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’.