Friday, 22 October 2010

A Question of Integrity

by Mark Evenden @ Developing People Limited

Many years ago, I was a management trainee with the National Coal Board. As with many other nationalised industries at the time, they offered excellent management training and a good grounding for future mine managers.

After completing my statutory basic training and close personal supervision, I worked in various roles from underground logistics to work study. My mentor was our Colliery Manager, who was a strong character and claimed to lead from the front. He expected all those in management roles to lead by example.

Working in a mine has a number of inherent dangers, and there were strict rules governing personal health and safety. One example concerned the plethora of conveyor belts which transported coal from the face via various belts to a drift, and eventually to the surface.

Some of the belts were designated “man riding” belts with properly constructed stations for safe access and egress. However, it was prohibited to ride any other belt, including the one which took the coal to the surface via the drift. One day, I was with a ventilation engineer checking air flows at various points in the drift. We noticed two cap lamps which appeared to be on the conveyor, which was strictly prohibited. Two people were indeed riding the belt – one was the Colliery Manager and the other was the Chief Union Official.

This was an abject lesson for me in how not to lead by example. Firstly, how could a Colliery Manager who was responsible for the health and safety of his staff discipline them for breaching health and safety rules when he did it himself? Secondly, how could a Union Official whose union campaigned forcefully to improve the safety and welfare of miners be prepared to risk his own safety and collude with his Colliery Manager?

Neither of them fully understood the consequences of their actions. Interestingly, the mine had a number of incidents of breaches in health and safety (including riding on prohibited conveyor belts). I wonder if the Colliery Manager and Senior Union Official ever understood the root causes of these problems?

Monday, 18 October 2010

The Benefits of Bespoke Management Development

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People Limited

A couple of years ago, I worked in the Finance Department of a very large travel organisation. Whilst I was there, I attended a standard “Team Development Course”, with the intention of … guess what … developing our team to work more closely together. It was a generic open training course, and none of us were particularly enthusiastic about attending. As it turned out, the only things that we really learned were the name of our Manager’s pet frog, and the fact that another colleague had once driven an articulated lorry. We also learned that eating fish and chips in the middle of the day lead to sleepiness rather than productivity in the afternoon. Vital information for building a team within a specific business environment … NOT!

Management training is a vital process in the development of a manager, as the skills need to lead, motivate and get the best out of staff are very different from the technical skills required to simply perform a job to a high standard. Many organisations chose to send their managers on generic open training programmes, or sometimes to colleges or business schools to develop their management skills. There is an ease to simply sending a manager out of the office to a structured course for a day or two, and particularly in the current economic climate, the lower budget required for this on-tap kind of training is appealing.

However, there are a number of important issues to be considered using this style of approach.

Firstly, the manager concerned must accept the course as given, and therefore accept the fact that it may or may not meet their specific learning needs at that point in their development.

Secondly, generic management training courses do not take into account the culture, climate and needs of the organisation as an individual company.

Finally, most people learn best when they use materials and approaches that are relevant to their work. For example, discussing how to manage the performance and get the best out of a team of bus drivers will be very different from a team of creative magazine editors.

The ultimate consequence of the above is that the manager does not make the most of their learning and therefore that the organisation doesn’t get the required return on their investment.

To avoid this, an organisation needs to use management training firms with the expertise to develop tailored solutions. They need trainers who can work alongside the organisation’s own internal experts to develop the programmes. This ensures that the materials are prepared in a style, format and language that is 100% appropriate to the business, and that case studies, role plays and exercises are made relevant to the organisation by using realistic workplace examples.

The most effective training programmes are therefore the ones that are developed in collaboration between the organisation and their training partner. Indeed, it is often beneficial that programmes are delivered in partnership too, with the organisation itself delivering certain aspects of the programme. By ‘creating your own’ management training and development programme, organisations can ensure that their managers receive the development that is really needed and the organisation benefits fully from their investment.

Developing People Limited provides bespoke Management Development and Training. We work closely with your organisation at all stages of the process to ensure that the training delivered is right for your people and your business, and that you maximise both your staff and your investment through our training. If you would like more information on our Management Development and Training, or on any of our other bespoke services, please visit our webpage. You can also telephone us on 0845 409 2346, or email us at .

Friday, 8 October 2010

Surviving Your Success as a Leader

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People Limited

I have been enjoying the hobby of Ballroom and Latin dancing for the last few years. I remember the aches and pains in the early weeks – a short lesson that was relatively gentle compared to the standard I dance at these days used to leave me with crippling muscle aches and cracking joints for several days afterwards. I pressed on for further physical fitness and greater technical ability, all the while thinking to myself “If I can just get to *this* standard, then it will all be so much easier”. Having now achieved a standard of passing several exams, winning various medals and being fit enough to dance for three or four hours a day several days a week, has it got any easier? Has it heck!! I now spend all my time trying to maintain the level of fitness that I have achieved, as well as constantly hungering for more technical skill. It never gets easier – but it does remain enjoyable and fulfilling.

After the months and years spent working hard to be successful in leadership, you have made it to the peak – well done! But being a successful leader can be as difficult to maintain as physical fitness and stamina. Success can mean that you take a big step towards stress and burnout, because the pressure of being a high achiever drives us to try even harder to achieve more.

Here are a few ideas to help maintain balance and survive your own success.

1. Learn to relax. Give yourself a break and take time out to relax and enjoy your success – you deserve it! Make sure that you are not at the office late into the evening every day, and when you have a holiday, then make sure you really do take a holiday – that means no mobile phone, laptop or any other device that helps you to be tracked down!

2. Know your limitations. It’s important to remember that success doesn’t mean perfection. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and trying to be good at everything can water down your impact. Play to your strengths, and don’t get hung up on your weaknesses.

3. Don’t be paralysed by indecision. Decisions lead to consequences and action, but not making decisions will lead to inactivity and organisation paralysis. It is better to make a poor decision that needs to be revised than to make no decision at all.

4. Give yourself a pat on the back. Leading a team can be a lonely experience and so it’s important to validate yourself. Note down your achievements and read them through to yourself whenever you can to reinforce successful behaviour.

5. Learn to fail. At some point you will take a “fall” – this is an inevitable part of life, both professionally and personally. The key to falling is how you deal with it - learn from it, move on, and retain confidence in your abilities.

6. Be a mentor. Establish yourself as a coach or mentor to others. Some may be jealous of your success as a leader, but helping them to achieve their own targets will reduce their negativity towards you.

7. Don’t micro manage. Your success as a leader will not last if you over control your team’s tasks. It is vital to trust other people to do what you used to do. Delegate to your team, and then give them freedom and space to achieve their goals.

8. Have a laugh. A sense of humour is very important, particularly in difficult or stressful times. Being able to smile lifts others and shows your self deprecating style.

Maintaining success as a leader is difficult, but it is totally achievable by following these few simple tips. If you would like to find out how Developing People can help you to develop and maintain your leadership skills, please email us or telephone us on 0845 409 2346.