Monday, 28 June 2010

Management Training - Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

by Lucy Cadman

Whenever the subject turns to anything technological in our Team Business Meetings at Developing People, I usually end up having to stifle a smile or two at the reluctance and the disinterest of our more mature team members. The response can be anywhere from a mumbled “Do we really need that?” through to “Can you say that again, as I really don’t understand it”, and usually finishing off with a grudging “Well, I suppose we must move with the times – but YOU can deal with it all!” (with the latter comment always being aimed at and embraced by myself – the 33 year old “wet behind the ears” member of the team!).

During 2009, the High Court upheld the decision that it was legal for the Default Retirement Age of 65 (introduced by the Government in 2006) to remain in place. As the Law currently stands, a British employer can therefore dismiss a member of staff without redundancy payments on their 65th birthday, as long as the employer sticks to the correct procedure for the dismissal. Employees have the right to request to continue working, but the employer can refuse this without giving any reason for the decision. An employer can currently also refuse to employ anyone over the age of 65.

However, the new Liberal Democrat-Conservative Coalition announced in June 2010 that they want to scrap the current default retirement age of 65, and that they plan to bring in an increase to this age – the state pension age for men is now due to rise from 65 to 66 in 2016, and up to 68 by 2046. Women are scheduled to move to a state pension age of 66 a few years after the increase for men. Steve Webb (Liberal Democrats Pensions Minister) says pensionable age should be a better reflection of life expectancy, which is currently 77 years for men and 81 years for women in the UK.

With this in mind, is it justifiable that some employers are still seemingly reluctant to offer Management Training and Development opportunities to their older employers in the age ranges of 50’s and 60’s? Is this a wise investment, or is it too late to be of benefit to either the employer or the employee? Do older employees respond as well to Management Training activities as their younger counterparts?

There is still a strong case for including older employees in management training events :

* They may still have the need, and they definitely still have the responsibility.
* They are likely to be just as motivated to grow and to perform on average and in general as their younger colleagues - indeed some may be even more strongly motivated!
* A "one team" approach is better than a divisive approach
* It could be strongly demotivational not to include them.
* Including older managers gives them and the other participants the benefit from their knowledge, experience and wisdom.
* They often set a good example to their younger peers - and any cynical responses are much more driven by individual attitude differences than by age.

There are many reasons to ensure that you include your older managers in management training that outweigh any concerns about less return on your investment or that they may "know it all already" - after all, they may still be working for you in years to come well into their 70's!

Mr M – long may your time with us continue, and we will get you addressing the masses on Twitter yet …!!!

Friday, 25 June 2010

Management Training - Improving Your Networking Skills

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People

I freely admit that I probably spend way too much time on the internet. It seems to be one of those things that is just like Marmite – you either love it or you hate it. And my relationship with the internet is definitely a love affair.

In third place, I would say, is reading and replying to emails. They are such a quick and easy way to keep in touch, especially with those who don’t live locally, or indeed who are from another country altogether. You can cram so much into one single email that you couldn’t probably fit into an expensive international phone call, although I must admit that I ought to get off my sofa and walk round to see my friend who lives in the next street as opposed to emailing her!

Second place is likely to go to using forums. With a number of fairly diverse hobbies (ranging from Ballroom Dancing via Classic Car ownership through to the keeping of several Tarantulas, and all manner of things in between!), I am often on the search for information, supplies, and the company of like-minded people. Forums provide a wealth of information at the touch of just a few buttons, and it is pretty easy to get absorbed into the community feel of such sites.

Without a doubt, in top place is Facebook, and other similar networking sites such as LinkedIn. I can misplace hours at a time keeping up with what friends all over the world have been doing, and keeping everyone up to date with my latest dancing injury, my newest car purchase, or the hiding place of my most recently escaped Tarantula. I can relay news to a couple of hundred friends, old and new, again at the touch of just a few buttons.

In today’s technological times, social and professional networking sites are a quick and easy way to give you access to a large network of people via your computer. Here are five top tips to help you use the internet successfully for networking purposes:

1. Don’t mix business and pleasure. Be careful about the way you use your business networking sites (for example, LinkedIn) as opposed to the way you use your social networking sites (for example, Facebook). If possible, keep business and pleasure completely separate online – don’t invite professional contacts to link with you on social networking sites, and vice versa. The last thing you really want is your professional contacts to be reading all about how you got a bit tipsy at the weekend, or your poorly dog needing to be taken to the vets!!
2. Take the time to look up old contacts. By adding just one contact to your online network, you will often gain access to hundreds more people who are interested in a similar vein of work, or who have professional skills that may be useful to you. Take the time and trouble to look up people you haven’t contacted in a while, and make use not only of their skills, but also of the skills of the people they network with.
3. Be careful how you come across. Remember that the written word does not have the advantage of body language to emphasize its true meaning. Words can easily be misunderstood across a computer screen, so if in doubt, leave it out!
4. Think what your legacy will be. Where as the spoken word is gone the moment it has been said, the written word has a much more lasting legacy. Never type anything out in temper, as it may be difficult to retract it, by which point the damage is already done. Be polite, courteous and professional at all times.
5. Beware of addiction! Networking sites can be incredibly time-consuming. Whilst they are a very important and useful resource, stay aware of how much time you spend using them, and don’t let this become proportionally imbalanced to the amount of work you generate from networking in this way.

One of these days, I will take my own advice on that last point … promise!

Monday, 14 June 2010

How to evaluate the impact of Leadership Training and Development

by Mark Evenden

At Developing People, we understand the importance of measuring the impact that a leadership training and development programme has on an organisation, as the “acid test” of any investment whether in leadership development or new product or service, is the results it produces.

The key to the evaluation of a leadership development programme is to be clear at the design stage what the organisation is expecting to achieve as a result of its investment. For example, does the organisation wish to:

* Increase profits?
* Increase productivity of staff?
* Reduced mistakes/quality problems?
* Increased sales or market share?
* Reduce staff turnover?

By setting out the outcomes expected form the leadership development programme different ‘levels’ of evaluation can subsequently be made.

1) Organisation – The highest level of evaluation can be assessed via the organisation’s own metrics (e.g. profitability, sales growth, market share etc). However, there needs to be a clear line of sight between these measures and others that link to them.
2) Team. The first link is at the team or departmental level. What impact does the programme need to have on team performance, and targets? These may be for example, improved levels of customer satisfaction (increasing sales), improved product margins through better negotiation (increasing profitability), reduced absence rates and staff turnover Reducing costs).
3) Individual. The next link in the evaluation is individual performance and behaviour. How do leaders need to behave and what skills do they need in order to increase motivation and engagement to provide better customer service (for example)? This can be measured through achievement of personal as well as observations on behaviour via 360 feedback appraisals.

By providing a clear line of sight linking individual behaviour, through team behaviour and on to organisational outcomes, an the impact a leadership development programme has had can be readily assessed and evaluated.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Leadership Development - Leadership and the Sigmoid Curve

by Mark Evenden at Developing People

Charles Handy in his book the Empty Raincoat discussed a concept called the Sigmoid Curve, and its implications for organisations. In essence, Handy was explaining that all organisations have life cycles that are fairly predictable, and can be expressed in terms of S-shaped curves, like a product life cycle. The curves show how organisations form and start to grow, before eventually reaching a peak and starting to decline.

At Developing People, we believe that careers follow similar patterns. In the beginning of your career you learn a great deal, mature in your role, and then potentially move on if you feel you have either “outgrown” your role, or if you feel you have stagnated, got bored, and are just going through the motions of doing your job, with the consequential decline in performance.

What therefore are the implications of this for us as Leaders? One paradox is that leaders need to “re-invent” themselves before their leadership style becomes stale and less effective. Clearly this takes a certain amount of courage and foresight, because why should a leader change what they do when it is all working just fine, and they are successful?

Leaders therefore need to continually learn, develop and re-invent themselves if they are to be capable of continually challenging their organisations and leading them to greater performance.

The skills and behaviours that a leader has may have been successful in the past, but that is no guarantee that it will enable them to be successful in the future when they face organisational challenges and opportunities that they have not encountered before.

Marcel Proust once said “the real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes”. Leadership development programmes, leadership team development interventions and external coaching support can all help a leader to develop new perspectives and to see things with “new eyes”.

Would you like to challenge yourself as a leader, or would you like as an employee to see your company challenge its leaders in this way? Take a look at the Leadership Development page of the Developing People website for more information on what we can do to help.