress in the work place for him is a must-have.

Reflection

Phase 1: 

Taking advantage of my trip to my home country, I decided to do my work observation there. I looked for contacts in my network until I found a manager that appealed to me. I consider myself a creative person, an idealist and a ‘beauty seeker’ and in my future, ideally, I would want to combine this with being a manager, which is the reason why I thought Mr. Jorge Tello was a good match for me. I attended an internal meeting from the company between Mr Jorge Tello and his employees, in which I sat down, listened to all the topics discussed and wrote down some key points from the meeting down in my laptop. After that was finished and everyone resumed their jobs in their offices, I sat down with the manager as he replied to some emails, checked reports and made phone calls. After a while I decided to do the interview with the questions I had prepared beforehand.

Phase 2: 

I was nervous about being feeling like an intruder in their office the day of the work observation, but the staff made me feel welcomed as soon as I arrived. I saw that the work environment in the office was indeed of familiarity, of trust. My first thought was that this is the exact feeling I would like to have when I imagine my ideal work environment. I noticed that their relationship was a good employee-boss relationship during the meeting, the employees were respectful when addressing Mr Tello, and so was he when answering their questions or asking more about their progress during the meeting. When it was time for me to do the interview, he was very polite and relaxed, he took time to carefully think about his answer at all times.

Phase 3: 

The discovery I have made during this work observation was that some of my weaknesses are strengths for this manager and that I need to work on this if I want to become a good manager that can gain her employees trust like he does. Those weaknesses were first shown to me during the meeting, where the manager had to do a lot of public speaking of course, as he was in charge of leading it. In my SWOT analysis I mentioned my fear/lack of confidence when doing public speaking. He was very confident and definitely not shy like me, as well as patient as the employees described their progress and doubts and he listened carefully. I also discovered that some of my strengths, like open mindedness, and having an artistic eye, were both valued by the manager too.

This work observation has also shown me that its important to have a balance between being results-oriented and having empathy for your staff to be an effective manager that your team can trust and believe in, a staff that can be as efficient as possible. I’ve learn that its also important to have tolerance for failure and not expect your employees to be at their very best at 24/7 because after all they are still human beings, not robots. Managing employees and balancing this with managing other aspects of the company will never be an easy task, but it can be done.

Looking back on the interview part of the work observation, I think now that I should have probably asked more questions that I had, and prepared them a bit better to get more information.

Phase 4: 

Having discovered that its essential for me to turn my weaknesses into strengths, I could first try overcoming my fear of public speaking by organizing all my thoughts, preparing and practicing my speech ahead of time, write out a script of what I want to say. I’m a perfectionist and I like to avoid uncertainty, so I think this would work nicely for me.

Open-mindedness comes easy for me, but patience is something I also need to work on, being patient under pressure could help me maybe see something that I didn’t see before as an opportunity. As a perfectionist I sometimes also expect everyone to be this way but obviously this is not the case, and I have to learn to not be to quick to judge about how others manage certain circumstances. Through this manager I have learned that one must remain objective and see the bigger picture, step into your employee’s shoes for a second and see the situation from their perspective too. I will also remember for next time to research more questions to ask to a manager and be as prepared as I can be.

 Phase 5: 

I do expect for IBM to prepare me for a function such as the one observed, though I think I could maybe after graduating, do another bachelor more specific to the job I want to pursue, Fashion Business Management. Courses like Talent so far have made so much more aware of my traits, strengths and weaknesses so far as a student, they have made me reflection on myself in depth, which I probably wouldn’t have done before with another course. I think that by knowing this aspects of yourself you can work on them to improve in your future to become a good business manager.

Appendix

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