Friday, 26 November 2010

Management Development - What Makes an Amazing Managing Director?

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People Ltd

I have worked with a number of different Managing Director’s over time. They range from brilliant to mediocre, from amazing to frankly quite awful.

At one end of the scale, a particular gentleman ruled the office with a rod of iron – he expected respect without giving any out, he kept clients waiting half an hour whilst he finished reading his newspaper with his feet on the desk, he had no plan for the long term future of the business, and despite him begrudging us buying a jar of coffee or box of teabags, the business was in so much debt that it ultimately ended up being taken over.

In the middle of the scale, I worked for a lovely man who had great plans for the business, who was astute in all aspects of financial control, and who was absolutely revered in his field of expertise. However, he lived in a whirlwind of pressure, stress, incredibly long hours and absolute exhaustion due to the fact that he had no concept whatsoever of delegating efficiently. The stress could make him unapproachable to staff, and often made for a nervous working environment. Sadly the pressure got the better of him in the end, and he passed away at a very young age due to a heart attack.

At the top end of the scale, I work for a fantastic MD who is able to lead the business forward, manage the budget, innovate new ideas, inspire the staff, instil total confidence in the clients, manage his workload effectively, delegate with great confidence, and all this whilst remaining cheerful, calm and approachable at all times. Amazing!

So, to be amazing at a job, it is first necessary to understand exactly what it entails, and what is expected.

The role of Managing Director is the ultimate leadership role. Those who make a success of this role need to have the ability to manage everything – they will demonstrate superb management, leadership and motivational skills, be highly organised, have excellent time management skills, be able to delegate, and have a sharp commercial and strategic brain. A Managing Director also needs to be an excellent ambassador for the company, and have a long term vision of where the company is going. Managing Directors tend to be highly qualified, often with a Business Degree and a recognised management qualification.

The Managing Director leads the company and develops the corporate culture for the entire organisation. They are responsible to everyone – the clients, the staff, the Board and the Shareholders. Other responsibilities include egal responsibility for the company’s affairs, control of the budget, managing the company’s assets and resources, and ensuring they deliver sustainable levels of profitability and growth over time. The Managing Director is responsible for both day to day plans and running of the company, and making strategic plans for the long term future.

No wonder it is a stressful and highly pressured top level job!

Is there a person in the world who can achieve everything listed above (and more!) without a little bit of assistance along the way? You would need to be Superman (or Superwoman!) if so!

Management Development, Training and Coaching can help a Managing Director to truly find their feet in their role. From hints and tips on how to manage email and phone calls effectively through to the art of delegation, from strategic business plans through to controlling the budget, from people skills through to the creation of new cultures, Developing People Limited can help your Managing Director to truly be at the top of their game – all day, every day.

If you would like more information on our Management Development and Managing Training or Management Coaching programmes, please email us or telephone us on 0845 409 2346.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Leadership Development - Managing Company Changes, Mergers and Acquisitions Effectively

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People Limited

The last few years have brought about an unprecedented number of changes for many companies, including merging with or being acquired by other companies as well as internal restructuring. However, many companies have found that their performance post-change, post-merger or post-acquisition declines, and that the organisation struggles to return to previous performance levels.

In the current climate, organisations are experiencing increasing pressure to improve productivity and reduce costs as ever tougher market demands are being placed on them. These pressures are causing organisations to fundamentally rethink how they operate and as a consequence what they need to see differently from their managers and staff to survive.

One of the reasons that can bring about a drop in organisational performance during a merger or an acquisition is that there are unresolved cultural differences between the two organisations. This can lead to confusion and frustration and result in employees becoming de-motivated.

A clash of cultures can be overcome but it requires strong leadership and collaboration between the management teams and HR to ensure that a common set of goals are in place and communicated to employees. This may also mean ‘changing the mindsets’ of employees as cultural changes may also require behavioural changes.
No matter how clear the imperative for change might be, for it to be successful there are a number of prerequisites that need to be in place. For example:

1) There should be a clear vision for change and everyone must understand what it means for them personally (e.g. will they have a job after the change). This should include key milestones and targets for the change journey.

2) Senior managers demonstrate their commitment to the change by regularly ‘walking the talk’.

3) Managers and staff understand what is expected of them and are clear about what they need to deliver, for example changes to working practice, increased productivity etc.

4) The way that managers and staff are measured and managed is congruent with the changes needed.

5) People are involved in the change and can help shape the outcomes within their areas of responsibility.

6) There are regular two way communications. Individuals are listened to and their expectations are managed effectively.

7) Managers have the skills, capability and confidence to manage the reaction to the change both in themselves and their team.

8) Everyone is encouraged to behave in line with the changes and consequential actions are taken if they don’t.

9) Individuals have the personal capacity to implement the changes as well as doing their ‘day job’.

10) The changes needed to existing people and business policies, procedures and measures are clear and known.

To address these issues, it is vital that the organisation identifies and plans the key interventions that are needed to ensure the implementation of the planned change is successful.

A key aspect of this that is often overlooked is the ability of managers to lead change and staff to absorb it. Managers and staff therefore need to be given the appropriate training and development to enable them to develop their confidence, skills and behaviour and adapt to their new roles. In this way managers and staff will be given the right tools to make the necessary changes and ensure that the changes required by the organisation are successfully delivered and maintained.

Leadership skills are therefore a critical element of any management training programme. Historically many companies have not put any onus on leadership training and often management executives have found themselves lacking in the necessary skills to manage and motivate their teams, let alone effectively communicate and guide employees during the merger and acquisition process. By providing them with the relevant training will give managers the necessary skills to help their teams quickly feel they are part of the new company and culture.

At Developing People Limited, we are skilled in developing your leaders and managers to deal with change effectively. Have a look at the Leadership Development page on our website for more information, or you can send an email to us, or phone us on 0845 409 2346.

Leadership flaws – which ones do you exhibit?

by Mark Evenden @ Developing People Limited

Great leaders are not successful simply because they are in the right place at the right time. They succeed because they play to their strengths, and they work hard at maximising them. Effective leaders are very conscious of their strengths and know how to deploy them for their own advantage and for the benefit of their Organisation. This mean that they can repeat their performance as a leader in any new role they find themselves in or different organisation they work for.

However, all leaders also have weaknesses. These weaknesses can inhibit a leaders’ success or in extreme cases they can be their downfall, if they are not aware of them. I remember a number of years ago I had a new boss. He was a guy from the ‘centre’, young and keen and the business promoted him to a director role. They wanted to give him experience of an operational role with a view to moving him into a more senior position within the group in due course.

While my new boss was keen and clearly wanted to do the best for the business, he was very unaware of the impact his behaviour had on others. For example he would:

• Grill me about my budgeted overspend and expect me to come up with an urgent plan to correct the situation. On investigation I discovered that he had shifted a large spend onto my budget to make another part of the business appear more successful than it actually was!
• Not listen to me or other people properly - he was not interested in other people’s views, just his own.
• Claim that people were the organisation’s most important asset, but not give time for them.
• Be insensitive to people’s needs and also be indiscrete
• Be overly critical about other people in public.

Great leaders are very self aware and understand their flaws and work hard to minimise the impact of their flaws on others. Sadly my new boss didn’t’ understand this concept - he thought that he already knew what he needed to. Interestingly he often complained about not getting as much engagement and commitment from his staff as he wanted, and he couldn’t understand why people didn’t respect or trust him. Perhaps if he was courageous enough to ‘look in the mirror’ he would have seen his flaws and done something about them.

Here at Developing People Ltd, we specialise in helping your leaders to maximise their strengths. Have a look at our Leadership Development page for more information, or telephone us on 0845 409 2346.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Giving Feedback

by Mark Evenden @ Developing People Ltd

Giving feedback can often be fraught with difficulties. You may worry about how the other person will react to your feedback, whether they will believe it, ignore it or possibly get angry, upset or even aggressive.

I remember many years ago working for a consulting firm when my boss asked me for some feedback about a colleague. A couple of months before I had an issue with this colleague as they hadn’t undertaken a final check on a report that subsequently went to a client with a number of mistakes in it causing me a little embarrassment.
I hadn’t said anything to this colleague at the time but as my boss wanted some feedback I explained what had happened. The following week my colleague came to me - they had just had their annual appraisal with our their boss and they were very angry with me.

They accused me of going behind their back and causing trouble – they said that they did not know anything about the mistakes in the report and if it was true then why didn’t they speak to them first?

In hindsight, they had every right to be angry - first of all they weren’t prepared to defend / explain themselves in their appraisal, and secondly I didn’t own the feedback I wanted to give, but did it through a third person instead - our boss.

This was an important lesson for me, and over the years I have picked up other tips to give feedback more effectively too:

1. Remember feedback should not always be about things that someone has done badly - it should also be used to reinforce things that have gone well too.

2. Always give feedback when it is fresh – in your mind and the other person’s. It is a waste of time referring to something that happened 3 months ago, as the other person will probably have forgotten about it and will wonder why you haven’t discussed it before.

3. Prepare what you will say in advance; think through what you will say and how you will say it.

4. Own the feedback you are going to give – don’t give it through a third person. If you have an issue with someone then you should discuss it with them first.

5. When giving feedback ask for the views of the other person first by asking open questions – “tell me about how you think your presentation went’. It may be that they already know what you are about to tell them.

6. Give feedback on what you observed. Make sure you are specific about the details, when, where, how often etc.

7. Own the feedback you give – “I saw, I heard, I observed …”, and stick to the facts and don’t be judgemental ( ‘you are too slow, careless, short tall etc!’), and don’t be vague ( ‘that report was great!’).

8. Discuss the impact their behaviour/actions had on others. For example - ‘The impact of you not turning up on time to the focus group meeting was that the meeting finished later than planned.’

9. Talk to them about the consequences of their actions. ‘The consequence of you turning up late was that our consumers felt we were very unprofessional.’

10. Finally agree with the other person what actions are needed, and what the resulting outcomes will be.

These are tips that I have learned over the years and I hope they help you too.

For more help on Giving and Receiving Feedback, please see our Training Course, or call us on 0845 409 2346 for more information.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Management Development - Crucial Conversations

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People Ltd

Have you ever had to have a crucial conversation? One where you know you are going to meet with an opposing opinion? One where the stakes are high because it is such an important topic to you? One where you just know that emotions are likely to get out of hand? One that you know will be challenging, frustrating, frightening or annoying – or even all four? One that will have a long term impact on your life?

I once had to tell my boss, after two very unhappy months in a new job, why I was handing in my resignation and going to a different firm. The fear factor about having to hold this conversation with him nearly made me turn down the amazing new opportunity I had been offered, and stick with the stressful and unproductive situation I was currently in! To begin with, I felt bold and confident, and was all prepared to tell him exactly why I was leaving, and what the faults were with the way he ran the office that made it so unbearable to be there. By the time I actually got in to the meeting with him, I meekly handed him a resignation letter, and spent the next half hour trying not to cry as he went through a barrage of emotions from outright anger at my audacity through to emotional pleading for me to stay. I never actually told him why I was leaving in the end, but I was inwardly furious with myself for vehemently shaking my head when he did his “puppy dog eyes” and asked me “Is it me? Did I do something wrong?” …!!

Human nature is to run away from tough situations. We are good at being ostriches, and “burying our heads in the sand” rather than having a difficult conversation.

Breaking bad or difficult news to an employee is something that Managers are called on to do from time to time, but most of us are masters at avoiding this kind of difficult conversation, or even worse, at handling it badly when we do attempt it.

Here are some tips on how to tackle this kind of crucial conversation head on and deal with it effectively, instead of running away or getting it wrong :

1. Be prepared
Make sure you have all the up to date information before you go into the meeting. This could be very useful if the person has questions or concerns.

2. Use a private area
Many times delivering difficult news can cause people to display strong emotions. It is important to preserve their dignity during and after the meeting.

3. Start by listening
Start by asking a few open-ended questions which allows you to build rapport. Use paraphrasing and empathy which demonstrates you are actively listening.

4. Explore perception
Ask the person about their perception of the problem. How do they think they are performing? Further explore their answers.

5. Define reality
Be open and honest when delivering the bad news. Use language that reflects how the person perceives the problem and also use empathetic statements that show you understand how they are feeling.

6. Offer to help
If you can help the person’s situation in any way, offer this help. This may help the person move on and may soften the blow.

Communicating difficult news (or holding any other number of crucial conversations) is never easy, but the structure above can make the meeting go smoother. By practicing this structure in a training environment managers can become more familiar and more comfortable in delivering difficult news.

Management Training and Development can help your managers to handle a variety of situations in a more productive way. For more information on our Management Development and Training services, please visit our website at, or contact Developing People Limited by email or by telephone on 0845 409 2346.