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.