Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Leadership Development and the Sigmoid Curve

by Mark Evenden at Developing People International.

Charles Handy published a book in 1995 called the ‘Empty Raincoat’ in which he discussed a range of paradoxes and in particular the paradox of the Sigmoid curve and its implications for organisations. In essence, Handy was explaining that all organisations have life cycles (analogous to product life cycles) that are fairly predictable and can be expressed in terms of 5 shaped curves. The curves show how organisations form and start to grow, before eventually reaching a peak and then starting to decline. The time span for the growth, maturity and decline may be very long or fairly short.

For example I have worked in the UK tableware ceramics sector, the growth and decline of which has spanned several hundred years. Compare this to the life of a consumer product such as a mobile phone when most of us want an upgrade after 12 months.

Handy argues that it is critical for an organisation to begin a second wave / curve of organisational / business development before the first peak finishes and not wait until pending disaster has become clear to everyone (as with the UK tableware market). In my view one of the most successful organisations to achieve this reinvention of itself has been Apple. Just as you think that the market is bored with their latest products – out they come with a new one!

Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is a simple way of calculating exactly how long an organisation will take to reach a peak or when the decline will start.
This is of course a paradox because why change something when everything is apparently going so well?

Yet in my view one of the crucial roles of leadership is to identify when exactly to change. This takes vision and courage from the leader because in the short term the risk to changing the business may appear to be huge. Leaders therefore need to be forward thinking and be able to see the “big picture” and make best ‘estimates’ about what will happen in the future, new trends, changing market forces etc.
However leaders need also to be aware of their own and their organisations’ mind sets. A “mind set” is a “way of doing things” that can ultimately be a limiting belief. Mindsets constrain leaders and their organisations.

The following are examples of organisational mindsets
* “All watches must have hands.”
* “All letters must be sent by post.”
* “You need film to take photographs.”
* ‘Couples getting married will want an expensive dinner service as a wedding present’

To be successful I believe leaders need to continually challenge, innovate and develop if they are to successfully reinvent themselves as well as helping to reinvent their organisations. In the words of Marcel Proust - “The real act of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in having new eyes”.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Back to Basics - What IS Leadership Development?

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People

Have you ever seen a diamond in its original form? It looks just like a lump of rock (albeit a very slightly sparkly one!), and I for one wouldn’t have a clue what was or what wasn’t a diamond before it goes through the cutting and polishing process that makes it the beautiful stone it becomes.

Leadership development is a similar process. It is about moving you, inch by inch, along a personal continuum. At the beginning is a ‘rough’ management style –the one that came to your naturally. At the other end, is a perfected and optimised way of leading. Leadership isn’t just a way of speaking, or a manner of dealing with your team. It is truly about your overall approach to the world, and how you respond daily to it.

I used to take a critical view of leadership development – it seemed like a very negative, very harsh and perhaps even endless game of ‘chasing your tail’. But I have learned that to understand my faults is a way of knowing myself better, and appreciating that my faults exist is far more positive than denying that there is anything wrong. Finally, to go one step further and engage in leadership development in order to actually reduce or remove those faults is a very noble pursuit that will be beneficial to not just for me, but to those long suffering souls who work with me too!

I am pro-active in seeking solutions, and I hate to have to react only when pushed into a situation at the last moment. Put me in front of a crowd and I clam up, but I will listen to anyone and everyone who needs me. My imagination runs riot in my head, but I am not always blessed with being able to get my ideas across successfully. My kindness is both by best and worst asset, and perhaps I need to develop a little more ruthlessness. These are all characteristics within my personality, my habits and my projected-self. Some of these can be changed more than others. Leadership development is concerned with identifying our weaknesses and one-by-one, and proactively engaging in activities and experiences that will improve them. Perhaps your leadership style is too autocratic and you’re having difficulty delegating properly. Maybe you lack confidence when it comes to public speaking, which undermines the confidence of your team in your abilities. Whatever the weakness and whatever the issue, you can work to resolve it, and you can become a greater leader.

It is truly inspiring to work in a business that is committed to personal development and growth, both for our clients and for our staff. Personal development is infectious - just like a smile! Once you can see for yourself that progress is possible even in some of the most set-in-stone characteristics in a person, you can fully realise the true potential of personal development, and what it could hold for you. I know I did.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Minimising the impact of your ‘weaknesses’ as a leader

by Mark Evenden @ Developing People International

In my view, 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. Most great leaders I have worked for have been very conscious of their strengths and have known how to deploy them for their own advantage and for the benefit of their business. I think that this has also enabled them to be able to repeat their great leadership performance any new role they found themselves in.

However, it is clear that all leaders also have weaknesses. I have observed these weaknesses inhibiting a leaders’ success, and in one extreme cases it was their downfall, because they were not fully aware of them (or possibility and even worse, they did not accept them!). In my experience, there are a number of factors that can derail a leader and can interfere with their ability to gain the engagement and commitment from their people. A number of the most common ‘flaws’ that I have observed include the following. Leaders who:

* Have a lack of real understanding the impact their behaviour has on other people.
* Do not listen to their staff properly, either failing to empathise or communicate enough.
* Can see the ‘big picture’ but are unable to follow through on the details of a plan, creating frustration in their teams.
* Don’t delegate enough – they believe that the ‘best’ person to do the job is themselves.
* Claim that people are the organisation’s ‘most important asset’, but in reality they do not give enough time and energy for their people.
* Fail to challenge their managers and staff to improve their performance, or do not provide the necessary training and development
* Act with insensitively or without appropriate discretion.
* Are rude, aggressive or over critical of their people.

It is helpful for leaders to recognise these factors and work to minimise the impact of them. The best leaders I have worked for were very self-aware and understood their flaws and engaged people to work alongside them who balanced their ‘weaknesses’. For example, I once worked for a charismatic MD who was an excellent visionary but ensured his Operations and Finance Directors were able to keep tight control of the detailed operational activities and finances.

Ultimately it is up to the leader to recognise and manage their weaknesses effectively. However, I have seen leaders who failed to do this effectively and eventually derailed them.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Gaining Committment from your Employees

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People International

It is clear to me that even though the world of business in the UK is facing tough times at the moment, it is no longer feasible for an organisation to demand commitment, motivation and respect from their employees. The range of choice facing people these days is endless – hundreds of different careers are possible, and likewise there are many different routes into each career too. These days, most people have a much greater choice about where they work, how they work and who they work for. The impact of this on an organisation is that if employees feel that they are being taken for granted or not being engaged usefully, they have the very real option of seeking employment elsewhere.

So what should organisations and individual managers do? Here are some of my thoughts …

I find that some organisations try to ‘buy’ commitment by paying huge salaries and big bonuses, believing that is the best way to motivate and retain their top staff. But while money is a necessity, and while I definitely want to be paid a fair wage for a day’s work, is it really the way to build a long commitment to an organisation? While bonuses may briefly improve my morale, they really only provide a short term motivational effect and are often soon forgotten. If you believe that money is a big motivator, ask yourself this simple question – if you were paid twice as much, would you (or indeed could you) work twice as hard? I know that I couldn’t work any harder than I already do, and would probably be offended by the insinuation that I could!

I notice that other organisations believe that the best way to keep staff motivated is through a social calendar of staff parties, off site team building events and regular gatherings. However, for those that already work long hours, for those (like me) to whom shyness can be a barrier, or for those (again like me) with numerous outside interests already, this social calendar can take them still further away from their family, home life, other interests and indeed their comfort zone. I would be very upset if as a shy yet accomplished member of a team, I continually missed out on opportunities within the work place due to my discomfort at social events.

I think that the truth of the matter is that many new employees are filled with anticipation and excitement on starting their new job, but then have all their interest and motivation squashed by managers and organisations failing to understand basic human motivations. Thinking further from this, I have identified a number of common themes about how to keep staff motivated and committed at work. The organisations that have the most committed staff are where their managers:

* Are clear about what they expect from their staff.
* Uphold themselves as a role model, and are consistent in behaviour.
* Support their staff to learn and develop transferable skills.
* Trust their staff to do their job by delegating and giving them the freedom to make their own decisions (within guidelines).
* Involve their staff in decisions that affect them.
* Listen and pay attention to what their staff say.
* Respond flexibly to the needs of their staff.

So what does this have to do with Management Training and Development? I do not believe it is a coincidence that organisations which invest heavily in Management Training and Development in general have greater levels of cooperation and commitment from their staff. I think it is important to recognise that the skills needed to motivate others effectively can be readily learned and developed through the right management training and development.

Those organisations that do not take the necessary time and effort to train and develop their managers are likely to experience:

* High occurrences of absenteeism, which can be either stress-related or general.
* Poor communication.
* Too many meetings and a decision-making process that is always too slow.
* A general lack of trust and co-operation.
* Managers and staff acting politically for their own personal gain rather than the success of the organisation.
* Unexplained changes to strategy and direction.
* Staff that are generally disengaged with their role, and as a result are just trawling through their day on a ‘9 to 5’ basis.

Organisations should stop simply expecting employee commitment, and should start investing in the training and development of their managers. Ultimately, I believe that building a successful business or organisation relies on motivated and committed employees who will ‘go the extra mile’. I would do for my employer – would you?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Leadership - A Question of Influence

by Mark Evenden

In essence leadership is about taking others to places they have not been before. However, to lead successfully you also have to influence others to gain their commitment and engagement to the direction you believe is right.

Many researchers have pointed out that influence can be seen as working on a number of levels, which I have found as a useful insight when thinking about influencing others. Clearly the most fundamental level of influence is around what you tell other people, but it also about the relationship you have with them as well as how you are seen to act and behave.

As I stated above, the most fundamental level of influence is around what you say to other people. Here are some hints and tips I find useful for this level of influence:

* When attempting to influence timing is key – set yourself up for success, there is no point attempting to influence some one when they are emotionally tired, upset or angry.

* It may sound obvious but make sure you truly believe in what you are saying?

* Examine you body language – does it support what you say?

* Be clear with others what your expectations are. These may also include the consequences for not meeting your expectations.

* Take time to explain what you expect and talk through your differences with them.

The next level of influence is around the relationships you have with other people. It may sound obvious but you are more likely to influence those that you have an understanding, respectful and trusting relationship with. Here are some hints and tips I find useful for this level of influence:

* Do you assume the best in other people? If I think someone is a fool I am likely to treat them as one, so beware of your thoughts.

* Genuinely seek to understand the other person before you give them instruction or advice.

* Make sure that you respond to others in a way that demonstrates understanding of their position and concerns.

* If offended take the initiative to clear it up. It is likely that the relationship is far more important than being ‘right’.

* If you make a mistake, admit it and apologise, it shows you are human.

* Make sure you are influenced by others first. Reciprocation is a powerful influencing tool.

* Make sure you keep your promises. Do not make promises you know you will not keep or have difficulty keeping.

The highest level of influence is around who you are and how you act. Other people will be far more influenced by what you do that what you say. Here are some hints and tips I find useful for this level of influence:

* Make sure you lead by example (i.e. do what you say).

* Refrain from criticising others publicly. If you need to give feedback, do it behind closed doors.

* Be a model of restraint and demonstrate emotional self control.

* Be patient with others. Patience is a practical demonstration of faith in and respect for others.

* Don’t blame others - focus on what you can do to make the difference, not what others need to do.

I believe that the most effective leaders and influencers work on all three levels at the same time. Being a perfect role model and having good relationships will not be sufficient if you don’t explain to people what you expect. Conversely, people will soon loose faith in what you say if you do not live by your word, no matter how good your relationship is with them.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

When Mediation Turns Into Coaching

by Dave Marchant

There are times when one type of assignment can turn into something else.
I have been engaged by a client to undertake a mediation exercise with two employees in order to help them improve their working relationship. Having started this work it has become apparent that one or both of the employees is not ready or prepared to take a positive and effective role in the process. Mediation cannot work unless both parties are prepared to let some things go from their past interaction and situation and to look forward to a more positive future. Ideally they should be able to draw a line under the past and to be open minded about the prospect of an improved relationship. They need to want to participate and to give the process a chance of success.

I have experienced participants involved in a mediation process who choose not to engage with the other person and the process and say or do things to antagonise and inflame the situation rather than to move closer to or to seek common ground and a new understanding with the other person. In this circumstance it is not always effective or appropriate to help the person with the inappropriate attitude or behaviours to examine and consider different possibilities or approaches or to vent their pent up feelings in front of the other party.

So a more effective approach can be found in coaching one or both parties individually to think about and consider their options for any change of attitude, approach and behaviours. This coaching approach could give them the time, space, support and challenge to reflect away from the gaze of the other party. If the employee responds to this coaching input then they could be invited back to the mediation process ready to take new attitudes and behaviours into establishing a more appropriate dialogue with the other party.

There could also be a case to do this coaching work with each individual before the start of the mediation process in order to help them prepare themselves for the behavioural changes required of them to make the mediation successful.

The Key Elements of Performance Management

Managing performance effectively is becoming increasing important in today’s service and knowledge based economy. However, many businesses and organisations are still unclear about what performance management is or how it should be used. To try and provide some guidance in this area, I have summarised the key elements of an effective performance management process below.

In my view, the overall purpose of performance management is to maximise the contribution of individuals and their work teams to enable a business or organisation achieve its strategic goals. I also believe that performance management is applicable to all levels of an organisation and not just for front line staff.

My own personal (good!) experiences of having my performance and development managed effectively included the following:

For me to be able to take responsibility for my own performance and maximise it, I needed to know what my boss and organisation expected of me. A number of organisations I worked for were very good at this and set expectations by:
• Describing what needed to be achieved through the setting of personal targets that were linked to the business’ strategic aims.
• Describing how I was expected to behave and deliver my personal targets.

Once the expectations have been set, my boss did not just leave me to ‘get on with it’, but should sat down with me every 6-8 weeks to discuss and review my performance against their expectations ‘continually’ reviewed on a regular basis, for example every 6-8 weeks. In this way any issues were quickly nipped in the bud.

My boss also conducted a formal review of my performance once per year to formally record progress and successes. They reviewed:
• What had been achieved against my targets set at the beginning of the year.
• How the targets had been delivered. This was determined by reviewing my behaviour against the organisation’s competence standards and values. It was not acceptable for me to deliver on my targets at any cost.

Clearly for the performance management process to be effective something needed to happen as a result of it. The outcomes from the continual and annual reviews ranged from a recognition of efforts and achievements, sanctioning of my bonuses as well as the occasional consequential action for non achievement. In addition, I agreed a personal development plan with my boss outlining the learning actions for the coming year.

I valued being set clear expectations and then being empowered to deliver on them. I found the process of having my performance and development proactively managed as a very engaging and rewarding one that helped me to perform to my best and achieve my potential.

If your people and business are not achieving their potential it is probably time to review how the performance and development of people are managed in your organisation.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Why Appraisals Don’t Work

I was reminded the other day of a study undertaken by Investors in People that found that around a third of employees think that appraisals are a complete waste of time. Sadly, for many managers and staff the annual appraisal ranks as one of the most unpleasant aspects of their job, as well as the most pointless.

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. All of these findings are a sad indictment of a process that when used properly is an invaluable performance improvement and development tool.

But why do these issues arise in the first place and what can be done to prevent them from occurring? From my own personal experiences I believe that there are a number of reasons why appraisals don’t work, and get such a bad press.

• I have met and been managed by managers who believe that an appraisal is simply an annual event. Yet, managing an individual’s performance and development is a continual process. We all value continual feedback and support to ensure that that we perform to the best of our ability. Rather than sitting discussing performance once a year, I believe firmly that managers need to formally sit down with each member of their staff on regular (e.g. monthly) basis. This enables both the manager and employee to have full and frank discussions about progress and performance and nip any issues in the bud before they become a serious problem. I have found this approach a far more successful way of managing someone’s performance and development. Following this approach, the annual appraisal is simply a summary of all the discussions that have taken place during the year, and consequently not a surprise to either the employee or their manager.

• I have worked for organisations who dictate that appraisals must be undertaken/completed within a specific time frame, for example, during December, in time for the year end. However, the problem with this approach is that a manager may have 10 or more staff that they have to appraise. This becomes too much of a burden in the time available and so the manager cuts corners to get them completed. This problem is compounded if the manager concerned has staff based in different locations nationally or internationally. To combat this problem, I have seen 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.

• Finally, too often managers do not have the skills necessary to manage the performance of their staff effectively. I have had managers review conduct my appraisal who clearly did not know or understand the fundamentals and in the process let me very de-motivated and confused. I believe that 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 a manager to practice their appraisal interview and feedback skills in a safe environment.

The study that was undertaken by Investors in People highlighted 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.

Managing Performance Effectively

by Mark Evenden

I believe that the success of a business depends on the engagement, contributions, and actions of its staff at all levels, whether they are front line staff efficiently running a customer service function, or senior managers making strategic decisions about the direction of the business.

Managing performance therefore is about maximising the engagement and contributions, from each employee, their teams and ultimately the whole business. Performance management is the activity of setting goals and tracking performance against them and identifying opportunities for development and performance improvement. While reviewing past performance is important, the real focus of performance management should be on the future.

I think that the key question to ask is, what is it that my employees need to be able to do and how can they do it better?

To be successful this means that everyone across the business needs to:

• Know what the business is aiming for and trying to achieve.
• Understand how their role and goals fit with the overall aims of the business
• Know what they have to do to meet their goals.
• Recognise how progress against goals is measured.
• Understands the consequences for achievement or non achievement of

Ultimately, performance management is about delivering improved bottom line performance such as better customer service, improved productivity, and increased sales and profitability.

Sadly however, I have experienced many managers and businesses fail to get the most from their employees because they make a number of fundamental mistakes. For example, I have witnessed:

• Businesses developing and implementing a highly ‘comprehensive’ performance management system, which is so complex and takes so long that it fails to be used.
• Businesses confusing performance management with annual appraisal, assuming performance management is a ‘one off’ isolated event.
• Managers faiingl to document performance, follow up or take consequential action with staff who don’t perform.
• Organisations assuming that people will automatically know what is expected of them.
• Managers not being clear with their staff about actual performance and how they can improve.
• Managers ranking their employees, causing others to ‘sabotage’ the performance of their colleagues so that they will appear higher in the rankings.

In my opinion, one of the biggest drivers of team and business performance is the behaviour of the managers who lead them. So, if senior managers fail to set a clear direction and don’t spend the necessary time to develop the performance and capability of their own people, they cannot complain when the performance of their business or organisation doesn’t improve either.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Should an Executive Coach make notes during a coaching session?

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People

I have heard people say that a coach cannot be attending and listening properly to their coachee if they are also taking notes at the same time. Taking notes can be a distraction from being fully present with your client – you focus on writing rather than listening, and you can find yourself recording facts rather than the key themes. You may also miss some interesting non-verbal cues if you are concentrating on writing rather than your client. Taking notes can formalise and slow down the interaction, and this may not be helpful if you aim to develop rapport, and encourage responsiveness and spontaneity in the sessions. After all, a coachee doesn’t want to spend the entire coaching session talking to the top of your head!

There may also be an issue with the coachee being concerned about what is being written down, especially in a corporate scenario where they may have concerns about confidentiality. This may then lead to them holding back in the session rather than being fully honest about their thoughts and their situation, which ultimately undermines their relationship with you. For this reason, it is important that there are only two copies of the coaching notes – yours and your client’s. A copy should never be sent to anyone else. It is important to always write up any coaching notes as soon as possible after the coaching session and send them back to the coachee within a few days of the session. They should be sent by e-mail or post to the coachee’s home or work – it is their choice from a speed, convenience and confidentiality point of view.

Notes do provide an invaluable resource - particularly if you are coaching a client over a period of time. Without a record of the sessions, it is very difficult to trace the client's development, change, successes and achievements. A record of the actual language and images used by the client in different sessions can point to recurring issues, themes, perceptions and perspectives and the client's shifts over time. Notes of early sessions can also provide reminders of the bigger picture and initial aims identified by the client.

The benefits of taking notes during the session are that the notes are often a very helpful reminder to the coachee of the content of the coaching session:

- particularly of the actions and commitments made by the coachee
- it brings back to them the sense and atmosphere of the session
- it acts as a check list for them and a reminder for the coach
- it means that they are more likely to take ACTION and DO IT
- they act as a basis for catching up at the next coaching session
- they round off the process

However it is not wise to write them out fully when coaching because:

- some coachees (a small minority) don’t like it and find it off putting
- some clients require the coach to feel completely in tune with them.
- some coaching environments eg. lunch / dinner make writing more difficult
- the coach can become overly responsible for identifying the significant points and developments in the session rather than the client. This can also move the ownership and power in evaluating the impact of the session from the client to the coach.

So in conclusion, I recommend that the coach takes brief notes during the coaching session which are completed straight afterwards, unless it is found that it gets in the way of the coaching relationship and conversation.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Driven to Distraction by Technology!

by Mark Evenden @ Developing People International

I read an article the other day by Carl Honore, journalist and author of "In Praise of Slowness" which claimed that the average office worker is interrupted every three minutes by a phone call, e-mail, instant message or other distraction. This is an odd position for us to be in, as the digital communications that were supposed to make our working lives run more smoothly are actually preventing us from getting critical tasks accomplished.

I guess it is a challenge of modern working life: email, Twitter feeds, instant messages and text messages come so thick and fast that it is hard to ignore them. Some of the information will be important — and that’s precisely the problem. Turn it all off and you might as well quit your job, but read it all and you become so distracted that it is a challenge to get anything else done. Things are made worse by BlackBerrys, iPhones and other smart devices that enable workers to stay in touch 24/7. A few years ago, a study undertaken for computing firm Hewlett Packard found that 62% of people even checked work messages at home or on holiday.

My own belief is that it businesses want to improve productivity, it is vital that managers help their staff to deal with these distractions and interruptions. For me personally, I have turned off the e-mail setting that delivers a note as soon as it is received, so I don’t know when emails are sent and cannot be distracted by them. Instead, I check my emails on a more planned basis - perhaps 4 or 5 times per day. While this approach may frustrate some who want an ‘immediate reply, it cuts the time down I spend on e-mails dramatically.

I take a similar approach with my mobile. There are times when I don’t want to be disturbed and so I turn it off, and pick up my messages later. In addition I have so far resisted the temptation to have a smart phone; I have no desire to be told that I have an email at 8 o’clock in the evening when I am relaxing or spending time with my family.

Hoverer, managing expectations is the key to the above. Too often people expect an ‘instant reply’ but in reality they don’t need it there and then. If their expectations are managed and they know that their email, text or phone message will be responded to, then a vast amount of time can be saved.

We all need some uninterrupted time to think, plan and complete our own work which we cannot do if we are constantly being interrupted. It is therefore vital that we all learn to manage digital communication and not to let it manage us!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Leadership in Times of Crisis

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People

The London Riots began on Saturday 6th August 2011 with a handful of people who were angry at the death of a civilian, shot by a police bullet. I was saddened (and indeed frightened) to see that over the course of the next week, the riots grew to encompass the majority of London, as well as some of the other major cities in the UK, and the after-effects have left the whole of the country reeling with shock.

The Prime Minister and the Mayor of London cancelled their holidays to return to the city, and whilst they were never going to don riot gear and tackle the problem in that way, I felt it was vital that their leadership was visibly present. However, I found it thoroughly disappointing that their leadership constituted trying to tiptoe around and make everyone happy, rather than boldly marching in to solve the situation. Sometimes leaders need diplomacy – sometimes they need action. And the defining point of a good leader is that they know which approach to use in every situation they face.

No matter what the leadership challenge being faced, there are three things that remain a constant way to begin the process of getting the best out of a difficult situation.

The first thing is to lead your people rather than herding them. A son once tried to take on his mother’s usual role of getting their chickens into the hen house each night to keep them safe from foxes. Try as he might, he could not round them all up into the hen house, so the next evening he watched to see how his mother achieved the task. Instead of trying to round the chickens up, she walked among them, dropping handfuls of grain. Once the chickens started following the trail of grain, the mother was easily able to lead them inside the hen house, and they willingly followed.

The same principle applies to us as human beings – if we have trust in our leaders, and a reason to follow them, then it makes for a much easier process.

The second thing is to ensure that as a leader, you set realistic expectations. These expectations need to be high enough to challenge your people and push them to the best of their ability, but it is also very important that they are set realistically enough to be achievable, or there is a risk of damage to morale, and an air of “can’t be bothered to try any more” can set in.

The third thing is to remember that as a leader, you cannot be all things to all people. You cannot be the friend, the colleague, the sympathetic ear, the supporter, the inspiration, the motivation and the firm kick-up-the-behind all at the same time. In pleasing some people you are going to end up offending others, and leadership is about having the courage to believe in your choice of actions, and to see them through to the very end. My boss is a good colleague and a friend. I can talk to him about anything in or out of the office, and he is a wonderful listener – however, I am in no doubt that if I ever drop the ball on anything, then I get a swift sharp reminder of exactly who is the boss around here!

Finally, those in leadership should always remember this – people will not remember what you say to them. People will not even remember what you do. But people will always remember how you made them feel. Therefore, a good starting point for leadership is to regularly ask yourself “How do I want my leaders to make *me* feel?”

Monday, 8 August 2011

Top Networking Tips

by Mark Evenden @ Developing People

In the current tough economic climate, I believe that networking is probably an even more important marketing tool than it has ever been before. The wider your network, the more likely you will have contacts in businesses and organisations that are less affected by the general economic slow-down. At the end of the day, people have always bought “people” people. We all like to know who we are dealing with, what they are like, how they can help us and whether we trust them.

However, just networking face to face is not enough. In today’s technological times, it is also important to build your network of people via social and business networking sites.

Here are some tips that I use and you can too to improve your on line presence and build your network.

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 want is your professional contacts reading about how you get hammered at the weekend, or that you had to take a sick cat 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 emphasise 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.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Nurturing the Talent Within Your Business

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People

I have been with Developing People for a year and a half now, and it is sad to admit that at 35 years old, this is fast approaching the record for the longest time I have ever remained in one job. My role has changed probably 80% from what I first came here to do, but those changes have taken into account both the growth and development of the business, and the skills and abilities that I have brought to the role. As a result, the business has acquired vital and useful resources, and I feel as an employee that my ability is recognised and my talent is being nurtured, which makes for a win-win situation all round.

Today’s businesses, organisations and markets are constantly changing, developing and evolving. With this comes the fact that it is not possible to simply find someone who has potential and leave them to get on with a job. If you want a high quality performance from a high flying manager who is going to stay committed to your organisation for the long term, then you need a programme of Talent Management and Leadership Development firmly rooted into the very core of your company. Your people and your business need to be able to move constantly with the times.

As an employer, how should you tackle this? Here is a guide to making the most out of your talent.

• Make talent management and development and issue at Board level. The Board should be able to clearly articulate the strategy of the business and where it is going, and therefore define the types of skills, behaviours and people the business will need in the future.

• Identify who the potential leaders of the business are in the next 5, 10 and 15 years. Does the business have a mechanism in place to identify the leaders of tomorrow? What are the key criteria that the business is looking for? How will the criteria be measured and assessed?

• Make sure that your talent is aware of the fact that they are ‘talent’, and continually cross-check their expectations and desires alongside yours. At the age of 27, an aspiring manager may be willing to travel the world. At 37 and with a young family, their priorities have probably changed.

• Be open and clear with your high potentials about what it is they need to learn. What is it that will add the greatest value to their performance and careers?

• Don’t assume that management training is the answer to all your talent development needs. Ask yourself what development activities will they benefit most from - coaching, mentoring, project work or a secondment?

• Provide ‘on and off the job’ opportunities for your talent to flourish. Could they perhaps lead a local community or charity project? Generally people will raise their performance to what is being requested of them. If you never ask someone to step outside their comfort zone you will never find out!

• Make sure that you are focussing on the individual’s ‘development’, and therefore provide opportunities for self-direction and self-learning as well.

Ultimately the competitive edge of your business and its long term success resides with the abilities of your future key managers and leaders. Surely the nurturing and development of your talent is far too an important business issue to be left to chance?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Performance Appraisal - Common Pitfalls to Avoid

My own view of appraisal processes is that they are extremely useful but only if set up properly and used in the right way. The purpose of an appraisal process should be to optimise the success and contribution of each employee. If this is achieved, then improved performance from the majority of employees will ultimately positively impact the performance of the business. While this theory is fine, in practice appraisal systems too often don’t’ delver on their promises and end up with a bad name. Too often I have seen a business that did not get the full benefits from their appraisal processes mainly because managers make one or more basic mistakes.

Here are just a few of the most common pitfalls to avoid.

1) The board and other senior managers think that appraisal is ‘for everyone else’. For appraisals to be successful, they must be lead from the top and clearly linked to the business’ strategies and goals. My own view here is that leading by example is key – if you are a senior manager and don’t take appraisals seriously, then why should your managers?

2) Nobody is accountable for implementing the appraisal process properly in the first place. When implementing an appraisal process, appoint a project manager to implement the new process. Use the project manager to monitor progress and report completions to the board. In this way everyone wit understand what progress has been achieved and what else needs to be done.

3) Implementing a highly complex/comprehensive system. I have seen incredibly comprehensive and complex systems that in theory might be great but in practice turn off managers and staff, so they don’t use it. Therefore start with the basics first - use a simple paperwork system to record targets/objectives and an annual (or biannual) review of achievement. As managers and staff recognize the value of the process, more ‘features’ can be added in such as a 360° appraisal.

4) Have a system that ranks staff. Ranking your staff will kill an appraisal system. I have seen sales staff not pass on leads to their colleagues because they want to top the league table. It is often easier for an individual to improve their ranking by undermining the performance of others than it is to improve their own performance. The result of this is destructive and divisive ways of working, which will not improve business performance (remember the purpose of appraisal?)

5) Setting vague or inappropriate targets. It is vital to set clear and realistic performance targets, and not simply tell you staff to ‘do your best’. How will you or they objectively measure whether they have ‘done their best’? It is a recipe for disaster.

6) Having conflicting targets and measures. It is important to have congruent targets and measures across the organisation. I once worked for an business whose supply chain manager had a target to reduce purchasing spend, and the production managers had targets to maximise productivity. Guess what happened? The supply chain manager complained bitterly that deliveries were frequently late and the production managers blamed the supply chain manager for buying cheap paper that slowed the printing presses down!

7) Reviewing performance inadequately, for example by focusing on one specific incident rather than reviewing the entire period which the review covers. Also avoid the "halo" and "horns" effects. Just because an employee performs badly in one area does not make his/her overall appraisal bad. The same goes for good appraisal. The key to successful reviews is to gather factual data about an individual’s performance and then assess it objectively.

8) Not providing adequate development support for staff. One key aspect of the appraisal process is the development of staff to provide them with the capabilities to achieve their targets. People can only improve their performance if they are given the right opportunities to learn and develop. This may be in the form of on the job guided learning or on a formal management training course. Businesses that ignore this step do so at their peril.

As I mentioned at the beginning, my belief is the purpose of an appraisal process is to optimise the success of each employee and ultimately the business. By taking steps to avoid pitfalls I have highlighted managers should have every opportunity to realise this goal.

Friday, 15 July 2011

How to give constructive criticism

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People

I had a dance lesson last night, and danced with a new partner for the first time. I have always been used to being the more experienced member of my previous partnership, and as a result have been used to being the one who has had to lead, remember, and generally be in charge. However, my new partner has infinitely more experience than me, and as a result I found myself in a completely new situation where I was struggling to keep up with what I was learning rather than being the one doing the coaxing, the supporting and the teaching.

When I succeeded in fluffing the same set of Foxtrot steps twice in a row, it led to an almighty angry outburst from my partner. “It isn’t like that!” he literally shouted at me. “You’re not doing the right steps!” And with that, he walked away.

I am not averse to being corrected if I am wrong, but there were a million things wrong with the way he approached this situation. Here are five simple steps that would have helped him to provide clear and constructive feedback:

Plan – have a clear idea of what topic(s) you need to discuss, exactly what you want to say, and most importantly of all, how you are going to say it. Make sure that you leave scope for discussion. The key is to be flexible, whilst still getting your points across. Always make sure that you give feedback whilst it is still fresh in your mind, and always make sure that you give feedback in private.

Praise – Focus on the positives first. Help the person to feel valued and a worthwhile part of the team, even though you are about to offer some feedback on what they can improve on. Feedback should not just be about negative things.

Clear constructive feedback – be clear. Be concise. You will need to tailor your approach according to the person you are speaking to. Some will prefer you to be blunt and to the point – some will prefer you to be more gentle. As a Leader or Manager, it is up to you to know your staff well enough to understand which people will require which approach. Specific details are infinitely preferable and easier to approach.

Praise again – move the focus towards solutions. Build the employee back up again by giving them the confidence that they can solve any situations that have arisen, and by showing them that they have your support to do this.

Follow up – always agree the actions that are required as a result of the meeting, and schedule another meeting with the employee to follow up on how things have gone as a result of the feedback. This is your opportunity to be able to hopefully praise the employee on how well they have handled the situation, and on the changes that have been made since the discussion.

Had my partner followed these rules, I would not have been left feeling two inches tall in front of the rest of our class, and I would probably have left with some idea of what the steps actually should have been, instead of still completely none the wiser. I may print out a copy of this blog in good time for next week … just in case!!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Management Training - How to get the promotion you REALLY want!

by Mark Evenden at Developing People

You may have recently started out on your career journey and want your first promotion or you may be well on your way but would like a broader or more senior leadership role. Burt how do you go about getting the promotion you want, and what things should you consider? The following are a few hints and tips that I have picked up over the years that will hopefully help you on your way!

1. Look at the bigger picture. I believe it’s important to start by asking yourself what you want to achieve, not just at work but also outside, with your family, friends, where you want to live etc. The reason for this is will a promotion fit with your broader life goals? Taking on a more senior role will require some sacrifices (certainly in the short term), and you need to be clear whether or not the price is worth paying (and my own personal experience is sometimes it isn’t!).

2. Understand the role you want. Do you really know what it will be like in a more senior role? Are you prepared to take on additional responsibility, be more flexible, cope with the organisation’s politics, work the extra hours etc? My own experience is that the best way to find out is to ask. Find people who are already doing a similar role and ask them what they think and feel about the job. They will be able to help you think through whether or not the job is right for you.

3. Get a mentor. Mentors are invaluable. They understand how the organisation works and have a great network of contacts. I have had mentors in the past and they acted as my critical friend, commenting on things you I did well and identifying things that I could improve on. They also helped to introduce me to the right people, and open the right doors.

4. Tell people how good you are! I, like most find this uncomfortable and unnatural. However, senior managers and others within an organisation may not know you or your achievements. Therefore, make sure you have your name on a least one important success and let others know about it.

5. Work outside your comfort zone. Try to do things that you haven’t done before. Offer to work on a cross functional project, stand in for your boss, get involved in a presentation to the board. I have found that the things that built my confidence the most were those that were uncomfortable and even downright scary!

6. Keep learning. Attend management training programmes aimed at developing the skills you need. In addition, read books, attend seminars, and become a member of a professional body. In this way you will demonstrate to the organisation that you are committed to learning, development and continuous improvement.

7. Be a great resource. People get noticed when they take responsibility for issues and resolve them. Think about the problems that your organisations faces. Identify some solutions and present them with your recommended course of action to your boss.

8. If you really want that promotion ask for it! Your boss will not be a mind reader so unless you let them know what your hopes and aspirations are, they will not be able to help you.

9. Finally, have a contingency plan. Your organisation may not have the right opportunities in the short to medium term, or alternatively you may find yourself redundant as the result of a restructure or downsizing process. But don’t give up. Remember, there are many different ways of achieving your career goals, just as there are many different ways of travelling from town to the next. I have been made redundant twice, and have had to take a sideways step as well as a backwards step (in terms of salary) before, but ultimately I now have the job I always wanted.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Management Training – What to Focus on?

I have worked for many managers who think that they are good at what they do. From the ones who have “got it right” through to the ones that have “got it SO wrong”, they have all had high opinions of their skills! However, according to a poll conducted for Investors in People by YouGov, almost one in three employees would swap their manager if they could – with nearly one in four claiming they could do a better job themselves, given the chance!

However, that number is not surprising when you consider how few managers receive any kind of formal management training. If think you are a good manager, then check out the practices below to see how you measure up. You may need to incorporate some of the findings into your management style, or include them as part of a formal management training program to enable your own managers to learn.

• Communicate where the business is going.
If you want your staff to be committed to your organization, they need to know where they are going and why. People need to understand how their work contributes to the company's success. After all, having meaning and purpose in your work is highly motivating and rewarding. Interestingly the ability to communicate effectively was listed as the most important quality for a successful manager by respondents in the YouGov poll, yet nearly one in three said their manager was not good at communicating with them.

• Set clear expectations.
Be clear with your staff both in terms of ‘what’ needs to be achieved and ‘how’ it should be achieved. Setting clear goals and targets with staff can help them understand what needs to be done and keep them focused. However, it is also important to talk to them about ‘how’ they should go about achieving their goals. For example it is not acceptable to achieve a target at any cost. In the YouGov poll, honesty and integrity was ranked in the poll as the second most important quality amongst managers, but nearly a fifth of employees believed that their manager had, at some stage, claimed credit for their work.

• Delegate work.
Don’t over control your staff’s work. The more you control others work it will only encourage behavior that necessitates control. Most people want the freedom to complete a task in the way that they think is best, and this is backed up by the YouGov poll which also shows that the most popular types of manages are those who are prepared to delegate.

• Regularly review performance.
Employees need regular feedback about their performance to improve their skills and grow professionally. Make sure you regularly sit down with your staff (at least 6/7 times per year), to discuss with them what they do will and identify with them what they should do differently.

• Deal with problems immediately.
Stay in tune to your staff so you can be proactive and resolve situations before they escalate. If you notice a change in an employee's work habits, performance or behaviour, try to get to resolve the problem before it starts affecting the rest of your team.

• Recognize people’s efforts.
Everybody appreciates being recognized for a job well done. Monetary rewards aren't the only way to thank employees for a job well done. In fact the easiest way to recognize someone’s contribution is simply saying "thank you" — simple words but too often overlooked.

• Be a coach and mentor.
As a manager, one of the greatest things that you can give an employee is by sharing your knowledge and experience. Showing your employees first-hand how you deal a task, what works and what doesn’t is far more effective than just talking them through it.

• Be firm but fair.
The YouGov research also showed that the most popular types of manages are firm and also fair. For example, family emergencies other unplanned events will always arise, and its part of a managers role to show compassion by being flexible with work hours and time off so their staff can tend to important matters. Employees always appreciate a sympathetic boss, and as long as your work and business doesn’t suffer, make every effort to accommodate workers who have special needs.

In summary – you have to put in time an effort to be a manager. Too often during busy times when work is piling up, people forget to be a manager and concentrate on their own tasks. However, employees depend on their manager’s strength, guidance and support especially during tough times and this takes time, time to listen, time to discuss and time to coach.
How many of the above habits do you demonstrate? How many of them are incorporated in your Management Training programs? Think about what you need to do and take action now.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Do you want to improve your productivity? Take time off work!

by Mark Evenden @ Developing People

Are you working long hours? If you are then perhaps it is time to tell your boss that time off work is great for productivity, according to a paper published in the Journal of Applied Psychology by Sonnentag and Fritz.

You might not feel that you need a university professor to tell you breaks are good for you personally, but the scientific data proves it. Taking leave really does recharge the batteries. You are happier and more energetic when you return to work after a good break.

Sabine Sonnentag, a professor of work and organisational psychology at the University of Konstanz in Germany, studied the performance of 221 workers before and after they took a holiday, as well as what they did on it. The results showed people were happier and less tired and found tasks easier to accomplish for at least two weeks after their return from holidays than before they took time off.

Interestingly Sabine found that the beneficial effects are maximised if people use the time to learn a new skill as well as switch off from work, and I would agree with their findings, as my own experience is in line with this research.

On our leadership development programmes, we encourage participants to take time out to think about their role and their business while they are away from their day to day pressures. The feedback is invariably positive with participants being clearer and more motivated about what they need to do, when they return to work.

Sonnentag and a colleague, Charlotte Fritz, found those who mastered a new skill or tackled a challenge felt more energetic two weeks after returning to work than before the holiday. They also found it was good to practice positive thinking on holidays.

Sonnentag found the positive effects of holidays faded quickly if people faced an extra workload on return. Those who brooded on work politics and dwelt on unfinished business were more likely to report feeling exhausted soon after their return than those who switched off in the holidays or reflected on the good things about work.

As a footnote, I think it is worth reflecting on a number of recent studies in the UK that indicate as many as 20% of Britain’s working population take less than their full holiday entitlements – so make sure you take yours!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Coaching for Performance

By Mark Evenden @ Developing People Limited

Coaching can be an extremely powerful way to help managers to improve their performance. A recent study by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) identified that 92% of managers who received coaching said that their performance improved as a result.

My own personal experience supports these findings too. When I took on my first Director’s role in the late 90’s, I struggled with balancing my time, making sure the manufacturing and distribution part of the business was performing on a weekly and monthly basis as well as looking at ways to improve productivity, reduce costs, and meet ever changing and increasing customer demands.

My coach helped by ensuring that I took regular time out to sit back, take stock of what I had achieved, and think about what I needed to do next. They helped me clarify my own personal as well as business goals, and supported me to overcome the inevitable barriers and obstacles I met on the way. They didn’t tell me what to do (although they occasionally offered up ideas and guidance), but they encouraged me to question what I was doing, to challenge myself, and to develop solutions that I was committed to. They also gave me honest feedback about how I spent my time, which encouraged me to focus on those priorities that were most important.

While many organisations provide coaching for senior managers (as with myself), I believe that the greatest benefit will come to organisations that enable coaching to become part of everyday management. With commercial and competitive pressures continually rising, organisations whose managers have coaching skills will be able to help their staff develop and perform at their peak, and therefore will be much better placed to meet their business challenges.

The final word should perhaps be left to the ILM, who believe that developing managers coaching skills is the single most cost effective development investment that a business can make.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Does coaching suit everyone?

by Dave Marchant @ Developing People Limited

As with most things in life - some it does and some it doesn’t!

In my experience as a Coach, if I get the chance to talk to a leader about their role and the issues that they are faced with, then I often get to coach them. However, they rarely approach me to ask to be coached – it seems that there needs to be some other stimulus that prompts their interest. It is very rare that anyone responds to our website to specifically ask for personal one-to-one coaching. This interest usually comes from another source – for example, a person who is currently or has been coached by me then referring my services on to them. This could be one of their friends, peers or even reporting staff who recognise that there is a potential benefit to be accrued by them from this coaching. It can also be through me initiating a conversation with them about what I do – but more importantly what they do and what they might be struggling with.

When we have this initial conversation it usually becomes clear to me whether or not a person may be interested in being coached by me or by someone else. The sorts of signs that encourage me come from the leader’s openness, uncertainty, interest in their performance and relationships, flexibility of thinking, and interest in their own learning and development. It is also encouraging when they show an interest in what I do and what I may have to offer them. Signs that discourage me are over confidence, arrogance, superiority, taking a fixed judgemental view on things, not listening, inflexibility, absolute certainty and a clarity of vision and purpose that cannot be changed – in short, some of the classical characteristics of a driving “A” type leader. These characteristics do not mean that this type of leader cannot be helped and coached, but more that they are less likely to want to be supported and challenged about their issues, goals and approach. Once I have had the first coaching session with anybody, whether they are a significant leader in an Organisation or not, it is usually clear to me whether or not they are likely to respond positively to me and my coaching style. If they do not “buy into me and my approach”, then we are both able to have the discussion about not continuing the sessions without fear of any recriminations.

It should also be said that we are all leaders in our lives and spheres of influence in our work, and I treat everyone as such. It is interesting to note that many Organisations are now taking this approach with their employees and can see the benefits of treating all employees as empowered leaders in their own right.

In practice, it is has been very rare that I have cancelled or not completed coaching sessions once we have started. I suspect that this is because any leaders who are reluctant to be coached would not put themselves into this position and start to be coached in the first place.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Business Leadership and the Community

by Mark Evenden @ Developing People Limited

Over the years I have read many articles that have been written encouraging business leaders to pay more attention to ‘the 3P’s’ in their organisations.

In other words putting

PEOPLE before
PRODUCT (or service) before
PROFIT (or performance).

However, I think that Archbishop Desmond Tutu has now added another dimension to this expression when he addressed a round table discussion at Saïd Business School’s annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship earlier this month. He told the audience that all business leaders’ actions have moral implications, ‘right and wrong matter, we are thinking beings, we are physical beings and ultimately we are moral beings’. His message was that business leaders should not pretend their activities take place in some kind of vacuum, that business leaders’ actions affect society and therefore they should think about the bigger picture. The Archbishops’ message was clear, ‘whatever contributes to the wellbeing of society in a positive way must have important repercussions for business. If you have a community that is prosperous healthy and happy, shouldn’t that automatically mean that it will be good for business?’

Certainly the opposite is true. I have worked in a several communities that have seen their heart ripped from them with the closure of a major employer. In the 1980’s I worked for the NCB and saw many communities suffer at the loss of their pit that employed, grandfathers, fathers and sons, and provided business for other local industries too.

Ultimately, businesses can’t just be about profit for profit’s sake as this is not going to make a sustainable world. They must also understand their interaction with the local community, and be more socially responsible if they want to be sustainable.

And if business leaders need convincing, one of the clearest benefits of an organisation’s charitable and community work is staff engagement. When I worked at Ladybird Books we ran a number of initiatives that ranged from raising funds and supporting local charities, giving books to schools and providing managers to mentor students on the Young Enterprise Scheme. Staff surveys showed that the support the business gave to the community was a big contributing factor towards how employees felt about Ladybird. This had a wider impact locally as Ladybird was seen as a trusted, fair and admired employer but others.

Ultimately, I therefore agree with Archbishop Desmond Tutus’ sentiments that if as a business leader you encourage predatory behaviour you might succeed in the short term but in the longer term, you are likely to increase resentment against you and those who are associated with you, which is not sustainable.

So perhaps the expression I opened with should be modified to include

PRODUCT (or service) before
PROFIT (or performance)

Thursday, 21 April 2011

How is Coaching affected by your personality?

We all have our egos, and they can and do have a big impact on how we conduct ourselves, our communications and our relationships. They also influence our attitudes and how we relate to both the outer world and to our inner world of thoughts and feelings.

As a consequence we also take our egos into any coaching relationships – both as the coach and as coachee.

The coaching subjects all have their own egos to work with and most of them, in my experience, fit in towards the middle of a normal distribution curve of attitudes and behaviours – neither with over-inflated egos, nor with overwhelming anxiety and uncertainty. If there is any tendency towards the extremes, then I sometimes encounter people who are somewhat uncertain and lacking in confidence. In these situations, part of my coaching work is about helping them to build their confidence to an appropriate level and to help them to deal with more assertive people and those who are difficult to work with. Sometimes difficulties exist for coachees with their line managers who may not understand them or who may even have their own swollen egos to deal with.

I have occasionally been asked to coach a person with a big ego and this has provided its own unique challenges varying from person to person. The positive aspect of a big ego is that the person is usually very interested in themselves and in their own success. The potential downside however is that sometimes this type of person wants a lot of stroking from their coach and they may not be very realistic and self-aware. Giving these people objective and useful feedback is part of the challenge and so is the role of challenging itself. Quite often they don’t like the idea of them having weaknesses or development areas to reflect and act upon. One way that I have found to get this aspect across to strong people is to talk about “over played” strengths becoming weaknesses and inhibiting performance. This approach can help them to accept the message and for the feedback to become acceptable and actionable.

In a few coaching assignments that I have taken on, it has become apparent to me and to the coachee that the requirements of this type of coaching relationships are not consistent with their view of themselves and of their world. In such cases we have agreed to discontinue the work. The requirements of openness, looking inwards at oneself, admitting to vulnerabilities and taking the responsibility for producing and implementing an action plan that may include behaviour change, is sometimes a step too far for these people.

We must also consider our own egos as coaches. We cannot deny that we have them but we need to be able to put them to one side if we are to truly focus on the needs of our coachees. We are there to listen to, support and challenge them to work on their real issues and objectives – not to massage our own egos or self-importance. All too often in the arena of sport we can see the ego of the team's coach or “manager” being placed ahead of the needs and achievements of the team – particularly when success arrives!

One aspect of this coaching role that I find particularly challenging is the use of experiences or any anecdotes from my past which I think might be helpful to prompt new thoughts for the coachee, or give them the confidence to deal with an important issue for them, stimulated by my example. In sharing my experiences and vulnerabilities with them I need to check with myself that I am doing this for their benefit and not for my own.

Keeping in my mind that the success of anyone that I coach is their success rather than mine is an important aspect to bear in mind.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Why is coaching often more effective than other forms of training and development?

by Mark Evenden @ Developing People Ltd

When discussing the different approaches to leadership development, questions arise over the effectiveness of coaching vs conventional leadership development programmes. It is frequently been suggested to me that using coaching to improve leadership capability and performance is more effective than spending the equivalent time on a conventional leadership or management development programme. While I recognise that this is a somewhat subjective statement and quite difficult to measure objectively, there is a fair body of evidence that supports this view.

But what are the key differences between these two approaches to development which might produce a different outcome?

I have been coached and attended leadership development courses, as well as having coached leaders and delivered development programmes, and I think that there are a number of key differences.

Firstly coaching is a 1 to 1 process that is focussed is completely on the individual and their needs, whereas conventional leadership development programmes are invariably run in groups. The agenda and objectives for a group leadership development programme will apply to the whole and may or may not relate directly to an individual manager's specific needs. In contrast, the objectives for a coaching session are largely set by the coachee and can be flexible and evolve as the coachee progresses. Again, while not impossible, this is much more difficult to do with a group of learners.

When coaching, the process deals with the reality of a coachee's situation rather than the generalities, theories, models or techniques that form the basis of a leadership programme. Occasionally the barriers to unlocking someone’s potential need to remain confidential or they may lie outside the working environment which makes them almost impossible to resolve in a group situation.

The reality of a call to action can also be stronger and more specific for a coachee than for a participant on a leadership programme where the action can be seen as more general.

The follow through with actions agreed at a coaching session and the follow up where the coachee knows that they will be asked by the coach what progress they have made on their action plan can also be a stronger motivator to action than the follow up generally provided on a conventional course.

The ability for the individual to talk and act honestly, naturally and spontaneously is generally easier in a 1 to 1 coaching session. Any displays of frustration, anger or emotion can sometimes be regarded as disruptive on a leadership or management training course and therefore not encouraged.

Finally, the timing of coaching sessions can be based around the individual’s needs and the speed at which they develop, with sessions planned more closely together, or further part as appropriate. With a conventional programme, you have to deal with the needs of the majority and inevitably the specific time intervals between workshops will suit some and not others.

However, I am not suggesting that conventional leadership or management development programmes don’t have advantages over coaching, because they do. For example, a group programme provides opportunities and stimulus for knowledge sharing, networking and team development, as well as a mechanism for delivering development in a consistent way, and these points are very important and should not be overlooked.

Clearly each approach to development has its own merits and if I reflect on the most successful leadership development programmes that have been involved in they have been a blend of coaching, conventional ‘training’ and other approaches. In this way managers gain the benefits from coaching as it provides a focus for their specific learning needs as well as the benefits of consistency, networking and sharing learning from a group development programme.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Strong Leadership in Times of Crisis

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People

Like many others, I have been shocked and saddened to hear of the death of 25-year-old police officer Ronan Kerr, who was killed after a bomb exploded under his car in Omagh, County Tyrone last Saturday. It is terrible that 300 families have been similarly bereaved throughout the troubled times in Northern Ireland, and even though there has been some subsidence in terrorism during the last three or four years, it is going to take some very strong leadership to help Northern Ireland through this time of crisis.

Ronan’s mother, Nuala Kerr, was calm, dignified and controlled in her heartfelt television plea to end the violence. I could not comprehend how she and her other children could begin to think about standing in front of the cameras at such a tragic time, but she was inspirational. None the less, how can the leaders in Northern Ireland and in the rest of the UK follow her example and help the country to stand up for what is right, yet still maintain the peace?

I believe that no matter what the leadership challenge being faced, there are two things that remain a constant way to begin the process of getting the best out of a difficult situation.

The first thing that I have learned is that to get the best out of your people, you need to lead them rather than herding them. A son once tried to take on his mother’s usual role of getting their chickens into the hen house each night to keep them safe from foxes. Try as he might, he could not round them all up into the hen house, so the next evening he watched to see how his mother achieved the task. Instead of trying to round the chickens up, she walked among them, dropping handfuls of grain. Once the chickens started following the trail of grain, the mother was easily able to lead them inside the hen house, and they willingly followed.
I think that the same principle applies to human beings – if we have trust in our leaders, and a reason to follow them, then it makes for a much easier process.

The second thing is to ensure that as a leader, you set realistic expectations. These expectations need to be high enough to challenge your people and push them to the best of their ability, but it is also very important that they are set realistically enough to be achievable, or there is a risk of damage to morale, and an air of “can’t be bothered to try any more” can set in.

Finally, I would say that those in leadership should always remember this – people will not remember what you say to them. People will not even remember what you do. But people will always remember how you made them feel. Therefore, a good starting point for leadership is to regularly ask yourself “How do I want my leaders to make *me* feel?”

Monday, 4 April 2011

Setting Standards Using Competencies

I believe that it is vital that managers and staff know what is expected of them if they are to maximise their own performance and contribution to the business. It is common for most organisations to set expectations in terms of what managers are responsible for by using job descriptions and possibly personal objectives / targets.

However, it is also important to set expectations about how job responsibilities should be discharged and targets delivered as I believe it is unacceptable for managers staff to deliver these at ‘any cost’. For example, while a manager may meet his or her targets, it should not be to the detriment of their team (for example in terms of personal relationships, trust, motivation etc).

But what is the best or most appropriate way of doing this? The way that I have done this in the past is by setting behavioural expectations or ‘competencies’ for my managers. I describe a competency as ‘a behaviour that delvers effective or superior performance in a job’. In other words a competency is about an ability to do something and as such comprises a combination of skills, knowledge and personal motivation that result in particular behaviour (or outcome) at work. For example, I have set behavioural expectations (competencies) for my managers in areas such as:

* Leading and motivating staff
* Working with others as part of a team
* Developing themselves and others
* Communication
* Ownership and personal responsibility
* Delivering results
* Continuous improvement
* Customer service.

In addition, I set three ‘levels’ of competence for the different levels of management hierarchy, (team leaders, department managers, directors). Clearly what I expected in terms of leadership from a director was different from what I expected from a team leader.

By doing this I clearly communicated to my managers the standards that I expected for successful performance in each of their roles. In addition, it provided me with a means of objectively assessing each manager’s strengths and weaknesses which formed the basis for their personal development.

The proof of the pudding, however, is always in the eating. While setting the competence standards, assessing and reviewing performance and supporting the manager’s development took a great deal of effort, both I and the business were greatly rewarded. Not only did we change the culture of the business from a reactive ‘I will only do what I am told’ style to a more proactive and empowered one, we also dramatically improved performance and customer service. So competencies, if used in the right way really do work!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Leadership Development in Further Education

As a result of reduced government funding and the pressures of the current economic climate, many further education colleges are facing significant challenges and changes. I envisage that the likely impact of these challenges is that there will be:

* Job cuts
* Programme losses.
* Requirements for further efficiency savings and increases in productivity.
* Potential college merges and takeovers, with the emergence of national providers.

At the same time as managing the funding challenges, I know that many colleges will also be striving to improve their quality and student outcomes.

I believe that these pressures will require colleges to change the way they design and deliver their programmes and services. They will need to provide high quality programmes that have a much lower level of affordability and services that are leaner and cost less to provide.

Having discussed these issues with a number of senior managers in FE colleges, many recognise the need for their managers and staff to:

* Drive up quality, deal with poor performance and hold people to account.
* Be much more financially and commercially aware.
* Develop creative and innovative solutions to reduced funding.
* Breakdown academic ‘silos’ and improve team work across the college.

I believe that a key factor in delivering these changes will be the ability of senior managers within colleges to lead, inspire and influence their staff to be engaged and committed to change. This means that many colleges will have an urgent need to:

* Understand in detail the strengths and development needs of their key managers.
* Prepare and deliver appropriate leadership and management development interventions to up skill key managers to enable them to successfully lead and deliver change, drive up quality and improve performance.

The long term potential implication for individual colleges is that if managers and staff do not change and step up to the challenge, there is a real risk of further cuts in funding or the college being merged with or taken over by another college.

It is therefore vital that further education colleges recognise these needs and invest in the appropriate development of their leaders and managers. This of course will be very difficult when colleges are under such difficult financial pressures, and their development partners will need to be able to demonstrate that they can and will delver a fair and reasonable return for the investment made with them.

Friday, 4 March 2011

How honest should you be with your boss?

I have met many people who dislike their boss intensely. They are often frustrated by the behaviour of their boss, but they don’t say anything, and their boss is oblivious to the subordinate’s feelings. Should honesty be the best policy then? As a subordinate should you make your feelings clear to your boss?

Honesty may be the best policy but telling your boss the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth could amount to career suicide. I’m sure many of us have heard of someone who told their boss exactly ‘how they felt’ only to find themselves side lined or overlooked for promotion at a later date.

The majority of people avoid saying anything to their boss, they simply keep their head down and until some point in the future when they decide to leave. This reinforces the old adage that people don’t work for (or leave) their organisation, they work for (or leave) their boss.

Bosses often complain that their staff don’t tell them the whole truth. I remember when I was a director with Johnson Matthey, I was often frustrated by a number of my staff as they wouldn’t tell me exactly what was going on. However, I was far more concerned about the business than my own position or ego, and I did really want to know what my staff thought so that we could change things and make improvements.

However, I recognised that for my staff to want to tell me the truth, they needed to feel safe. One of the ways that I enabled my staff to feel safe was to explicitly ask for feedback on specific issues. I started to ask questions such as ‘what could I do that would make your job easier and you more productive? By listening and acting on the feedback I was given I slowly built greater trust between us. This paid dividends as they started to discuss more issues with me that between us we resolved for the benefit of the business.

Trust is vital for openness and honesty in a boss and subordinate relationship, and ultimately it is the responsibility of the boss to demonstrate that they are trustworthy and wont just ‘shoot the messenger’.

Friday, 25 February 2011

What are the differences between coaching and training?

When you are training someone, the implication is that you know something that they don’t. It is either some information that they don’t yet know about, have access to or understand, or it can be about helping them make the links between different strands of information or complexities that when pulled together can be described as being learned.

This acquisition of knowledge or the understanding of the links between different data sources or concepts can then be described as learning a skill or an approach that can then be applied successfully to future questions, scenarios, issues or activities. This is often the work that a teacher in education or a trainer in organisations is embarked upon.

Training differs from coaching in these ways:-
* It has a high knowledge content.
* The teacher or trainer is the expert who already possesses the necessary knowledge, approach or skill.
* This knowledge, approach or skill then passes from the teacher or trainer across to the student, trainee or learner.
* This new knowledge or skill which has been passed across can usually be tested in the student to assess whether or not it has been learned and understood and whether or not it can be applied by them.
* It is therefore judged and assessed externally.
* The teacher is the “master”, the student is subservient, where as the coach and coachee are equals.
* The teacher tells the student what and how to do.
* The coach does not tell the coachee what to do.
* The coachee decides for themselves what is important and what and how to do about it.

Training is similar to coaching in these respects:-
* The successful transfer of this learning depends largely on the attitude and motivation of the subject – the student or coachee – as well as on the skill and approach of the teacher or coach.
* It is the student or coachee’s responsibility to make use of the learning and to ultimately decide what to do with it.
* The quality of the relationship between the coach and coachee and teacher and student can have a big impact on their success.
* The teaching or coaching environment is also a key factor.

In summary, non-directive coaching is quite different from teaching or training and it is helpful to both the coach and coachee to recognise these differences so that the coachee can take the maximum advantage of the coaching opportunity. The starting point to understanding this is available right at the start of the coaching process and it is best achieved by the coach explaining this different approach up front as part of the initial coaching session briefing.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Managing Pressure and Stress

I noticed on the Health and Safety Executive’s web site that the HSE estimate that in 2009 / 10, 9.8 million working days were lost through work-related stress, which equates to an annual loss of 0.42 days per worker. Indeed, other reports suggest that around 400,000 people in the UK admit to experiencing work-related stress. All of this amounts to a lot of people suffering from a range of symptoms such as poor sleeping patterns, sweating, and lack of appetite right up to mental health problems such as depression.

But what can we do about stress in a busy world where we are living in an ever changing environment?

My own view is that it is important to first differentiate between pressure and stress. Stress is the feeling of being under pressure. Some pressure in our lives is important because it can be stimulating and motivating and can help us to increase our productivity and improve our performance. However, if we have too much pressure or prolonged pressure over a period of time that exceeds our ability to cope, it can lead to stress.

This is an important point because while we will all experience unexpected and extreme pressure at various points in our lives, perhaps due to a family bereavement or significant illness, I believe that the majority of the stress I and many others experience are within our control to reduce and manage.

For example, probably one of the biggest causes of pressure (and consequently stress) we have is ourselves. Too often we set unrealistic expectations for our self (and other people) because we want to be the high achieving manager, be the perfect parent and have perfect a relationship with our spouse.

The following therefore are some tips I use to reduce both pressure and stress and hopefully you can use them in your life too.

1. Re-evaluate the expectations you have of yourself. What is it you really want to achieve? Are the expectations you have realistic?
2. Have a ‘to do’ list. This will enable you to evaluate whether you really have ‘too much to do’ or whether you are simply ‘doing too much’, (which may mean you have to say ‘no’ more often!). You can also make sure that you finish one task before starting the next one.
3. Recognise what you achieve. Strike things off your to do list after having completed them. At the end of the day, review how productive you were – it will give you a great deal more satisfaction.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparing yourself unfavourably with other people can be a strong source of internal stress. Learn to enjoy your personal qualities and achievements.
5. Make time for yourself and protect that time. This could be having lunch with friends, reading, going to the gym - whatever you enjoy doing.
6. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity 4/5 five times a week. Physical activity is an excellent way of relieving tension as well as releasing endorphins in to your body.
7. Share your concerns with a colleague, boss, friends or family. The old adage of a problem shared is a problem halved is true.
8. Get a good night sleep, and learn to relax. Avoid caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and using the computer or watching TV too close to bedtime.
9. Use your time more efficiently. For example do you spend a lot of time travelling by car? Would you benefit from using public transport more to complete work that you would otherwise complete after your drive.
10. Learn to meditate. Try to meditate for at least 15 minutes a day. Recent research suggests that regular meditation reduces stress.

Please try some of the above and see how much of a difference they make to you.

However, the final word on the matter should probably go to Alcoholics Anonymous who have the maxim:

‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference’

Friday, 11 February 2011

Putting Your People First ...

A number of years ago a colleague mentioned to me that business leaders should pay more attention to ‘the 3P’s’.

I was intrigued, was this just another management acronym or was there some substance behind what my colleague was saying?

The three P’s I was told stand for:
PEOPLE before
PRODUCT (or service) before
PROFIT (or performance).

The sequence and the word before each P are extremely significant. In other words, if you ensure your that your people are capable, creative and engaged, they will in turn produce great products (or services), which will lead to a successful, high performing and ultimately profitable business.

But how many businesses and organisations think in this way?

I have seen and worked for many who engaged in too much ‘top down’ thinking. They strive for profit and performance without thinking about whether they have the right people engaged in doing the right things.

We have all seen businesses pay huge salaries and big bonuses to focus staff on what needs to be achieved (e.g. sales and profit), and while bonuses can act as an ‘extrinsic motivator’, in reality they only provide a short term ‘Hawthorn’ effect, they do not truly engage staff and are soon forgotten.

So what does putting your People before Product and Profit mean?

I believe that if a business is going to truly put their people first they have to do a number of things. For example, they need to:

* Understand the innate skills and capabilities of the people they have.
* Be clear about what is expected from their managers and staff.
* Support their managers and staff to develop skills that will make them more effective in their jobs.
* Trust their people to do their job and give them the freedom to make their own decisions (within guidelines).
* Involve their staff in decisions that affect them more.
* Listen and pay attention to what their staff say, their concerns, and ideas for improvement, and ACT on them.
* Respond flexibly to the needs of their staff.

In addition, they need to recognise and understand that the culture of the business is dictated by the behaviour of its leaders and managers. The business must therefore work hard to support their leaders and managers to develop the necessary behaviours to enable them to act as excellent role models, and demonstrate on a day to day basis that they put their people first.

If a business truly desires to improve its performance, it must start with its people, their skills, capabilities, motivation and level of engagement. After all, Spain didn’t win the World Cup last year with a bunch of players who had the skills of a Sunday league side!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Why Management Development and Training pays off ...

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People Ltd

I’ve worked for a number of businesses during my career, including a fair few who have lived in the dark ages when it comes to management development and training – in fact, when it comes to training and development of any sort whatsoever!! One business in particular springs to mind, and upon doing a little bit of investigation, I discover that even now (more than ten years later), the same CEO is in place, and there is the same rate of staff turnover and low morale that there was in my days there. In fact, I still regularly see the job I used to do being advertised in the local papers – I would estimate a staff turnover of probably 4 to 5 people a year in that one role alone!

Businesses that invest in management development and training will not only find it easier to recruit quality personnel, but they will also enjoy lower rates of staff turnover. Management training can also help to improve business performance and the company bottom line. Management training can cover many areas such as leadership, personal effectiveness, managing performance, developing influence and team development.

There can be real benefits to organisations investing in management training – managers can achieve significant improvement in their ability to manage conflicting demands on their time, improve the leadership of their teams, and manage change more effectively, which in turn helps to improve staff morale and motivation.

There is also evidence of less direct business benefits. Regular training and development is seen as a sign of professionalism and helps to create a positive image for the business in its market place.

While training and development costs should be built into annual budgets, they do not need to be expensive. For example, groups of managers may have similar development needs and a training provider can be brought in to design a programme that specifically meets their needs. This bespoke approach is often more economical and far more effective than sending staff out of the office on “off the shelf” courses.

It is important that the organisation is clear about the objectives of any management training and development. Ultimately they should ask themselves “What is it that I want to see differently from this person or group of people?” In this way, it is possible to monitor the impact of training on individual performance – and just as importantly, on the company bottom line.

The ACAS annual report published in July 2010 shows record numbers of people using its helpline and website services to get advice and guidance on employee related issues. ACAS states that calls on a wide range of issues to its national helpline have risen from 700,000 in 2009 to over 1,000,000 in 2010.

This points to a great awareness of employees understanding and exercising their rights, but sadly also points to the fact that employers have not matched the associated improvement in skill and understanding about how to manage their staff appropriately.

If your business or organisation would like to learn more about the benefits of bespoke Management Training and Development, please call Developing People Ltd on 0845 409 2346 or send an email to markevenden@developingpeople.co.uk for further information.