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.