Friday, 24 September 2010

Priority Management - Improve Your Effectiveness

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People Ltd

Earlier this month, for the first time since I started working at Developing People Limited, I started to feel rather like I was drowning under a sea of paperwork and never-ending tasks, for which I did not have enough hours in the week, let alone in a day. It took a couple of quite serious mishaps with relatively simple tasks to make me sit back and decide to find a better way to deal with things that would result in everything being completed correctly and on time without me bouncing about the office rather like a tightly coiled spring.

Do you find that your working days get longer and you end up working weekends and evenings just to keep up? Is there never enough time in the day to complete all your tasks? Are you constantly asking your boss for an extension of time, or even worse, brushing tasks under the carpet and hoping they will be forgotten? If so, you need to read on to find out how to manage your priorities better, and in turn how to improve your effectiveness.

Try this simple experiment. Take some large stones, several handfuls of gravel and several handfuls of sand. Now put them into a small bucket in this order – sand first, followed by gravel and then the stones. What happens? The sand fills up the bottom of the bucket, the gravel fills up the next part, and not all the stones fit in at the top. But what if you placed the stones in first, followed by the gravel and then the sand? The gravel and sand fall into and fill in the gaps around the stones and hey presto - you have managed to fit everything into one small bucket!

This very simple visual experiment demonstrates the power of priority management. Do the important priorities (ie. the big stones) first and then the smaller ones (ie. the sand and the gravel) can be fitted in around them during the working day or week. Do it the other way round and you will find yourself constantly working extra hours just to catch up on the “important stuff”.

So how should you decide on what your priorities are?

The first suggestion is something called the Pareto rule. Pareto was an Italian economist who identified that 80% of the wealth in Italy was produced and owned by 20% of the population. This 80:20 rule applies to many other situations for example, 80% of profits often come from just 20% of a company’s products or services, and 80% of the worlds pollution is caused by 20% of the world’s population. Using Pareto’s rule you can identify what your important priorities are and where you should focus - what 20% of your priorities or activities will give you 80% of the results you want?

The second suggestion is the concept of “important” and “urgent” – do you know the difference? Draw four boxes as two rows and two columns. Along the bottom of the boxes, write “important” and an arrow pointing to the right. Up the left side of the boxes, write “urgent” and an arrow pointing upwards. Split your tasks into these four boxes in the following way. The top right box is for tasks that are both urgent AND important. The top left box is for tasks that are urgent but not important. The bottom right box is for tasks that are important but not urgent, and the bottom left box is for tasks that are neither urgent nor important. Tasks which are urgent and important must be completed first. Tasks which are urgent but not important come next. Important but not urgent tasks are in third place, and tasks which are neither important or urgent should be delegated or scrubbed off your list altogether (and believe me, that can feel remarkably refreshing and theraputic, if you are sure you are scrubbing out the right tasks!)!

Getting your priorities right will ensure that you are more effective at what you do, and more accomplished in achieving your tasks. It will lead to a calmer and more efficient working environment, and you will reap the reward of being able to leave your job behind when you go home on time at the end of the working day every day. I have left the office on time every day for the last two weeks, and been a nice mummy rather than what my children none-too-fondly call a “growly bear mummy” into the bargain. It’s a much better way of life!

For more information on how Developing People Limited can help maximise your Priority Management skills, please see our training course on Personal Effectiveness and Priority Management. You can also contact us on 0845 409 2346 or by email to to discuss the needs of your business or organisation.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Management Development in a Recession

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People Limited

I am very fortunate that my own career has never yet been affected by redundancy, but sadly at the age of 43, my husband has proved not quite so lucky – tomorrow is his last day of work at what has been his job for the last four and a half years. Unfortunately his own redundancy (along with the twenty or so colleagues leaving with him tomorrow) is just the first part of a three-part wave of redundancies in the business scheduled for the next three months, so many others will shortly be facing the same fears around trying to find new employment.

With news of a “double dip” recession, more short time working, further redundancies and unfortunate business closures, it is not surprising that many employees – staff, managers and leaders alike - have become nervous about what the future holds for them. It is understandable that this will cause some people to become distracted and therefore not completely focused on what needs to be achieved. A potential consequence of this is that they become less productive, less creative and take fewer risks, which is obviously not what a business needs in the current climate. It becomes an ever-decreasing cycle of less productivity, poorer results and potential job losses, and it is hard to see a way towards breaking the cycle.

It is even more important now than ever before, therefore, that managers are trained not just to recognise the ‘mood’ of their staff, but that they are also given the skills and capability to influence the motivation and morale of their staff in a positive way. There is no doubt about the fact that some business will have to restructure and make staff redundant, but the way managers handle this sensitive and emotive issue can have a big impact not just on those who leave, but also on the morale and commitment of the staff who remain.

It would be an understatement to say that my husband has not had a good experience from his managers surrounding the news of his redundancy. Thankfully he does have an opportunity to retrain, but the news was not given sensitively or kindly, and he has recently learned that there will be no management staff in the office on his last day at work to wish him well after four and a half years of 3am starts. He feels unappreciated, uncared for, and would not jump to the front of the queue to recommend his current employer to anyone else considering embarking on a career with them.

One of the key characteristics of how successful organisations perform after any such restructuring is how the employees who remain feel that their colleagues who left the business were treated. Organisations whose staff felt that their redundant colleagues were treated poorly often subsequently struggle with low levels of employee motivation and productivity for a while after the restructure. Treating people ‘unfairly’ can range from a number of things. For example, redundant staff may have experienced:

* No sensitivity in breaking the new of forthcoming redundancy
* No apparent logic to who is made redundant and who is not
* Little or no support to find a new job.
* No opportunities for retraining.
* Redundancy payments handled incorrectly.
* Broken promises from managers.
* Leaving the organisation’s premises with out any recognition or thank you from their manager.

It is important therefore that managers are given the appropriate management training and support to help them deal with the consequences of a business restructure. For example they need to be able to:

* Give appropriate time, attention and sympathetic support to affected staff.
* Help staff to focus on the future and not dwell on the past.
* Give practical and useful advice and guidance about how to find a new job.
* Demonstrate independence and not collude with staff.

Management training and development can therefore play a vital role in a successful restructure. Cutting back on training costs will only worsen the situation, but investing in training will help managers deal with the effects of redundancies sympathetically and appropriately, and it will also enable them to keep an eye on the mood and motivation of their staff who remain. After all, you want staff who leave the business to be prepared to recommend it to potential employees in the future, as well as needing to maintain the productivity and commitment of those who remain, if the business is to have a hope of riding out the current recession and moving forwards into a successful future.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Talent Management - Talent Retention

by Mark Evenden @ Developing People Ltd

Is talent retention a serious issue for your organisation? Many organisations suffer each time a talented manager or member of staff leaves, as they often take with them valuable knowledge and expertise, and leave a void which can be time consuming and expensive to fill.

But why do some organisations struggle to keep their talent, and why do talented people become disillusioned and leave?

My own personal experiences have led me to a number of conclusions. Many years ago I worked for one of the UK’s largest nationalised industries which employed hundreds of thousand of people. While the organisation had many strengths, nepotism was rife, and those that got on the most were relatives and/or close friends of more senior personnel within the organisation. While I was there I witnessed numerous well qualified and talented individuals be ‘sidelined’ and not given the career opportunities they deserved.

In other organisations, I have seen talented individuals and their managers in ‘competition’ with each other. They both try and climb what appears to them as the same ladder in the organisation, and feel their personal career interests are in direct conflict. The line manager is usually the one with the power and I have seen them resort to ‘blocking behaviour’, which prevents the talented individual from progressing. The consequence of which is that they quickly became disillusioned and left.

Another main reason why talent leaves is because they become “turned off” by their line manager. A number of years ago I experienced a boss who was a ‘do what I tell you to’ manager. He wasn’t empowering, and didn’t like the idea of me (or anyone else in his team), demonstrating a great deal of initiative. However, talented individuals want opportunities to stretch and prove themselves, but some managers can perceive that giving their staff stretch opportunities to learn and develop is just too risky. They like to keep tight control as they are ultimately responsible for what their staff deliver, they do not want to risk their own reputation or career because a particular person has failed to deliver. However, the consequence of this is that the talented individual feels that they are not stretched, they become frustrated and leave. Which is exactly what I and a number of my colleagues did.

So how can businesses prevent talent from leaving? How can they prevent nepotism, blocking behaviour and over control from managers? The key is to have a visible talent management programme that is owned by senior managers where these issues can be highlighted and dealt with. In addition, businesses must provide their managers with the necessary skills to manage their talent appropriately and help them to understand the benefits of developing talent, for themselves, their team and ultimately the business’ success.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Management Development - What are the benefits of the development of managers?

by Lucy Cadman

A couple of years ago, I had to attend a management development and team building event run by a previous company that I worked for. We spent two hours eating fish and chips, and awkwardly asking each other for three random facts about our lives that no one else would know. At the end we had to report back on the random facts, much to the embarrassment of everyone present, especially those who had shared a little more information about themselves than was truly professional. We were all left wondering what on earth was the point of the training, and how it had impacted on our performance in any way – sadly, if not understandably, everyone came to the conclusion that the training had been a waste of time and had achieved absolutely nothing.

When thinking about the benefits of investing into the development of managers within a business, it is necessary to first consider the answers to a further two questions :

1) What is the business or organization striving to achieve?
2) How do the managers need to think and act for the business to achieve these goals?

Management development can only help to improve the performance of a business if the development activities are directed in the right way and are aimed at achieving a measurable change. For example, the outcomes required from the development activities may be around:

• Developing managers to have more impact and influence with the intention of leading to increasing sales revenue.
• Improving the performance management skills of managers to in turn improve the productivity of staff to increase capacity and / or reduce costs.

It is also good to remember that there are a range of less tangible business benefits associated with management development activities - for example, investment in training and development is often seen by employees as a sign of being valued by the company, as well helping to create a positive business and professional image. Businesses that are seen to invest in staff development will not only find it easier to recruit quality personnel, but will also enjoy much lower rates of staff turnover.

However, it is important to recognize that individual development is not just about “going on a course”. While training courses will enable a manager to address a specific skills gap, there are other alternatives to consider - for example:

• Secondments into other roles within other teams or departments to improve business understanding and team focus.
• Coaching.
• Mentoring
• Project work
• Research
• Networking
• Reading
This list is by no means exhaustive!

Whatever the reason for investing in management development, the impact on individual performance and the impact on the company's bottom line should always both be kept in mind, measured and regularly evaluated to ensure that the investment is worthwhile and that the full benefits have been gained.