Thursday, 27 November 2008

Can Managers and Their Staff be More Productive?

Tough times invariably cause businesses to review how productive and efficient their staff and processes are. But since the mid eighties, many businesses have had rounds of process improvement programmes and efficiency drives, so can the orange really be squeezed to get more out, or is there simply no juice left?

A report launched this week by the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) suggests that there’s still plenty of juice left in UK businesses. It claims that UK productivity could increase by up to a fifth if businesses change their approach to planning and measuring performance.

The MCA report, entitled ‘Getting more from the same – Delivering sustainable productivity improvement’, was sponsored by consultants Trinity House and surveyed top leaders across a range of public and private and organisations. The research identified that the key to productivity improvement was to engage and motivate employees, and that there were six critical success factors in achieving this.

Get sponsorship at a senior level
Leaders need to ensure that the business case for change and the performance objectives are clear and understood. This provides employees with the essential ‘why we are doing this’.

Involve the front line managers
The people with the most knowledge and understanding about the business are invariably the front and second line managers and therefore need to be consulted on all aspects of the change and performance improvement.

Measure the right things
Rather than having a plethora of performance measures it is more effective to choose a small number of relevant performance measures.

Communicate the business case and metrics –
It is vital that all employees understand the reasons for the change and that business measures are translated into meaningful objectives for each part of the business, team and individual. Managers and staff should be made accountable and rewarded for their contribution to productivity improvement.

Give managers the tools and skills they need for performance mangement.
Help the front line managers to be active managers, coaching and floor-walking rather than answering emails, doing admin and fire-fighting. Support them with appropriate management training and development.

Give it time and make it part of business as usual
Don’t expect instant results and manage expectations so employees don’t become de-motivated or disheartened. Performance improvement should be incorporated into job descriptions, business processes and reward mechanisms. Performance management should be viewed as part of day to day business and not as a one off initiative.

These findings add real weight to what many management consultants intuitively know about performance improvement. To read more about the MCA report go to

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Successful Marketing – How management training can help

All businesses need to allocate a good deal of resources to market their products and services if they are to be successful. It will not be self evident to the average purchaser that you provide the best management training, IT equipment or conservatories! Potential customers need to be told.

However, successful marketing is not simply about buying a few branded pens and paperweights and investing in an advertising campaign. It is about getting the fundamentals right in the first place.

The first “fundamental” activity is to deliver a quality product, service or experience in the first place. Investing in management training can help to ensure that all staff are motivated, capable and committed to this goal. Happy customers will naturally recommend your products or services to others without any prompting from you. Conversely, if staff are not committed to delivering a quality experience, no amount of promotions or advertising will change this.

Secondly, be clear about what is unique about your product or service that will enable your business to stand out from the crowd. For example, if you offer management training and development services what will set your business apart from the plethora of other training providers? Is it your approach, intellectual property or combined experiences?

Thirdly, proactively work with your existing customers. This may be in the form of promoting a wider range of products/services to them or alternatively using them as a route to winning new customers. For example, retailers use reward schemes that encourage and reward their customers for spending more money with them. Other examples include health or golf clubs who reward their members for recruiting their friends, family and work colleagues.

Finally, utilise your staff. Employees who are motivated, committed and happy will talk to their family and friends about what a fantastic place their work is and how their products/services are better than anyone else’s. It is therefore vital that managers are trained appropriately to get the most out of their staff.

Successful marketing is not just about advertising and promotion, it is also about getting the “fundamentals” right and appropriate investment in management training will help the business to get these in place. Once complete, the business is then in a position to invest in the more “traditional” aspects of marketing.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Planning for Empowerment

In a previous article we considered the rationale and benefits of empowering staff. However, it’s important to recognise that successful empowerment, requires careful preparation and planning, it not simply a case of giving someone a series of tasks and letting them get on with it. So what do we need to consider?

Use the following guidelines to help you plan your approach to empowerment.

Challenge yourself. The biggest barrier to successful empowerment is your own personal assumptions. For example, many managers do not empower their staff because they wrongly believe that they are not capable of taking on the responsibility, or because they personally will do a better job. In the short term these assumptions may be correct, what if you provided appropriate team training and support and enabled them to gain the skills and experience they need?

Be clear about what you expect. Remember, you are empowering your staff to deliver results not tasks. Therefore it is important to be clear what the desired results will be. In other words, what you will expect from them in terms of quality and quantity, budget, timing etc. Recognise that you will hold them accountable for the results and let the individual determine most appropriate means of how to achieve this.

Identify the guidelines that need to be set. People work best when they understand the boundaries that they have. Therefore what policies, principles, and procedures are considered essential to get the desired results? What do you expect them not to do? Also what levels of authority are you willing you empower the individual with?

Ensure that resources will be available. Clearly giving responsibility to your staff for specific outcomes without giving them the resources to achieve them is setting them up to fail. Therefore what financial, human, technical resources are available to them to deliver? What skills do they need? What other support is available to them?

Hold staff accountable for results. If you empower your staff, how will you hold them accountable? For example, what are the standards of acceptable performance? How will results/performance be measured and evaluated? How will progress reports be made and accountability sessions held?

Consider consequences. If you are going to hold people accountable, you must also consider what will happen when the desired results are achieved or not achieved. For example, positive consequences could include financial, recognition, appreciation, advancement, new assignments, enlarged responsibilities, and possibly promotion. Negative consequences could range from reprimand to retraining or termination of employment.

Empowerment is all about gain. It is about the gain of your time and improving your impact. It is also about gaining access to the skills, knowledge and initiative of your staff. However, it’s important to recognise that successful empowerment, requires careful preparation and planning, it not simply a case of giving someone a series of tasks and letting them get on with it. Doing this will only end in failure and disappointment.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Empower your staff and reap the rewards!

So what is empowerment about and what are the benefits? Empowerment is quite simply a highly practical and productive way of getting the best form yourself and your staff. It involves not simply the delegation of tasks but decision making and full responsibility to.
Empowerment is one of the high leverage activities that a manager should engage in. Using Pareto’s 80:20 rule, empowerment is one of the 20% tasks that gives you 80% of the results you seek.
Why is this? Quite simply it is because it encourages staff to use their initiative. For example, there are a number of levels of initiative that a manager can encourage their staff to demonstrate. From the lowest to the highest they are:

1) Wait until told.
2) Ask what to do.
3) Recommend and then take action
4) Act, and advise immediately.
5) Act and advise routinely.

If a manager behaves in a ‘do what you are told’ way towards their staff, they simply encourage their staff to come to them with all their issues. A manager who engages in this type of behaviour will have little time to work on their important tasks as they will spend most of their time resolving staff related issues.
However a manager who encourages their staff to demonstrate high levels of initiative (ie levels 4 and 5 above), is effectively saying to their staff, ‘I trust you, you are responsible go and sort it!’. This therefore leaves the management more time to concentrate on their important, high impact tasks
However, empowerment often worries managers because they are afraid of losing control. Losing control of their staff, of budgets, customer service, ideas or standards. The idea of empowerment worries them because it seems to entail the loss of all that carefully planned control. However, empowerment is not about losing control – it is about giving it away.
There’s a big difference between losing control and giving it up. Giving up control, in other words empowerment, requires careful preparation and planning, it is not simply a case of giving someone a series of tasks and letting them get on with it. We will consider preparing for empowerment in the next article.
So, empowerment is not about loss of control In fact it’s about gain, gain of time, impact, commitment, and ideas. Most of all it is about gaining access to the skills, knowledge and initiative of your staff. Why wouldn’t you want to empower them?

Friday, 17 October 2008

What should happen next after the Development Centre feedback process is complete?

By the end of the feedback process to the participants in a Development Centre you should have both individual data specific to each person and also group data relating to the cohorts of managers who have gone through the process.

This data will cover the strengths, weaknesses and potential development areas & solutions for each individual as well as for the larger group. It will have been further informed by the input of the line managers when they have been involved in the feedback discussions with their participants and any development needs related to the needs of the current and future jobs.

The Organisation clearly has a responsibility to make productive use of this data for the direct benefit of the participants especially and also for the Organisation as a whole.
In addition you may also have some additional data about the future potential of the participants and their suitability or unsuitability for other roles in the future.

This data can further inform career development and succession plans for this group of managers.
Hopefully each participant would leave the development centre with a greater sense of their strengths and a personal development plan that they can follow. The Organisation should support this by providing resource, funding and access to any suitable training courses, development events, projects or individual coaching and mentoring initiatives to help the participants to grow and develop their competencies and performance.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

What is the best way of giving Development Centre participants their feedback?

There a number of factors to considered when making this decision.
The timing of the feedback is important – it should be given as close to the Development Centre event itself, so as to be fresh & relevant in the eyes of the participant and also to be fresh and clear for the observer who has been allocated this role.

It is also important not to let a participant “stew” for a long time and to become stressed, fearing the worst, whilst waiting for the feedback.
I am presuming here that the person giving the feedback would always be one of the observers present at this subject’s specific Centre. This is important for the participant to allow them to ask questions of the observer and of course to be given credible answers and feedback from a person who directly observed their performance and who made any judgements about their effectiveness and competency.

It also needs to involve the participant’s line manager in order for the feedback to be considered in conjunction with the employee's day to day work and in the context of the ongoing and future personal development planning for each individual. This is crucial given the line manager’s overall responsibility for the personal performance and team development of their employees. This can be done but does not need to take place at the same time as the initial individual Centre feedback outlined above. However it should be done within 2 – 4 weeks of the Development Centre event or it can lose its impact and relevance.

My ideal model is to give the participant’s more or less immediate feedback about how they have done, their strengths, development areas and any potential solutions on the last afternoon of a two day Development Centre process and then to follow this feedback report up with both them and their managers within two weeks of the event.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Being a Leader in tough times

Over the next few months, many organisations may face difficult times, but as a leader within your organisation what can you do to ensure your firm remains successful? The following are a number of tips that will help.

1. Don’t be fearful. To often individuals and organisations become paralysed by merchants of “gloom and doom”. However, the reality is that life still goes on; people and businesses still have needs. So its time to focus on your organisations uniqueness and adapt your offering to outsmart your competitors.

2. Focus on cash flow. The liquidity crisis has highlighted the importance of cash – if you have it you won’t go bust, so as a leader it’s vital that you are really on top of your cash position.

3. Avoid simply slashing costs. While it is prudent to review costs during difficult times, indiscriminate cutting of costs across the business are more likely to damage customer relationships and ultimately damage the business in the long term.

4. Don’t become internally focussed. As a leader it is easy to become distracted by internal issues such as restructuring, reorganisations and cost reductions. However, it is vital that you also give time to your key customers, their needs and generating as much revenue as possible.

5. Remember – you need people! Try to avoid making redundant people that are vital to the future success of your organisation. In addition, simply putting a freeze on all recruitment can lead to a shortage of good people in the future.

6. Keep people motivated. While employees are less likely to leave their jobs during difficult times, it doesn’t mean that they will be any more motivated. Identify ways that your staff can be more empowered, take greater responsibility and use their initiative more.

7. Support your customers. Understand what difficulties your customers may have. How can you help them? For example, what innovative pricing or payment terms can you agree on? Support will breed customer loyalty for the future.

Finally, it is also important to recognise that not all areas of the economy will be hit in the same way. Clearly anything related to domestic property and banking have been hit hard, but there will be other areas in both private and public sectors that will not be affected in the same way.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Improve your effectiveness – learn to manage your staff!

Too frequently managers find themselves dealing with their team’s problems rather than encouraging them to solve their problems themselves.

Consider the following exchange, between a manager and their supervisor:

“Hi John, I wonder if you can have a word with Fred. I have spoken to him a number of times about wearing his safety goggles in the lab and he still doesn’t wear them. I thought if you had a word with him he might take it more seriously from you?”

What happens if John accepts this problem from his supervisor? He will become burdened with a task that’s not his and undermine the authority of his supervisor because next time, Fred will not do anything until his bosses boss tells him to.

So what should a manager do?

The following is paraphrased from Orcken and Wass’ article in the Harvard Business Review (January 1990) and sums the issue up nicely.

‘At no time while you help someone with their problem must you let it become your problem. The instant their problem becomes yours, they will no longer have a problem and you will have one more than you had before. If you have 10 staff and you let them each give you a new problem to resolve every week, then in three months you will have over 100!’

To minimise “problem collection” managers should follow some simple guidelines:

1. Don’t accept responsibility for your people’s problems. This doesn’t mean that you won’t help them, it just means that the responsibility for the problem stays with them.

2. Meet with them to discuss the issue, preferably at the appointed time and to agree any resulting action.

3. Help them to deal with the problem, so that they can resolve it themselves.

4. Agree what action they will take and when you will review it with them. Follow up is vital to ensure that the problem is resolved satisfactorily.

It is also important to ensure that the individual understands the level of initiative they are expected to use. For example, the issue may be serious enough to warrant a “please look into it and come back with your recommendation before taking action”. Alternatively, the issue may warrant the following response “act on your own and tell me when it has been resolved”.

To prevent managers from being overworked and their staff becoming paralysed due to indecision, managers must ensure that they don’t become burdened with problems that aren’t theirs.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Improve your chances of selecting the right person.

Most organisations endeavour to attract and retain the highest calibre of employees, but what formal processes can managers use to improve their chances of selecting the right person?

Clearly all potential employees must be selected for roles on the basis of merit, i.e. their capability to fulfil the job role requirements. However, it is also important to ensure that potential employees are provided with the necessary information to enable them to make appropriate decisions.

Firstly, all vacant roles should have a job description, and essential minimum selection criteria associated with it. The criteria should include qualifications, experience, key skills, capabilities and appropriate behaviours.

To ensure consistency, it is best if applicants are asked to complete a standard application form to enable an initial assessment of their capabilities against the job role’s essential minimum criteria.

In addition, applicants should be provided with information such as: job description, terms and conditions, brief history of the organisation, key strategic objectives, and a brief on how the role holder is expected to contribute to the business. In this way they can understand what is potentially required of them which will help them to make appropriate decisions.

When it comes to selection, ultimately, the job role should dictate the selection process being used, with a fairly simple process for junior employees, to more complex selection methods for senior employees. For example a simple process might include the following:

1. Initial screening – A standard application form to initially assess a candidate’s suitability, accompanied by proof of relevant qualifications.

2. Initial interview - A competency based interview with HR., including relevant skills and/or aptitude tests relating to the job role.

3. Final interview – A formal interview with HR and the Line Manager, with the final decision being made jointly between the Line Manger and HR.

For more senior managers, the process might include:

1. Initial screening – A standard application form, personality test, verbal, numerical and critical thinking tests, proof of relevant qualifications and a written submission to a business problem.

2. Interview and meeting - A competency based interview HR and the Line Manager, followed by a meeting with peers to determine fit with organisation’s direction and culture.

3. Final interview and presentation – A final interview with the Line Manager, HR, and other Senior Managers at which the candidate(s) deliver a presentation which demonstrates their capability for the role and a plan for what they will do in their first 6-12 months. The final decision being made jointly by those present.

It should be noted that all methods of selection must be reliable, objective and guard against bias.

Finally, it is good practice (and for some roles a legal requirement) that checks are undertaken before a final offer is made to any candidate. For example these might include: proof of identity, criminal record, qualifications, references, state of health, and driving license.

Most organisations wish to attract the highest calibre of employees, as the right person can have a considerable impact on an organisation’s success. However, by inference the opposite must also be true, that selecting the wrong person could potentially be disastrous. This is why it is important to not simply hire on a hunch or gut feeling, it makes much more sense to invest in a formal process or recruitment advice

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Recruiting Mr or Ms Right

Too many managers see a candidate and make a judgement on gut instinct.They are easily persuaded (or not!) by the first impressions a candidate makes. However, if the right person can have a considerable impact on an organisation’s success, (and by inference the wrong person could be disastrous!), why would you hire on a hunch? Surely it makes more sense to invest in a formal process. In addition, one has to question why a candidate would want to take job on the basis of an informal chat, the best candidates know that it is important that they understand the role, what will be expected of them and that the organisation they plan to work for has a professional approach in everything they do. These things would not be demonstrated by a cosy chat in a restaurant.

However, that doesn’t mean that gut feeling and instinct should be totally excluded from the process. For example, if an organisation advertises a position, there are a number of hurdles that have to be first overcome before an interview can even take place. For example:

· The right person or persons need to see the advert.

· The advert needs to excite them enough for them to want to respond.

· They then have to respond in a manner that ensures the HR department or recruitment consultants shortlist them.

So how can managers use their instinct to improve the recruitment process? Essentially, managers should always be on the lookout for potential new recruits. As people we are always meeting others either informally (on planes, trains, social events), or formally at business meetings and networking events. It is during these interactions that gut feel and instinct can work best.

By meeting potential candidates outside of a formal process, you can really get a feel for what motivates them and what makes them tick, and make an initial judgement about whether or not they are the right sort of person for your organisation. Once they become interested in what you have to offer, then a more formal ‘assessment’ process can be engaged. For more in depth advice on your recruitment processes and how to improve them why not look at

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

What can you do when there is a conflict of leadership in the executive team?

This conflict on leadership can and does arise from time to time in senior teams in organisations when a new member joins the team or when a new leader is appointed and the leader and a team member do not get on. This can be for any number of reasons such as different views about:
  • the organisation’s products, services or marketplace
  • the future vision, direction, business or financial strategy
  • the key people, their deployment or potential.

However the other area where this difficulty can typically arise is in the leadership style and behaviours demonstrated by the leader versus their new team member and a difference of opinion about how this business should be led and managed. Quite often there is a large element of the view being taken by the subordinate manager that “I could do a better job” of running this organisation than my boss is doing – but they rarely if ever say this out loud – or that “things were running much better in the old days before Pat took over”.

When considering what to do about this, it does depend on where you positioned in this debate. If you are the leader and the boss then you could decide not to tolerate such dissent from within your team and request or demand that the team member stops complaining right now, gets on with it, gets into line with your style and expectations or moves on and out. (I have rarely seen a CEO in a substantial organisation take such decisive early action but it can and does happen occasionally).

More often today’s leaders will try to work it out with their dissenting manager and look for a change of style, an accommodation from them over time and hope for an improving relationship in the medium term. They may also feel able to look at their own style and approach.
If you are the team member who is dissatisfied with your leader's style then you need to decide if you can tolerate it and live with it or whether you or they can and will change. Of course you will recognise that the only person whose behaviour you can directly change is your own, and that by the definition more of the power and status in the team will reside with your boss. So expecting your boss to change radically is not likely option - why should they?

The best line for both parties is to find an agreed path where both acknowledge the differences in each others styles and preferences and agree to respect these differences and to work to increase their understanding of each other and to reduce the impact of their styles. This process can often be helped by the support of an objective, external facilitator who brings out these style differences and people's strengths in a positive way.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

When Performance Appraisals Don’t Work

For many people the performance appraisal ranks as one of the most unpleasant aspects of their job, as well as the most pointless. A recent study by Investors in People found that around a third of employees think that appraisals are a complete waste of time.

The same study found that half of those appraised believed that their bosses were being dishonest during the process, a quarter thought that it was just a tick box exercise and a fifth thought that their manager did not put any preparation in before their appraisal.

So why do these issues arise? There are several fundamental reasons why performance appraisals do not work. For example:

· Many organisations dictate that appraisals must be undertaken/completed within a specific time frame, for example, during the month of December. The problem with this is that a manager may have 10 or more staff that he/she has to appraise. This becomes too much of a burden in the time available and so the manager cuts corners to get them completed. More enlightened organisations use other approaches such as the date an employee joined as the appraisal anniversary date. In this way the manager’s task becomes spread across the year.

· Often managers think that performance appraisal is simply an annual event, when clearly it is not. Staff need continual feedback and support to ensure that that they perform to the best of their ability. Formally sitting down with each member of staff on a six weekly basis enables both the manager and employee to have full and frank discussion about progress and performance and nip any issues in the bud before they become a serious problem. The added benefit of this approach is that the annual appraisal essentially becomes a summary of all the discussions that have taken place during the year.

· Finally, too often managers do not have the skills necessary to manage the performance of their staff effectively. Performance management training should be an integral part of a manager’s recruitment or promotion. The training should include the principles of performance management as well as providing the opportunity for the participants to practice their interview and feedback skills in a safe environment.

The study by Investors in People highlights a number of important issues that need to be addressed if performance appraisals are to be seen as valuable to employees and not simply a tick box exercise.

Preparing your own Personal Development Plan

Many organisations have clear processes and guidance to help their staff prepare personal development plans, for example, Performance Management. But what if you work for a manager that doesn’t value personal development or for a small organisation that doesn’t have the necessary procedures or support in place?

It is not always easy to prepare a personal development plan on your own, but the following guidance will help you to identify your needs and prepare a plan that will enable you to take responsibility for your own development.

Your personal development plan should be based on a number of things such as your current role, what ambitions you may have, and not simply aimed at correcting any weaknesses. Indeed, building on your strengths is equally as important.

The following questions will help provide some insights into what is important for you and what you need to focus on developing. You do not need to answer all of the questions; you only need to answer those that are relevant to you at this time.

1) What ambitions do you have?
Are they ambitions to be competent/effective in your current role?
Are they ambitions for a promotion/different role etc?

2) What are your strengths and personal preferences?
What do you enjoy doing?
What motivates you?
What feedback have you had from appraisals/other people?
What psychometric profiling have you undertaken – what does it tell you?

3) What are your weaknesses and things you prefer not to do?
What do you least like to do?
What feedback have you had from appraisals/other people?
What psychometric profiling have you undertaken – what does it tell you?

4) What will add the most value to your performance in your current role?

5) What experiences do you need to have and what skills do you need to develop to achieve your ambitions?

6) What key development needs do you therefore have?

7) How will you address you development needs? It is important to work out how you will meet your needs as well. For example, you may wish to be more efficient in the way you plan and manage your time, but how you will achieve these things? Some suggestions might be to read the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and identify what changes you could make to how you organise yourself. Alternatively it might be to regularly use a ‘To Do’ list to prioritise the urgency and importance of tasks or record your activities for 2 weeks to see how you spend your time.

8) What resources do I need? What resources, financial or other support will you need?

9) What date will you complete all your actions by?

10) What will be the outcomes? The last aspect of your PDP should be concerned with the outcomes you expect from your development actions, i.e. how you will measure your success. For example you may feel the need to attend a Project Management course, but the outcome you really want is being able to deliver projects on time and within budget more regularly.

It is not always easy to prepare a personal development plan on your own, but hopefully the questions provided above will give you sufficient guidance for you to prepare your own PDP and take responsibility for your own development.
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Good Manager Vs Bad Manager – What is the difference?

If you asked an employee what the difference was between having a good manager and a bad manager they might say:

A good manager is someone who is:


Listens to my views




A good role model

Concerned about their team and the individuals within it.

Whereas a poor manager is someone who is

Task orientated

A ‘teller’

Over controlling


The ‘expert’



Concerned about themselves.

Good managers earn their employees trust by doing what they say, demonstrating their competence and showing you that they care. A poor manager might know all the latest theories, and talk a ‘good game’, but they fail because their behaviour is incongruent with what they say.

But why do some people become good managers and others do not? Invariably the issue is that they have not developed the necessary skills and behaviours because they have not had any formal management training or management development. Too often people are promoted into management positions but are not given the right support and development to fulfil their role adequately.

In the absence of any guidance, the newly promoted manager may stick to do what he or she knows best, (i.e. their old job), and they simply remain ‘doers’ focussed on the task and not their people.

It is essential therefore that newly appointed managers and team Leaders are given the appropriate management development and support to give them every possible chance of success. This support should help them to understand the importance and development of appropriate behaviours such as:

Integrity – Leading by example.

Confidence – The appropriate self awareness and display of self belief.

Influence – The ability to encourage others to follow, to lead by example as well as by persuasion.

Communication -. Ability to listen and understand others. Ability to be understood by others both, verbally & in writing.

Challenge - Not accepting the status quo. Taking on the difficult things, and encouraging others to do so.

Collaboration – Working effectively with other people, their team, peers and boss.

Flexibility - Adjusting and adapting to changing circumstances. Learning from mistakes as well as successes.

Growth - Learning, developing themselves and others.

Motivation - Ability to get others to want to do the things that need to be done.

Providing the right type of support and management development will not guarantee success for a newly appointed manager, but it will increase the likelihood of them being successful and prevent them from starting off on the ‘wrong foot’.

How Well Do You Come Across In A Job Interview?

With increasing competition in the job market, it is even more important than before that you are able to clearly convey your skills and capabilities during a job interview.

If you haven’t attended an interview for a number of years or just want to “brush up” your technique, the following hints and tips will help you be better prepared, feel more confident and come across to the interviewer in the best way you can.

1. Research the Organisation fully before you go in. It’s basic but many people don’t!

2. During the interview, determine to observe the 50-50 rule (listening Vs talking).

3. In answering the employer’s questions, observe the twenty second to two minute rule.

4. Determine to be seen in the interview as a resource person, not a job beggar. Think what problems the organisation might have and how you can solve them.

5. Realise that the employer will think that the way you are doing your job-hunt is the way you will do the job if employed Therefore don’t come across disorganised, ill prepared or unprofessional at the interview.

6. Bring evidence of your previous success.

7. Determine ahead of time not to bad mouth your previous employer(s) during the interview. It will only stand against you if you do.

8. Determine that the interview will be part of your ongoing research and not just a sales pitch. So ask plenty of questions!

9. It will help if you mentally catalogue, ahead of time, not your fears, but the employer’s. What are the risks of employing you? Perhaps you don’t fit their requirements exactly, so what can you do to persuade them?

10. You don’t have to spend hours memorising a lot of “good answers” to potential questions from the employer; there are probably only five questions that matter

(a) “Why are you here?”

(b) “What can you do for us?”

(c) “What kind of person are you?”

(d) “What distinguishes you from nineteen other people who can do the same tasks that you can?”

(e) “Can I afford you?”

11. What about your body language. Make sure it is congruent with what you say. If you tell a lie it will be spotted by a good interviewer.

12. Employers don’t really care about your past; they only ask about it in order to try and predict your future performance and behaviour so make sure it fits with what they want.

13. Interviews are often lost within the first two minutes, so make sure that you make a good first impression. If you are unsure how you come across, get feedback from others.

14. Before you go to the interview think about your weaknesses and identify which ones are not relevant to the job. When asked about your weaknesses you can truthfully reply with 2 or 3 examples knowing that they will not count against you.

While the hints and tips above will not guarantee success, they will help you to be better prepared and therefore increase your chances of getting the job you want.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Talent Management – A top HR challenge

Not so long ago, many organisations compiled confidential lists of their “Top Managers” or “High Potentials”. People on the lists didn’t know that they had been ear marked for future greatness and the process was cloaked in secrecy.

However, the pressures of globalisation and ageing workforces have changed all this with many organisations pointing to talent management as being a top priority and implementing highly visible talent management processes and programmes.

This is supported by a survey from the Boston Consulting Group and European Association for Personnel Management which highlighted that talent management is currently the most critical challenge for HR.

The survey identified that talent shortages loom, particularly in Europe and that companies need to take steps now if they are to address these shortages in the future.

But what are the characteristics of a successful talent management programme?

  1. It is owned by the senior executives in the organisation. If the Board is not fully involved and committed to it, it won’t work.
  2. It has a clear “profile” of the skills, experiences and attributes that are needed to deliver the organisations strategy.
  3. It is visible and consistent. There must be visibility across the process (i.e. no secret lists!) and the process must eliminate as much as possible different manager’s ideas of “talent”.
  4. It has sophisticated recruitment, selection and succession planning processes to deliver the right people for the organisation.
  5. It provides a range of stretching development opportunities to enable talent to develop the necessary skills, experiences and capabilities.
  6. It identifies and raises talent related issues so that they can be dealt with appropriately. For example when a talented individual becomes disillusioned with the organisation, or is not fulfilling their potential the organisation resolves it quickly.
  7. It uses appropriate metrics to measure effectiveness.

Talent management is a key challenge for organisations and their HR functions. However, it is a challenge that needs to be addressed if organisations are to maintain their success in the future.

Retaining Talent

Retaining talent is a serious issue for many organisations. Each time a talented manager or member of staff leaves, they take valuable knowledge an expertise with them. But why do some organisations struggle to keep their talent, and why do talented people become disillusioned and leave?

One of the main reasons is that talent and their managers are often striving to climb what appears to them as the same ladder to reach higher levels in the organisation. The consequence of this is that they see themselves as “competitors” because they feel their personal career interests are in direct conflict. If the manager then resorts to “blocking“ behaviour, the talented individual quickly becomes disillusioned and leaves.

The second main reason why talent leaves is because they become “turned off” by their line manager. Talented people want stretch opportunities to prove themselves but managers can perceive that giving their staff stretch opportunities to learn and develop is a very risky business. As they are ultimately responsible for what the talent delivers, they do not want to risk their own reputation or career because a particular talent has failed to deliver. The result of this is that the talented individual feels that they are not stretched, they become frustrated and leave.

So how can organisations prevent this from happening? The key is to have a visible talent management programme that is owned by senior executives where these issues can be highlighted and dealt with. In addition, managers need to be given the skills to manage their talent appropriately and helped to understand the benefits of having talent for themselves, their team and ultimately the organisations success.

For more information contact

Monday, 30 June 2008

Top Tips for Improving Your Briefing and Presentation Skills

Briefing teams and presenting to others might be a key management task, but is it is also one of the most disliked responsibilities. If you struggle to present your views clearly to others try using the following tips to improve your briefing and presentation skills.

1. Watch TV’s weather forecasters. Examine how they present themselves, the body language and the words they use. What can you learn and copy from them?

2. Make a video of yourself presenting to others. How do you compare? Is your body language congruent with your words? For example do you come across as believable and enthusiastic?

3. Before presenting, ensure that you understand as much about your audience as possible (what is their knowledge of the topic, what is their background, what will they be expecting?). Once understood, determine the approach you will take (what information to provide, what questions the presentation should answer, what tone should be adopted etc.). What questions might they ask?

4. Outline your presentation or briefing by writing down all of the key points and in what order they should be presented.

5. Never write down what you are going to say – always dictate it. The spoken word and written word are very different.

6. To present opinions forcefully and directly, avoid phrases like ‘it seems to me’ or ‘it is likely that’. Use strong, ‘punchy’ verbs.

7. Illustrate key points of your presentation with real life examples that your audience will understand.

8. When asked a tough question, pause and think, do not shoot from the hip.

9. Remember the 5 Ps rule…preparation and practice prevents poor performance. Use a mirror or video to check whether you use appropriate expressions and gestures.

10. Learn to read the reaction/body language of the audience. Are they attentive throughout, do any look bored? Learn to change tack for example by asking a question to regain their attention.

Hopefully these tips will help you to improve your skills and abilities as a presenter. However, it is important to remember that presenting is essentially about confidence. In other words, the more you do it the more confident you will become in your abilities. Therefore, seek as many opportunities as you can to give speeches/briefings both at work and outside work with community or service organisations.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

How effective are your communication skills?

Communication is probably the most important skill a manager can have, but sadly many fail to recognise the impact their poor communication skills have on their team and colleagues. If you or someone you know needs to improve their communication skills, ask them to try the following tips to improve their interactions with others.

1. Always seek to understand others views and opinions first. When listening to someone always follow the order 1) listen, 2) understand, 3) interpret, and 4) respond. Resist the temptation to jump from listening to responding without making sure you understand.

2. Remember the basics of human interactions – if you want someone to listen to your more then you must first listen to them more!

3. Ask a trusted colleague/friend for feedback on your listening skills. For example, at meetings how often do you interrupt, misinterpret, look bored, become distracted, complete others sentences?

4. Remember over 50% of what we communicated is signalled by our body language. Develop your awareness of non verbal communication (body language) so that you can understand the true meaning of what others say to you.

5. Ask someone to critically examine your body language – does it work for you or against you?

6. To demonstrate you are listening, sit squarely facing the other person and maintain good eye contact (without staring).

7. Paraphrase what others have said to you to clarify meaning.

8. To present opinions forcefully and directly, avoid phrases like ‘it seems to me’ or ‘it is likely that’. Use strong, ‘punchy’ verbs.

9. Learn to make your points clearly and succinctly. Practice by taking articles from journals or trade magazines and produce a one page summary.

10. Ensure you use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation in your written communications. If you are unsure, The Little English Handbook - Choices and Conventions 8th Ed. 1998 (Corbett and Finkle) will help.

Ultimately, the key to effective communication is to ensure that you are able to give people your full time and attention. If you do not have enough time then reschedule a time when you have do. By doing this you will also demonstrate the importance of your relationship with them.