How can I manage my relationship with my boss?

Before we answer this question, let’s first ask: What is a boss? In the past, bosses were people who were in charge. They knew what had to be done and knew how to do it, and so they controlled the workforce using a combination of reward and punishment to achieve the desired outcome. In the knowledge-based era, outputs are often intangible, and technology is moving so fast that even where there are tangible outcomes, bosses can no longer keep up with how to do a task. Team members often know best how to do their jobs and do not need bosses for their task-based expertise or experience.

So why do we still have bosses? Google is an example of a company that believes in flat structures and empowered employees. In 2002 Larry Page abandoned management structures but soon found he was inundated with so many diverse requests that he had to re-create some management structure. In essence, he needed a few go-to people who owned areas of the business. Without that structure, even the leaking toilet becomes the problem of the owner or founder of the company. Bosses exist to own an area of the business and handle all those issues on behalf of their bosses. They are the conduit of information and single point of responsibility for specific areas of the business. In an empowered environment where skilled staff deliver outcomes directly to customers, is this not a contradiction?  The answer is no! Despite knowledge-based workers producing outcomes themselves and often delivering them directly to the end customer—either internal or external—the so-called boss is still directly responsible for the outcome when reporting upwards to their bosses.

What this means for me is that even though I do not necessarily need my boss to provide any missing skills to do my job, I need my boss to ensure my contributions are used effectively to produce business outcomes. In most businesses, this is not always limited to the person to whom I report in the organizational structure.

My real boss is the person held responsible by their bosses to meet the needs of the ultimate customer – which is a balanced mix of the investors, external customers, and staff. In many cases, I therefore have multiple virtual bosses. To be effective I need to manage their needs and treat them as customers.

Managing my relationship with my boss is not about controlling them, changing them, or manipulating them to get what I need. It’s about understanding that they hired me to deliver outputs to their bosses and learning how to meet those needs and deliver those business outcomes. It’s about me learning how to adapt my style to match the style of my boss. It’s about me learning how to get the right business outcomes, even when my boss has weaknesses or poor communication skills. It’s about me learning how to be a better follower. It’s about learning how to communicate upwards effectively and escalate issues in a way that gets results.  Managing my relationship with my boss is about managing myself!

Further develop your skills in EPD’s Managing Up and Managing Across: Leadership Beyond Your Team course, or contact Tom Smith.

AWWA Panel on Asset Management

EPD Program Director Thomas Smith will be speaking at the American Water Works Association: Water Infrastructure Conference in Atlanta on October 27, 2014. Smith is a member of a panel that will address “The Leading Edge of Asset Management.” In his presentation, he will describe the new ISO Standard 55000 for Asset Management and its potential impact on infrastructure. As an US Delegate and Task Group Leader for the committee that wrote the ISO standard, he is a frequent speaker on this topic.

Further information about the Standard, including a series of free white papers: can be found at:  EPD also offers a very unique course on the Standard, taught by Thomas Smith and other members of the Standards committee. A full description of ISO 55000: the Future of Asset Management can be found at:

The Dilemma: To Coach or Not to Coach

By Rick Huber, PhD
UW-Madison Engineering Professional Development Instructor

Why should you worry about coaching others to do their job, some of whom don’t even report to you? After all, you already feel stretched thin and like your work-life balance is out of whack. Let’s think about this dilemma for a moment. After decades of technology and process improvements, product and service quality that meet or exceed customer expectations are absolutely imperative. Going forward, the competence and commitment of employees are the real differentiators in a globally competitive marketplace. If you’re thinking, “That’s obvious. Of course, having talented employees is a must, but what about my full time job and my quality of life?” The following are a couple alternatives that may help you address this leadership dilemma.

Option 1: Only Hire Winners. In others words, if you don’t have the time for or want grow the skills of existing employees, hire people that have already demonstrated the skills you’re seeking. Realize that you’ll need to be ready to pay top dollar and then hope that they stick around when the next recruiter calls. Plus, you’ll probably need to spend some time rationalizing with your current employees as to why they’re not winning material. Definitely a quick fix, but over time this option may be really tough on team morale and development.

Option 2:  Grow Your Own Talent. This alternative requires a leader skilled in coaching and mentoring others. It also requires workers who want to develop to his/her optimal potential on the job. This collaborative approach is based on the belief that a “Win-Win” partnership between a leader and an individual is the best way to grow the talent of others. It also recognizes that individuals want to be more autonomous and self-reliant. In the long run, this option is likely to build an individual’s self-confidence and self-motivation along with their skill set. Thus, it develops self-directed employees that save the leader’s time. Alas, you ask, “Given, I absolutely have Net Zero time to address my leadership dilemma, where do I begin?”

The Dilemma’s Solution: Fortunately, there’s a proven solution to your time-constrained dilemma that has been applied by technical leaders on a global basis for more than 35 years. It applies the Situational Leadership®II approach developed by Dr. Ken Blanchard and others. It includes developing the following three leader skills: setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based) goals; diagnosing an individual’s demonstrated competence and commitment; and, then providing just the right amount of direction and support needed for a given situation. This matching of a leader’s efforts to an individual’s specific needs results in rapidly building competence to perform job tasks and commitment to organizational goals. Best of all, it’s a leadership approach that’s easy for everyone involved to understand, implement and sustain.

If you’re interested in learning how to master these time and energy saving leader skills, check out EPD’s next Coaching and Mentoring for Technical Leaders, November 13-14, 2014, in Madison, Wisconsin.

For more information, contact:
Thomas W. Smith

UW-Madison Launches Online Master of Engineering in Environmental Engineering

MADISON, Wis.—The University of Wisconsin-Madison is now offering an online Master of Engineering degree in Environmental Engineering. Students may now apply for the program with classes beginning in September 2015.

The Environmental Engineering degree prepares engineers to tackle tomorrow’s increasingly complex environmental challenges. Its courses are designed to provide the depth of skills needed for those engineers seeking to advance their career.

“We are very excited to launch the Master of Engineering in Environmental Engineering degree,” said Lee DeBaillie, program director.  “This degree program provides environmental engineers with the competencies needed to solve environmental challenges effectively across technical, organizational and social boundaries.

Environmental engineers are critical to solutions for some of society’s biggest challenges. Leading teams toward successful solutions will require that environmental engineers understand the viewpoint of members of interdisciplinary teams, social concerns including public health, environmental quality, government regulations and requirements, and sustainability concepts. This degree provides the foundation for graduates’ success in consulting practice, government service, and industry.

UW-Madison’s Department of Engineering Professional Development has worked closely with faculty from the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering in designing this comprehensive program.

“We’ve carefully crafted a practical and applied program for environmental engineering practitioners,” said Michael Doran, PE DEE, professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at UW-Madison’s College of Engineering. “Furthermore, the program was specifically designed to deliver the body of knowledge established by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists as needed for professional practice.”

The Environmental Engineering program builds on the strengths of UW-Madison’s online graduate engineering programs, which are ranked #3 overall by U.S. News & World Report.

For more information on the new Environmental Engineering degree, visit, or contact Lee DeBaillie, PE, program director, 608-262-2329 or


UW–Madison Launches New Building Enclosure Commissioning Certificates

MADISON, Wis.— To formulate a proactive approach, while raising awareness, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is now offering a new certificate series on building enclosure commissioning. The new Accredited Building Enclosure Commissioning Process Provider (BECxP) or Accredited Commissioning Authority + Building Enclosure (CxA+BE) certifications emphasizes the importance of building enclosure commissioning and the understanding of the process through education, as well as an exam.

“The building envelope (enclosure) is critically important as it separates the outdoor environment from the indoor environment. It’s what makes our buildings habitable,” says John Davis, Program Director, Engineering Professional Development. “Too many building envelopes are failing or performing very poorly. These problems have created a real need for building enclosure commissioning.”

When discussing the importance of building enclosure commissioning, Davis explains how the process facilitates effective early decisions in achieving the building owner’s envelope requirements.

“Design and construction teams are becoming cognizant of the importance of the building envelope control layers and are much more aware of the potential negative impacts of poor design and construction quality,” Davis adds. “And longer term, I think owners and O&M staff will be better trained to maintain the building envelope.”

The certificate was developed to achieve the requirements of the total building commissioning process. Davis described the value of having someone on the project with some expertise in the design, construction and maintenance of building enclosures.

Certificate participants can expect to:
• Gain knowledge of the building enclosure commissioning process based on NIBS and ASHRAE guidelines
• Understand vital aspects of building enclosures, enclosure components, and roofing systems

Applicants can receive their Accredited Building Enclosure Commissioning Process Provider (BECxP) or Accredited Commissioning Authority + Building Enclosure (CxA+BE) certifications by successfully completing the Commissioning Building Enclosure Assemblies and Systems course and related exam.

The next offering of Commissioning Building Enclosure Assemblies and Systems will be held May 28–30, in Madison, Wisconsin.

For more information, please contact:
John G. Davis
Program Director, Engineering Professional Development
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Phone: 608-262-8724

Renamed Master of Engineering Management Advances UW Leadership in Online Education

UW-Madison Master of Engineering ManagementMADISON, Wis.—To more accurately reflect the curriculum of the degree, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is formally renaming the Master of Engineering in Professional Practice program as the Master of Engineering in Engineering Management.

Established in 1998 as UW-Madison’s first online degree, this program is designed to help mid-career engineers increase their effectiveness in managing projects and teams. The program has received several national and international awards for its highly innovative, collaborative approach to online education. Most recently, U.S. News & World Report ranked UW–Madison No. 3 for graduate online engineering master’s programs.

“The Master of Engineering Management program is designed to meet the specific needs of engineers who are taking on increased management and leadership roles within the world of engineering. This program, under its previous name, has already graduated more than 400 engineers in positions ranging from project manager to CEO. The new name for the program makes its focus clearer to prospective students and employers,” says Wayne Pferdehirt, director of the program.

The online Master of Engineering Management degree admits only 30 students per year, who average about 10 years of professional experience. Students appreciate learning with peers from other world-class engineering employers in a curriculum that emphasized immediate application of learning to students’ workplace projects and teams. With the revised title, the Master of Engineering Management program will continue to meet career advancement needs of engineers and will include a newly expanded curriculum.

“The program curriculum is being expanded from 26 to 30 credits as part of the Graduate School’s reaccreditation. This is creating an opportunity to add courses in negotiation, engineering law and creativity, topics we selected based on feedback from program graduates,” says Pferdehirt.

Students of the program are offered:

  • Tools and strategies for succeeding in the increasingly global engineering marketplace
  • A unique blend of technical and managerial knowledge and skills to advance as a leader of engineering projects and teams
  • No interruption to career, work schedule or travel using Internet-based delivery
  • Project-based learning with a select group of experienced engineers

For questions on the Master of Engineering Management, visit, or contact Wayne Pferdehirt, Master of Engineering Management program director,, 866-529-6377.

Chance to represent Team USA arrives 34 years later


Elaine Bower and her daughter Christine at the University School of Milwaukee.

Elaine Bower and her daughter Christine at the University School of Milwaukee.

EPD Program Director Elaine Bower's College Team

Elaine Bower, #15, center, pictured with the Carnegie Mellon Field Hockey team. Photo courtesy of University Archives, Carnegie Mellon University, Thistle Yearbook.

By Scott Hannan, Engineering Professional Development writer

Madison, Wis. – Elaine Bower is finally fulfilling a dream over 34 years in the making. This June she will compete on the Women’s Masters (50+) field hockey team, representing the United States in the FIH Masters Hockey World Cup. The event will be held June 5-13 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Bower, a program director with the Department of Engineering Professional Development at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has had a lifelong passion for the sport.

She began playing field hockey in high school, competing all four years, and continued in college at Carnegie Mellon University, where she was chosen as co-captain her junior and senior years.

While in college, Bower participated in Olympic Development Camps, which were part of the Olympic and National Team selection process. It was during this time, that her Olympic dreams began, with hopes of representing Team USA in the 1980 Summer Olympics.

Unfortunately, the 1980 Summer Olympics were held in Moscow, Soviet Union. The United States and 65 other countries boycotted the games in opposition to the Soviet War in Afghanistan. Unlike today, athletic sponsorships were not available for Olympic athletes, so holding out until 1984 was not an option.

With her Olympic dream dashed and college over, Bower turned her focus to her career and that focus has helped her become a master program director at UW-Madison. Annually, she runs nearly 30 professional development courses in chemical and process engineering at UW-Madison for practicing engineers. In 2012, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) elected Bower as a Fellow, the highest grade of membership.

Although the Olympic dream faded, Bower’s love for the sport of field hockey continued. After college, she played for four years on a traveling women’s team before moving to Wisconsin.

Busy with her career and family, her active role in field hockey would not begin again until 2009 when her daughter Christine began playing field hockey for the University School of Milwaukee. Bower served as an assistant coach in 2010 and 2011. It was through coaching that she was introduced to the Milwaukee Field Hockey Club.

After several years playing with this club, Bower learned of the tryouts for the Women’s Masters (50+) USA team. In February, Bower took advantage of this opportunity and tried out. Two months later, she was an official member of the team.

Bower will finally fulfill a dream and get the opportunity to represent Team USA 34 years after the 1980 Olympics. She will meet with teammates on June 2, 2014 in Rotterdam for practice where she will play mid-field or back. World Cup play begins June 5.

Bower will be in great company. Her teammates include past Olympians and past National Team members. Some are still collegiate field hockey coaches. “It’s such a huge honor to be on a team with such amazing and talented people,” Bower said. “I am just happy to be part of this prestigious group.”

This is the first time the U.S. has entered a Women’s Master team, so there are a lot of unknowns, but England and the Netherlands are both expected to have strong teams. However, for Bower, just being there will be fulfilling enough.

“I am most excited about wearing the red, white, and blue and being apart of a national team representing the USA,” Bower said. “It has always been a dream.”

Master of Sustainable Systems Engineering Student Profile: Matt Metzger

Matt Metzger
Civil Engineer, Barr Engineering Company

Matt always had an interest in applying creative methods to solve design problems. While working towards his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering, he studied Art to keep his creative thinking skills sharp.  He focuses now on water resources engineering, including waterpark recirculation systems, municipal green infrastructure, and flood reduction projects. During his career, he found himself increasingly interested in what types of factors boost sustainability in engineering projects. He began searching for a program that offered what he was looking for, and was excited to discover the Sustainable Systems Engineering degree.

“[The University of Wisconsin-Madison] has the right perspective, resources and people to lead with such a cutting edge program,” says Matt. “It is the only graduate program of its kind in the country right now.”

The program offers not only courses that directly applied to Matt’s job and interests, but also fit with his lifestyle. “As a full-time working professional engineer, the part-time distance format appealed to me,” says Matt.

But just because the program is online, doesn’t mean it lacks the tools, resources, and networking available in a traditional university setting.  The SSE degree program is Matt’s first distance learning program. However, he always has significant access to the faculty and students and values the daily input he receives from his peers in the program. “I am impressed with the platforms in place to facilitate knowledge sharing and online education,” says Matt. He also feels the format prepares him for the increasingly distance-based platform of modern business in a global world.

“Sustainability continues to evolve at a rapid pace and there is incredible value in helping each other learn how it is changing in our respective areas of practice as working professionals,” says Matt. “It changes just when you think you have figured it out, just like the rest of our world.”

The program’s coursework has already begun to benefit Matt when on the job. The courses directly translate into tools and skills engineers use on a regular basis. It also raised his awareness of different techniques that can be used to integrate sustainability into all facets of the design process. This skill is proving to be invaluable as companies and clients increasingly demand results that are cost-effective, yet have a minimal effect on the environment.

“This program is giving me additional perspective about future engineering services, markets and client needs,” says Matt. “The technical focus of the program provides me with valuable tools I can implement during my project design process, adding sustainable value for my clients.”

Matt’s degree will set him apart from his peers and advance his career. He will have the skills to drive sustainability that benefits the environment, society, and industry, all while perfecting his technical leadership skills. But the degree does not come without some challenges.

“My greatest challenge so far has been adequately sharing all that I am learning with my fellow employees at my full-time job,” he says. “I wish they were all in the SSE program.”

Find out more about UW–Madison’s Master of Sustainable Systems Engineering at

Master of Sustainable Systems Engineering Student Profile: Steve Skarda

Steve Skarda
Global Energy/CO2 Leader, The Procter & Gamble Company

After graduating college with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Steve began a successful career working in power and controls. He now serves as a corporate engineer working to reduce his company’s energy consumption and CO2 emissions, as well as exploring options to power production plants using renewable energy sources. Steve is now responsible for more than 200 work sites and began searching for ways to improve his leadership of those locations, strengthen his knowledge in the field, and further advance his career. He decided the SSE degree offered what he was looking for.

“I am interested in filling a broader leadership role in sustainability at P&G,” says Steve.  “While I have strong expertise in energy, I was looking to build my knowledge and skills in the larger field of sustainability in order to prepare me for additional roles.”

With his vast amount of work experience, Steve was unsure how much he would learn in some classes. However, he has already acquired new skills while enrolled in the SSE program. Learning how to use new cutting edge technology and tools has positively impacted his job, increasing his efficiency and effectiveness at work.

“One of the tools we learned in the renewable energy class was RETScreen, a powerful tool for evaluating renewable energy technologies for a given site,” says Steve.  “This is something that I am already using in my daily work.”

While the program has greatly benefitted Steve’s career, time management is a constant challenge. Steve is the father of three young children as well as a volunteer for foster children. That, coupled with a demanding full time job and master’s degree studies makes good time management crucial for success in the SSE program. But it works around students’ schedules, offering the flexibility of online learning without sacrificing group discussion with peers and support from professors.

“The online learning environment provides more flexibility for taking classes and completing work than what I experienced as an undergrad.  Group discussion and work is a key component of the program,” says Steve. “The tools utilized to collaborate over distance are identical to those we use at work so it was very easy to participate and contribute.”

Steve is eager to graduate and continue finding innovative new ways to improve sustainability in his workplace. The SSE program challenges Steve while giving him the tools he needs to be successful in his field. Steve is confident that his degree’s unique focus on sustainability will greatly benefit him in his current job and beyond.

“I view sustainability as way to keep myself continuously challenged in an area where I have a great deal of passion…I expect that the technical and leadership skills from the SSE program will provide that strong foundation to a successful career in sustainability,” he says.

Find out more about UW–Madison’s Master of Sustainable Systems Engineering at

Master of Sustainable Systems Engineering Student Profile: Steven Cechvala

Steven Cechvala
President, Taiga International, LLC

With an undergraduate degree in architecture and more than 20 years of experience, including 11 years of owning his own architecture firm, Steven has a strong track record of success. He traveled throughout North America planning and designing for zoos and aquariums, as well as working on historic preservation and custom residential projects. However, he eventually started searching for an advanced degree that would set himself and his business apart from the competition.

“The institutions I work with are getting more involved in “green” aspects such as recycling, sustainable design for all new exhibits, and the like,” says Steven. “The Sustainable Systems Engineering program will advance my architectural knowledge base by allowing me to research and design newer environmentally sustainable systems and stay in the fore-front of the design community.”

As a new student this fall, Steven is excited to begin the journey that will directly benefit his company and career. The online format is ideal as he works to balance running a business and his education. He looks to the program to expand his knowledge base and learn sustainable systems that can be applied in ways that are not only practical, but also have a cost-effective, low impact approach.

“I felt that this is a perfect degree program not only to advance my career, but also help develop the sustainable design aspects in what I do,” says Steven. “Thoughtful and creative sustainable applications are a strategic investment that creates a healthier and more prosperous quality of life.”

Find out more about UW–Madison’s Master of Sustainable Systems Engineering at