Alumni Success: Michael Ziecik

Michael Ziecik

Walsh’s Office of Alumni Relations had the great opportunity to interview Walsh College Foundation Board Member Michael Ziecik (Master of Taxation ’81) about his perspective on business, leadership and the Walsh experience. 

Mr. Ziecik is currently the Managing Member for the Forum Group LLC in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

What was the best sounding advice you were given that turned out bad?

Follow your passion. To decide what your real passion is can take time and work experience. How many times have you envisioned the perfect career as you were going through school and then after more thought or some experience decided to change? My passion was architecture. In my first week of Architecture School, the professor mentioned what the starting salary would be in four years. At the time, I was earning more than that delivering pizza. I closed my book, got up and left. I registered for Accounting. I hated it and graduated in the top of my class. I landed with a top firm, had the experience of dealing with many clients and types of business and eventually was hired by a client. Today, I work in real estate brokerage, consulting and rehab of facilities. My favorite part is hiring the architect and brainstorming on design! 

What management advice would you give to a past boss or leader who was not effective?

My experience allowed me to work for many talented people. They were promoted to a position of management based on their performance, not management skills. These same talented people followed corporate policy or put rules in place that didn’t always fit the team or the work. I would say to these managers today to show empathy and get feedback or input from the team. This doesn’t mean change per se, but as a manager you cannot help but learn from all the feedback about issues you did not think about. This also gives the team a feeling of ownership and creates incentive to get more ideas from the team in the future.  

Personal strengths can also turn into hurdles during professional development. What wall did you hit professionally where you had to get out of your own way to succeed?

Most of the time you don’t have time to “complete” everything 100%. A decision has to be made without all the information or perfect information. As a manager, delegating projects requires you to allow different ideas and methods and making mistakes is okay. You end up taking calculated risks which breeds innovation and can help to make better decisions in the future.  

What evolution of your industry during your career surprised you the most?

It was fascinating to see the fax machine make HUGE productivity advances in time savings and then become virtually obsolete 15-20 years later.

What “old fashioned” values and business practices do you find to be still relevant in modern business and which ones are a hindrance?

Face-to-face meetings are still so very important. Emails and texts can allow that relationship to slip, yet the technology must be used and balanced appropriately because a phone call is not necessary every step of the way.

What advice would you give to someone just entering a leadership position for the first time?

Get out of your office and meet with your team, customer, etc. face to face. Celebrate big and small successes. Ask for feedback and be honest. Critique with empathy and sensitivity.

In recent years, what did a hiring candidate or new employee do to stand out to you?

Strong communication skills and humility always stand out. There is so much talent, yet it is frustrating when those people cannot communicate their position or are so arrogant!  

What other industries do you follow out of your own curiosity?

Financial investments, national economy and residential home design innovation.

Is there a specific incident during your schooling or time volunteering at Walsh that highlights why Walsh matters to you?

Walsh just seems to continue to create an environment where there is connection to the faculty and other student resources. I think that has a lot to do with the school’s size and the leadership hiring the right personalities. As a student, it felt like you “mattered” and were noticed.

If you were magically given two extra hours a day what would you do with them?

Spend more time with my family, learn a foreign language, and meditate.

We are trying to settle a few conflicts that have plagued generations. Who actually is the best James Bond? Coke or Pepsi?

Sean Connery and Goldfinger. I just identify with the original! I’m a Pepsi fan. I don’t meet many others who are and can’t find restaurants that carry it.

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