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Suddenly in Charge : Roberta Chinsky Matuson Book Interview

Suddenly in Charge by Roberta Chinsky Matuson
Suddenly in Charge by Roberta Chinsky Matuson
Suddenly in Charge by Roberta Chinsky Matuson

Recently I read Roberta Chinsky Matuson’s Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down and Succeeding All Around(Niocolas Brealey). Really unique book, especially the managing up part, as I’ve never seen extensive writing about that issue previously. Insightful stuff. Roberta was kind enough to grant an interview.

In the chapter on Office Politics you mention the three issues power affects most: allocation of resources, administrative succession and organizational structure. Some assert that many offices are becoming more political overall. If that were true in an individual case what is generally causing that and what should executive teams do to start to rectify it?

There is a direct correlation between resources and office politics. When resources are plentiful, there is no need to go to battle for what you believe should be yours as there is plenty to go around. Of course the opposite is true as well. When resources are tight, savvy workers will do what is necessary to claim the resources they need to get their jobs done and to obtain highly prized promotions.

It’s funny that you should ask what executive teams should do to rectify this as those on the executive team are often the most political. That being said, executives can make sure people have the resources to do their work. They should also promote people based on ability, rather than on likeability.

In Chapter 5 of the Managing Up portion of the book you discuss the concept of positive self-promotion. Could you elaborate on why you consider this concept to be so important?

In today’s workplace, there is so much competition for attention. You have to toot your own horn to be heard in a sea of cubicles. Pump up the volume and make enough noise so people in the organization know who you are and what you are capable of doing.

Operating under the assumption that your work will speak for itself is wrong. If that were the case, then why is it that so many great artists never got noticed until they died? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be recognized and rewarded while I’m alive.

Two chapters later you mention how to handle those who might seek to cheat shareholders and how to deal with them…what advice would you give to someone in a less explicit situation such as someone protecting a pet project or seeking to maintain funding for an activity that is no longer optimal for most organizational stakeholders?

Do you really have all the information you need and the expertise to determine if a project is optimal for most organizational stakeholders? If the answer is no, then I would recommend you continue to work on the assignment. If the answer is yes, then you have to weigh out your options. The person who is protecting a pet project isn’t going to be easily swayed by someone challenging their project, so most likely you will have to go above their head. You will need to examine what might happen if you do so, before you take your case further.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson - Human Resource Solutions
Roberta Chinsky Matuson – Human Resource Solutions

Why do organizations struggle to hire the optimal people with the right skills?

There are many reasons why organizations struggle to hire the optimal people with the right skills. In my new book, The Magnetic Workplace: How to Attract Top Talent that Will Stick Around (Nicholas Brealey, 2013), I talk about how there has never been a better time to hire top talent, but employers are taking too long. Many are operating under the assumption that nothing has changed in the employment landscape. In my book, I discuss the importance of removing barriers that may be slowing your company down in the hiring process, as in this new economy; speed will be of utmost importance.

Employers focus too much on skills and not enough on fit. You can train the right people to do most skills, but you can’t really train a forty-year old to play nice with others or to be extremely detail oriented. I recommend hiring on fit and training for skill.

Over the years, I’ve taught thousands of people how to hire for fit. It’s a skill that is easily learned. Like most skills, the more you practice, the better you get.

In your acknowledgement section you state, “My deepest gratitude goes to my mentor, Alan Weiss, who has offered guidance and support throughout my consulting practice.” (I’ve interviewed Alan Weiss previously.) Could you please expand on type of mentorship he has provided to you and how it has impacted you?

I have been a part of Alan’s community for years and have enrolled in his mentoring program numerous times. Having access to someone who has achieved what you are trying to achieve is priceless.

Through my work with Alan, I’ve learned that mentorship and coaching is one of the fastest ways to create change and to help people reach their full potential. I now offer these services to my clients and am always thrilled to see how quickly they are able to attain the results they seek. I believe this is so because they are fully committed to their personal and professional growth. Of course having someone to help keep them accountable certainly doesn’t hurt!

What did you learn from the process of publishing a book?

I learned many things from the process of publishing a book. Here are a few of those things in no particular order.

Determination is key. If you want something bad enough and you are willing to put in the work, then anything is possible.

When you engage an agent, it’s a partnership. You have to trust that your agent knows what he or she is doing and that they have your best interest in mind. If you don’t trust your agent then look for another agent.

Bigger isn’t always better. In my dreams, I always imagined I would be with a big publishing house. But in the end, it was a small publisher who agreed to publish Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around. In retrospect, being with a smaller house gave me opportunities that I never would have gotten with one of the larger publishers. For example, I was the one who suggested we flip the book (one side of the book is on managing up and the other side is on managing down.) Rather than discard the idea, my publishing team said they would see if it was possible. The unique format of Suddenly in Charge has helped my book stand out from a crowded field of management books.

Many people don’t realize that publishers pay for the space in airport bookstores. Of course the authors who don’t need all that much visibility (e.g., Danielle Steele, Marshall Goldsmith, etc.) are the ones who the publishers are willing to make that kind of investment in. My publisher invested in me, and my book was distributed at WH Smith Stores in airports and train stations around the globe. I still recall the day when a colleague snapped a photo of my book next to Sir Richard Branson. His book was charting at number nine and mine was number ten!

The process of writing a book is only the beginning. Just as you catch your breath you receive the edits, which may require some rewrites. You take another breath and it’s time to find people who are willing to endorse your book. Next comes the promotion of the book, which is usually on the shoulders of the author. And then it all starts again when you decide like me to write another book.

What are the three trigger events that should lead to someone contacting you about your services?

1. Your company is experiencing growth and you recognize that the people you have on board don’t have the skills needed to take the business to the next level.

2. You or someone on your team has just been tossed into a leadership role.

3. Your company is going through an acquisition or a merger.

For more information, please visit Roberta’s website,

1 thought on “Suddenly in Charge : Roberta Chinsky Matuson Book Interview

  1. Great interview! Thanks for sharing.

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