Thursday, 20 December 2012

Are you Stressed?

Are you feeling stressed? At times it seems like we all have just too much to do with too little time to do it in. I often feel stressed at key points in the year, christmas, holiday time, and at times when there are too many people off work and workload is passed onto me when I have enough of my own to do! I know it is easier said than done but I sometimes try to take a step back and try to de-stress myself by doing the following: 1. Think about the progress you have made – It can sometimes be very easy to feel as though you are getting nowhere. Take a moment to reflect on what you have achieved so far before looking at the challenges ahead. 2. Take time out to do something you find interesting but remember interesting is not necessarily the same thing as fun, pleasant or relaxing. Remember if it interests you and gives you replenished energy then do it! 3. Your to do list – Your to do list can sometimes seem endless and it is simply a list of tasks. Have you ever thought about adding a where and when to your list? Research has shown that that if you decide when and where you will complete a task it can double or triple your chance of doing it. For example, call Dawn in HR, could be call Dawn in HR on Tuesday after a lunch out with the boss. It is called seizing the critical moment. 4. Use a routine. Try and reduce stress by reducing the number of decisions you make and use routines. For example, respond to emails at a certain time in the day, have a break at 10.30 every day. In fact in a recent interview President Obama, (who I am sure knows a great deal about stress ), mentioned using this strategy himself: ‘You need to remove from your life day to day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day.. You’ll see I wear only grey or blue suits. I’m trying to cut down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision making energy. You need to get into a routine, you can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia’ quote from ( President Obama – Vanity Fair) 5. Look at the big picture – it is sometimes useful to link your smaller actions to the big picture to give you a sense of achievement. 6. Take a break – finally we are all human and yes it is OK to take a break. Follow these simple steps to a stress less 2013!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Putting your People First

I recently read an article calling business leaders to pay more attention to ‘the 3P’s’. This interested me, was this phrase simply another management acronym or was there some substance behind what I read? The three P’s stand for: PEOPLE before PRODUCT (or service) before PROFIT (or performance). The sequence and the word before each P is extremely significant. The phrasing states that, if you ensure your people are capable, creative and engaged, they will in turn produce great products (and/or services), which will lead to a successful, high performing business which is profitable and successful.. However how many businesses really think in this way? I have worked for many businesses who engaged far too much ‘top down’ management. They strive for profit and performance without paying attention to engaging their people in doing the right things. I have witnessed businesses pay huge salaries and big bonuses to focus staff on sales and profit targets and while bonuses can act as an ‘extrinsic motivator’, in reality they only provide a short term impact at best. They do not truly engage staff and are soon forgotten. So what does putting your People before Product and Profit mean? In my view 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 everyone. - Support their managers and staff to develop skills that will make them more effective in their jobs. - Give their staff as much autonomy as possible trust them to do their job and give them the freedom to make their own decisions. - 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. Finally I believe that senior execs need to recognise and understand that the culture of the business is dictated by their behaviour. They must therefore work hard 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.

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Importance of Talent Management

After working with many different businesses I have concluded that one of the biggest risks facing many organisations is having the right talent to enable them to compete in the future. I see many businesses who have a significant number of key executives will likely retire in the next 5-10 years. While this may not have been an issue 10 or 15 years ago, pressure has been such that businesses have had to reorganise and resize themselves to a point where the talent pool that would have been ready to step up into key roles are either not ready or not there. I also think this will be compounded in the longer term as fewer people stay with one organisation. For example, a recent study estimated that current school leavers will have between 10-14 jobs by their 40th birthday! To address this issue, I believe that more companies need to integrate their talent and succession planning with their strategic business plans and view talent management as a long-term, continuous process. To achieve this I believe that businesses should: • Think strategically. Talent management requires a strategic perspective. What are the things that might impact your organisation in the future? Will it grow and acquire other businesses, or is the market shrinking and therefore a different leadership approach may be needed? What ‘type’ of managers and business leaders will be needed in the future? • Understand the businesses key roles. Which functions and roles in the organisation drive the majority of the business’s value? Businesses need to think broadly, and not just about traditional leadership roles. Specialist technical roles such as product development may be as equally important. Once this is complete it is a straightforward task to examine the age profiles of those currently in the key roles. How many of these could retire in the next 5-10 years? How many of these roles have ‘ready now’ successors? • Identify the requirements of the key roles. Effective talent management requires clarity on technical and behavioural requirements for the roles as well as specific experience, such as international or specific market experience. All key roles should have the necessary components and characteristics for superior performance clearly defined. These requirements can then be used as a basis to assess people, either internally via a promotion or externally via recruitment. • Agree a succession strategy. Once the organisation knows who is likely to retire, and who the potential talent is, objective decisions can be made about how the key roles will be filled in the future. This will enable the business to actively recruit and bring in new blood to fill roles that cannot be filled from within. • Define career paths for internal promotions. Once a succession strategy is clear, establishing career paths and the ability to describe the requirements for pursuing the path becomes easier. Creating effective career paths requires two components, knowing the requirements for the next level and creating clear plan of how to gain the necessary skills, behaviours and experience. • Link talent management and performance management together. Talent management and succession planning should become a part of the organisation’s performance management and career development processes. Regular performance discussions are important to collect evidence of how potential successors have progressed. • Provide on-going development. Managers need to support the ongoing development of their talent to ensure that make the necessary progress. • Monitor readiness and prepare a succession plan. Senior managers should meet at least annually to initially agree who the potential successors are for the key roles and to subsequently monitor their progress. Who is ready now to move to their next role? Is their evidence to suggest that any of the successors will not ‘make the grade’? If not what needs to be done? What I have described may at first to appear a cumbersome process, but none of the above steps need to be made overly complex. If your business does not focus on talent management and succession planning then the availability of talent for your key roles will be left to the fickle finger of fate. Surely the future success of your business is too important for that?

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Saying it like it is!

I have met a number of managers in my career who pride themselves in being direct with their staff. ‘If someone does something wrong, I will tell them’ or ‘I tell it like it is’, are two examples of the types of phrases I have heard. I may have paraphrased their comments slightly but the sentiment is the same. While openness and honesty is laudable, in my experience there is a big difference between ‘telling it like it is’ and speaking to someone without offending them. By this I don’t mean that we should talk around a subject for fear of offending. What I mean is, feedback must be delivered in a clear and constructive manner. Having given feedback to many people over the years (and I admit sometimes I wasn’t as professional or as constructive as I should have been!) I try to follow the following guidelines: 1. Prepare! The army have a phrase ‘The 4 P’s’, preparation and planning prevents poor performance and this is very true with feedback. Think through what you want to say and why you want to say it. Feedback should benefit the receiver and not be a release for you! 2. Give feedback when it is fresh in your mind and the other persons too. 3. Get the views of the other person first by asking open questions, e.g. there’s no point discussing something that happened months ago, ‘tell me about how you think the customer meeting went?’ 4. Use a framework to give feedback such as SCAR: a. Specifics – what were the facts/details, When, where, how? b. Consequences – what are the consequences of their actions? c. Actions – what actions are needed? d. Results – what will the outcomes be? 5. Own the feedback you give, use language such as ‘I saw, I heard, I observed…’ and stick to the facts. 6. Don’t be judgemental – avoid words and phrases like, ‘you are too slow, careless, short, tall etc.!’ 7. Don’t be vague – for example, ‘that report was great’. The receiver cannot do anything with vague feedback. 8. Don’t discuss personality, attitude, values or comparisons to others 9. Give feedback privately and not in front of others or in a public space. 10. Follow up – always agree the actions that are required as a result of the meeting and when you will follow them up. As I mentioned earlier there is a big difference between ‘telling it like it is’ and giving constructive feedback that the person can take on board and use to improve their performance and effectiveness and I hope you find the tips above useful.

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Real Cost of Bad Bosses!

Have you ever thought about the true cost to your business of a bad boss? In my career I have worked for many different people, some were very good and others were appalling, simply treating me like I was another ‘cog’ in the company wheel. But what impact did this really have? Sure, I might not have gone the extra mile for those I didn’t respect, I may have occasionally been particularly difficult and taken more time to complete something than I needed to, but how did that affect the overall business, and did it really cost the business anything? In theory at least, a bad manager can ‘cost’ a business in many ways, for example a bad manager can cause their staff to: • Slow down or purposely make errors • Deliberately not discuss problems with their manager • Not go the ‘extra mile’ (e.g. go home on time despite a customer issue not being resolved) • Take days off sick unnecessarily • Take longer than necessary breaks But in reality what does this cost the business and can it even be measured? Some of their questions have been answered by three researchers (Edward Lazear, Kathlyn Shaw and Christopher Stanton) from Stanford University in the US. In their paper ‘The Value of Bosses’, Lazear, Shaw and Stanton conclude that replacing a manager who is the lower 10% of ‘boss quality’, with one who is in the upper 10% of boss quality increases a team’s total output by about the same amount as adding one worker to a team of 9 people. Wow! That’s the equivalent of increasing performance by 11%! So while my own experience of working for a bad boss has been that I haven’t been as focussed, flexible or as motivated this research shows how science can back up what we have all intuitively known – that bad bosses really do cost businesses!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Mentoring works!

Having worked in the private sector for 18 years I found it very frustrating when I joined the public sector when it came down to moving forwards on new ideas. I was an experienced individual who had lots of skills and new ideas but I kept finding it very hard to get others to take my ideas on board and try them out to see if it would work for them. It got to a point where I thought ‘why bother’? Why don’t I just let them do it their way! In all honesty I did this for a number of months until one of the ‘top bosses’ employed a consultant who was on my wave length. This individual when I met him in all honesty frightened me with his knowledge, wisdom and the task he had to do in a very short period of time. I was asked to work alongside him on a major project I was working on to develop new processes and reporting tools etc. I took the opportunity with open arms and I asked him to be my mentor. We worked together very closely over a two year period and got the results we wanted. For example we worked a cross functional team working across various locations ensuring that we all adhered to the same processes and procedures and all ‘sang from the same hymn sheet!’ How did we do this? Well I initially prepared a list of questions to ask him, such how did he implement these changes in other organisations, what did he expect from me and what did I expect from him? He then gave me the guidance I needed to drive the new way of working across the organisation, he attended meetings with me with senior executives, chipping in and guiding the conversation if I was not quite on track. He also gave me feedback, some I admit I didn’t like at the time! Such I was not strong enough in the way I challenged people and sometimes could come across as I though I had no knowledge, yet I did. I am still in touch with my mentor even now after leaving the organisation and this has given other people and me the comfort that as a person he cares about others as people not just as a worker! Mentoring is a valuable approach to helping you learn and develop and I can personally recommend Ida Abbott’s book, ‘Being an Effective Mentor: 101 Practical Strategies for Success’ whether you are a mentor or are being mentored.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Gaining Better Engagement

I recently read Dan Pink’s book ‘Drive’ about what truly motivates and drives us. It was an interesting read as Pink argues that there is currently a charm between how businesses and organisations motivate their staff (or not!) and what the scientific research says about motivation. Essentially Pink identifies three core drivers which are: Autonomy – our desire to be self-directed and to have a great deal of control over our work. Mastery – our desire to get better at what we do and want to do things that are challenging but within our capability. Purpose – our desire to have meaning in what we do, to serve something or someone greater than ourselves. He argues that the traditional management style of ‘carrot and stick’ outdated at best and at worst diminishes performances and extinguishes motivation. Interestingly he points to research that shows that ‘if then’ type rewards, (i.e. if you do this then you get that) can encourage greed and unethical behaviour. This made me think about the bonus culture that existed in many of our banks who promoted PPI. The miss-selling of these products has led to a number of banks paying out billions in compensation. What Pink has concluded rings true with two of my own personal experiences. For a number of years I worked for a children’s publisher where I experienced a high level of engagement. We were part of a larger group but essentially left alone to do what we thought was best for the business. The purpose of the business was very clear, we were the ‘children’s expert’, encouraging children from all around the globe to read, learn and develop. The majority of staff recognised this and I contrast this with a ceramic materials manufacturer who I also worked for. Again we were part of a large group but this time had little real autonomy. The group was only interested in managing cost and profit ability of the business and sadly this permeated the whole organisation. The business’ only purpose appeared to be, to make money, which was not something that inspired or engaged staff. My personal experiences ring true with pink’s in terms of the environments I found most stimulating to work in were the ones where there was clear meaning to what I was doing. I had a great deal of autonomy and learned a lot too!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Effective Team Briefing

For me, team briefing was always a vital component of employee engagement in the businesses I worked in. It enabled me as a manager to know that all employees received information about the business and their own teams’ performance, as well as being a great source of feedback from them. I believe team briefing is a vital skill for any manager no matter what position they hold and being able to deal with tricky or difficult briefing situations is an important part of a manager’s toolkit. I have briefed many teams over the years and have found the following tips useful in managing and dealing with difficult briefing situations. 1) Set Expectations. Setting clear expectations is a great way to ensure that a briefing runs smoothly without constant interruptions. By stating expectations at the start of my team brief it helped me to manage the process more effectively. For example, I would set expectations around the length of time the team brief was expected to take, how and when questions will be taken, and the level of attention required - i.e. mobile phones and other electronic devices to be switched off! 2) Dealing with Questions. My experience is that you shouldn’t ignore a question, as doing so may be taken as a sign of defensiveness on your part and so I would answer questions directly and honestly. Even if questions were inappropriate or ill-timed, I tried to acknowledge them and thank the other person for asking them. Sometimes I would refer to the expectations I set out at the start, and answer any questions at the end. If I did not know the answer, I would respond with “I don’t know” to some difficult questions. I never felt that I had to know everything. People will soon see through any answers made up on the spot anyway. However, in the majority of cases, not getting an answer to someone's question was not acceptable. I would say, ‘Thank you. I do not know the answer to that very interesting question. I’ll have to get back to you on that, after I’ve spoken to (x). I will do this by (y)”. 3) Dealing with questions that keep on coming. One of the most common difficulties you are likely to encounter is a barrage of questions from either one or more people. Sometimes these people really want answers to their questions but at other times the interrupter may have a disruptive motive. However, you may not be able to tell which is which! I found that the least confrontational way of dealing with a constant stream of questions was to answer each question as briefly as possible. I tried to limit my answers to one ‘breath’ in length. Before stating my answer, I would check if this material would be covered later in the briefing. If it was, I would tell the questioner that the material will be covered later. I tried not to expand on my answers, because lengthy replies containing additional details will only serve to give the questioner additional opportunity to ask more questions. Remember, keeping your answers brief minimises the negative effect of any interruptions and allows you to move on. Another tip if you find that giving short answers and setting expectations haven’t deterred interruptions, acknowledge the question but delay the answer, letting the other person know that you will cover this at the end of the briefing. 4) Dealing with off-topic questions and discussions. My view is that one or two ‘off-topic’ questions from the audience isn’t a problem, but if there are a lot of them this can be very disruptive and cause the briefing to wander or over run. One technique I used for dealing with an off-topic question was to ask for its relevance to the briefing. The sooner I could relate the question to the briefing, the sooner I could move on. 5) Dealing with confrontational questions Occasionally I might get a very confrontational question. However, I learned the hard way that if I responded to the tone with a challenging or sarcastic response, I simply lost some credibility. However, it’s vital never ever to lose control. I would try to rephrase and restate the question in a neutral way to reduce confrontation. 6) Dealing with someone who is angry or frustrated If you encounter someone who has become particularly angry, upset or frustrated during your briefing, the best way to deal with it is to accept that they are feeling angry, upset, etc (you are not necessarily agreeing with them), but deal with it after the briefing. For example, “I recognise that (x) has made you angry / frustrated etc, and that you want it resolving. I suggest therefore that we discuss these issues separately after the briefing”. 7) Dealing with a ‘Heckler’ You may find you are conducting a brief and a member of the audience decides to make comment out loud (sarcastic, amusing or otherwise) about what you are briefing. Again, never get upset, or lose control. The best way I found in dealing with these people was to find merit in what they are saying, or express agreement on something, and simply move on. 8) Always have the final say. While it can be helpful to keep the questions until after the brief is finished, I felt it was important to make sure that I had the final say – literally, by summarising the points covered. Team briefing is a vital management skill and hopefully by sharing my experiences above, it will help you to improve your briefing skills too.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Why Performance Appraisals Don’t Work

I recently worked for a client that struggled to get their annual performance appraisals completed. Less than 20% of their staff received an appraisal at the end of their financial year. The challenges that they faced reminded me of a study undertaken by Investors in People a number of years ago that found a third of employees think that performance appraisals are a complete waste of time. The study identified that for many the annual performance 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 in my opinion is an invaluable performance improvement and development tool when used properly. This got me thinking about why these issues arise in the first place and what can be done to prevent them from occurring? From my own personal experience I believe that there are a number of reasons why personal appraisals don’t work: • I have worked with and have been managed by people who think that an appraisal is simply an annual event. Yet, I have always believed that managing an individual’s performance and development is a continual process. In my opinion it is vital that people are given continual feedback and support to ensure that that they perform to the best of their 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. bi-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, than attempting to discuss these things on an annual basis. The annual appraisal should be 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. The problem is then 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 appraisal 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 conduct my appraisal who clearly did not know or understand even the basics. The consequence of this was that it left me extremely frustrated and de-motivated. In my view, 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. Sadly performance appraisal has a bad name in many organisations. However, by addressing the issues that I have highlighted above organisations and their staff can gain the full benefit from their performance appraisal processes.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Meaning of Leadership

I was discussing with a colleague the other day about what leadership is and what it means. To help my understanding I looked up the meaning in the Collins English Dictionary which defines the verb ‘to lead’ as ‘to show the way, to guide, to go ahead’. At its heart leadership I concluded is about taking people to new and different places. I reflected on the great Antarctic Explorers such as Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen, and realised that is exactly what they did. They took their teams to places that no one had ever been before. They did not have detailed maps, signposts or directions to show them which direction to go in, they just had the vastness of the Antarctic, and they had to provide the direction for their team themselves. My conclusion is that this is not so different from a leader of any team today. Neither I nor anyone else knows what the future will hold. There are no Ordnance Survey Maps, signposts, directions or a yellow brick road to future success, only blank space. This is an important point as my own experience has been that employees tend to look to their leaders to provide comfort from this ambiguity by providing a clear direction for them to follow. In my view this doesn’t matter whether the leader is the CEO of a multinational or the leader of a team of maintenance engineers. Working in an environment without clear direction is hugely frustrating. It is like watching a film that’s not in focus; you know that something is going on, you just don’t know what it is. I have seen the consequences of this at first hand. Without clear direction, employees chose for themselves the direction they should take and what they should focus on. While in some instances this may be acceptable, too often I have seen it create divisive relationships and poor performance as different team members pull in different directions and work on conflicting priorities. As stated above, the Collins English Dictionary defines the verb ‘to lead’ as ‘to show the way, to guide, to go ahead’. At its heart leadership is about taking people to new and different places, and in my view providing clear direction is a vital part of being a leader.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Leadership in a small business

In my opinion effective strong leadership is critical to the success of any business but its form depends on a business’s stage of growth. For example, when the business first starts up what is required is hands on approach while larger organisations will have managers who will be less involved in the day to day managing. Their position is much more of a leadership role, setting direction and conditions for success and establishing goals. I think that SMEs occupy the middle position between these two where leaders need to manage actively as well as set direction. My experience of working with different businesses is that they grow leadership style and their approach needs to change and ‘grow’ too. For example entrepreneurial individuals who start companies have unique skills and traits that often do not make them good leaders of larger organisations. I know that one of Sir Richard Branson’s secrets of success is that having started a business, he has always known when to bring in a professional management team to run it. It is therefore important that the person starting the business recognises the right time to handover the reins. My experience has been that this is often problematic as the person who started the business often doesn’t want to let go This is where an external person can add real value by challenging the business owner to prepare a plan for succession. They can also help to find the right personal fit with the CE or owner that is critical. The cost of making the wrong hire can be devastating! For a family run business I would normally expect the successor to be part of the family and expect it to remain in family hands. However, for the entrepreneur with no skilled or willing family members, it can be complex and emotional to identify successors. The best way I have seen this happen is to have a deputy ‘learn the ropes’ until the right time is to hand over. This provides both parties with opportunity to check that it works for both of them. While at its core leading a small business is no different than leading a large organisation there are some critical differences dependent on where the business is in terms of its stage of growth.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Is coaching more effective than other forms of training and development?

Mark Evenden I have often had discussions with other training and development professionals about the different approaches and interventions to developing leadership and management competence. When discussing the various development options, questions often arise over the relative effectiveness of coaching over other more ‘conventional’ workshop style approaches. Several colleagues have 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 that might produce different outcomes? My personal experience has been gained from being coached and attending leadership development courses, as well as having coached many leaders and delivered numerous development programmes. From my experience 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 workshop style leadership development programmes are run in groups. The agenda and objectives for a group leadership development intervention will have been developed to best meet the needs of the whole group and may or may not relate directly to an individual on the programme. This is in stark contrast to the objectives for coaching which are set by the coachee and can be flexible and evolve as the coachee progresses. The coaching 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. This can mean that the ‘call to action’ is also stronger and more specific for a coachee than for a participant on a leadership programme. The ability for an individual leaders 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 is often 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. However, I am certainly not suggesting that conventional group workshop 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. Clearly each approach to development has its own merits and if I reflect on the most successful leadership development programmes that I have been involved in they have been a blend of coaching, conventional ‘training’ as well as other approaches. In this way the participants 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.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Managing Performance Effectively

Performance management has always been a key part of a manager’s responsibility. However, in the current tough economic climate I believe it is now even more important to manage the performance and development of staff effectively to counter the effects of tough trading conditions. In my view the overall purpose of performance management is to maximise the contribution of individuals and teams to enable a business or organisation to achieve its goals and objectives. I also believe that performance management is applicable to all levels within an organisation from front line operatives to the board. As a manager I have always tried to use a number of principles when managing the performance of my staff. Set clear expectations. I believe that it is vital that everyone in the business knows what’s expected of them if they are to maximise their own and the business’s performance. As a manager I set expectations in the following two ways:  By describing what needs to be achieved through the setting of personal targets (that are ultimately linked to the business strategy).  By describing how managers and staff are expected to behave and deliver their personal targets. Manage performance continually. I do not let my managers and staff ‘just get on with it’ in the hope that they will deliver the expectations that I have set. Instead I continually review their performance by meeting with them on a regular basis (e.g. every 6 weeks) to discuss progress against targets and resolve any issues that might have arisen in the previous period. The outcomes of the meeting are usually a set of actions that need to be taken by both the individual and myself. Review performance annually. I conduct a formal review of performance once per year (using set procedures and documentation). I review performance both in terms of What has been achieved as well as How it has been achieved.  What has been achieved is a review of the job holder’s tasks and responsibilities which I measure by achievement/delivery of the targets set.  How the targets have been delivered. I determine this by reviewing an individual’s behaviour against the business’ competence standards and values. Generally, I have already collated the majority of the evidence for the annual review from the regular meetings I have had with staff. Performance management outcomes. Clearly for performance management to be effective something needs to happen as a result of it. The outcomes from the process typically range from recognition of efforts and achievements, and sanctioning of bonuses and other incentives for those who have delivered on the expectations I set them. For those that do not, there may be consequential action. In addition, I agree learning actions and plans as well as new targets for the coming year. Ultimately, the measure of whether or not performance management is effective is if all managers, teams and ultimately the business achieves its goals and objectives. While performance management is never easy and can often require having difficult or tough conversations, my own experience has been that using the principles above has enabled me to deal with the majority of performance issues before they become a serious problem for either me or the business. Good performance management can provide essential support and guidance to inexperienced staff who if badly managed will continue to perform below their potential.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Making Meetings More Effective

Many years ago I watched a great Video Arts production called ‘Meetings Bloody Meetings’. It starred John Cleese who took a satirical look at the creation of meetings and how to get the most out of them. It was fun to watch and it prompted me to think of not just how much time I wasted in meetings and also and more importantly how much of others people’s time I had wasted by not planning, preparing and chairing the meetings I was responsible for. In my view the key to a successful meeting is in its preparation, and over the years I have used the following checklist to help me prepare. 1) Is the purpose of the meeting clear? For example is it to gain consensus on an issue, to make a decision or is for information sharing? This is an important point because I use it as a challenge, do I really need a meeting or can the purpose be achieved in another way. For example if it is for information sharing can the information be disseminated via email? 2) Related to the first point what are the specific outcomes of the meeting? In other words what do you want the meeting to achieve? 3) Who needs to attend and do any of the participants need to have specific roles during the meeting? 4) What decision making processes are needed? For example, will it be the group leader who makes the decision, via a majority vote, consensus or some other process? 5) Where will the meeting be held and has the availability of the space/venue been confirmed as well as the availability of any equipment needed? 6) Does everyone know when and where the meeting will be held? 7) Has a preliminary agenda with purpose and outcomes clearly stated been prepared and sent out to key participants and other stakeholders to sound them out in advance? 8) Following 7) above has the agenda been finalised and distributed it to all participants? 9) What information (e.g. reports) need to be sent out to the participants in advance to allow them to prepare and has this been done? 10) Have you prepared yourself and all necessary materials? Clearly the above doesn’t address all aspects of making a meeting effective as it doesn’t cover actually chairing and facilitating the meeting. However, my personal experience is that the better prepared you are the more likely you are to have a successful meeting – or as the Army’s mantra states, follow the 4 P’s, Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Performance!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Understanding Your Leadership ‘flaws’ with 360° Feedback

I believe great leaders succeed because they play to their strengths. They are extremely aware of them and know how to deploy them for their own advantage and for the benefit of their business. This enables them to successfully repeat their performance in different roles and organisations. However, in my view all leaders also have weaknesses, and these can inhibit a leaders’ success in their role. I remember many years ago I had a new boss who was young, energetic and full of good ideas. While my new boss was keen and clearly wanted to do the best for the business, he was very unaware of the impact his behaviour had on others. For example he: • Interrogated me about my budgeted overspend and expected me to come up with an urgent plan to correct the situation. On investigation I discovered that he had shifted a large spend onto my budget to make another part of the business appear more successful than it actually was. • Instructed me not to contradict him in public – he spoke to me about this when we were in the gents toilets together! • Did not listen other people properly, he was not interested in other people’s views, just his own. • Was insensitive to other people’s needs. • He was indiscrete and would tell stories about others as well as be overly critical about other people in public. The consequence of this was that many people didn’t trust or respect him, ironically an issue he often complained bitterly about! However, self awareness is rarely an innate talent that most people have. So how do leaders become more self aware of their ‘flaws’? Personally, I recommend using a leadership 360° feedback appraisal system to collect the views and opinions of bosses, peers and team members. My own personal experience of using leadership 360° feedback appraisal, is that it increased my self awareness enormously. For me one of the most powerful aspects of it was understanding what my team expected of me as a leader. As a manager you are used to setting expectations for your team, but not the other way round! It’s a shame that the boss I referred to earlier did not have the opportunity (or perhaps courage) to ‘look in the mirror’, because if he had done he would have seen his flaws and done something about them.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Giving Difficult Feedback Effectively

Giving feedback is a tough thing to do correctly and effectively. It is tough because giving feedback can generate a range of emotions in the other person and if not handled correctly it can cause angst, bad feelings and mistrust. I have given feedback to many people over the years, sometimes effectively and many less so! Certainly in the past I have been very confrontational telling people “how it was” thinking that it was important that they knew but showed little concern for their feelings. Over the years I have learned to adopt a more balanced approach. If there is an issue I follow the following approach. 1. Start with the facts. I tell the other person what I saw and heard, the details and specifics. I start with the facts as these are the least confrontational part of the feedback and are the least likely to generate an emotive response. 2. Talk about consequences. I discuss with them the consequences of their behaviour and approach. For example, if they didn’t turn up to a meeting on time, I discuss the impact and consequence of this on them, (e.g. the meeting went on longer than planned) and on the business (e.g. ineffective use of management time). In my view this is the most powerful part of the feedback as it explains the consequences on them and their colleagues and provides the rationale for change. 3. Agree actions. I will then discuss with them the options they have and what they propose to do. Depending on whom I am giving feedback to, sometimes “telling them straight” what I want them to do works best. Others may respond more positively to a questioning style, so I may for example ask them what they think they could do differently as a result of my feedback. 4. Clarify results. Finally to complete the feedback I agree the results or outcomes of their proposed actions. For example, if the feedback was about their presentation skills and style, one of the outcomes of changing their approach may be a more influential and persuasive sales presentation leading to a new customer for the business. As I mentioned earlier, giving feedback is tough because it can generate a range of emotions in the other person and if not handled effectively can do more damage to the relationship than good. Hopefully these tips I have showed here will act as a useful guide and prevent you making the same mistakes as I did!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Helping Employees Meet Their Targets

A number of years ago when I worked for a manufacturing company I introduced performance targets into the area of the business I was responsible for. While most of my managers responded well to this approach I had one person who felt his work deadlines had been tightened and as a consequence didn’t meet his targets. The purpose behind me setting performance targets in the first place was to ensure that my managers were clear about what was expected of them. I felt I was being fair to all of my managers as they all had similar targets to achieve and I hadn’t set this person anything more challenging than anyone else. I knew that I had to understand why he had failed to meet his targets so far. I therefore sat down with them and explained to him my concerns and asked him why he was failing to meet his targets. He explained that he was struggling with his workload and felt that on reflection he occasionally became distracted by other work. Together we agreed an action plan to address this. We broke down two of his targets into smaller short term steps so that he had a clear plan of how to achieve them. I also suggested that he cleared his diary and dedicate two half days per week working on these particular targets which he agreed to. Over the following few months we sat down on a regular basis to review progress and discuss further actions to help him improve his time and priority management skills. His confidence to manage his work effectively improved dramatically and over a period of 3-4 months he started to more consistently meet deadlines and time scales. While he never became a ‘top performer’ on my team, he improved dramatically and was much more reliable. The lesson I learned from this was that if someone isn’t delivering the targets set there must be an underlying reason for it and the sooner that you deal with the issue the better.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Leading a Speech

Being a leader requires us from time to time to stand up in front of others and give speeches, presentations or team briefs. While some of the above can be fairly routine (e.g. a team brief), some speeches and presentations can be a vitally important part of a leader’s toolkit to gain support and commitment from their team to pursue a new direction or make a major change. I myself have had to do this on a number of occasions (with varying degrees of success) and wish I had read Phillip Collin’s book, The Art of Speeches and presentations: The secrets of making people remember what you say first! In his book, Collins describes the importance of getting the basics right and talks about the importance of the following: 1. Delivery. A speech or presentation is written to be spoken and therefore it is important to make your delivery as effective as possible. Interesting this is something I learned early in my career – don’t write a speech, dictate it, as the written and spoken word are different. 2. Expectations. What will your audience expect from your speeches and probably more importantly what as a leader will you want your team to do once they have heard it? Personally, I try to think “about what’s in it for them?” In this way I can get people to more readily buy in to what I am asking of them. 3. Topic. What is your speech or presentation about? Can you explain the outline in a simple sentence? This is an interesting point which is often overlooked, after all if I want someone to remember what I’m going to say the essence of it needs to be able to be condensed into a single sentence. 4. Audience. Who are you trying to reach? Who are they and what do they think about the topic? Are they likely to be resistant or even hostile to your approach? I remember once having to give a speech to a frustrated and hostile group of workers who had demanded answers to a potential health and safety issue that they believed had not been addressed. This required a good deal of preparation! 5. Individual. A speech should be delivered by you and should therefore present the best version of you. This required careful though and preparation to ensure you come across in the best possible light. 6. Language. Use simple terms and don’t say anything that an intelligent lay person won’t understand. It’s not clever to use jargon and it simply serves to confuse. If you are trying to influence others about a particular course of action, how will you achieve this is they don’t understand? As stated earlier a key role of a leader is to stand up in front of others and confidently deliver a speech, presentation or team brief and Collins offers some sensible advice to anyone who wishes to be more effective.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Evaluating the impact of Leadership Training and Development

If I wish to invest in a new product or service for my business, I want to understand the return I will get from my investment, and in its simplest form I can measure this in terms of ‘payback’, i.e. how long the investment takes to pay for itself. Making an investment in leadership development and training is not different and I have been asked many times how they can measure their return on investment or measure the impact it will have. After all, the “acid test” of any investment whether in leadership development or new product or service, is the results it produces. As any training and development professional will know, this is not an easy thing to measure, and often it is not a precise science. However, there are some guidelines I use that can help you to be clearer. In my view, the key to the evaluation of the impact of a leadership development programme is to be clear at the design stage what the business is expecting to achieve as a result of its investment. For example, is the programme supporting the business to:  Grow?  Increase sales or market share?  Increase profits?  Improve productivity and organisational effectiveness?  Reduce staff turnover? By setting out the outcomes expected form the leadership development programme different ‘levels’ of impact evaluation can subsequently be made. 1) Business – My view is that the highest level of evaluation can be assessed via the organisation’s own metrics (e.g. profitability, sales growth, market share etc). However, there needs to be a clear line of sight between these measures and others that link to them (see below). 2) Team. The first link from the business’ measures needs to be to the team or departmental measures. What impact will the programme need to have on team performance or departmental performance and their targets to deliver the business targets? These maybe for example, improved levels of customer satisfaction (which can increase sales), improved product margins through better negotiation (which can increase profitability), reduced absence rates and staff turnover (which can reduce costs). 3) Individual. The final link in the evaluation is individual performance and behaviour. How do leaders need to behave and what skills do they need in order to increase motivation and engagement to provide better customer service (for example)? This can be measured through achievement of personal objectives as well as observations on behaviour via 360 feedback appraisals. While I accept that assessing the business or organisational impact of an investment in training and development is never easy, it can be achieved by providing a ‘clear line of sight’ linking individual behaviour, through team behaviour and on to organisational/business outcomes, and in this way you can demonstrate the return on investment you have made.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Leaders: born, made or trained on special courses?

In the 21st century workplace where there is a stronger emphasis on collaborative working and teambuilding, where does this leave the notion of leadership? I think that leadership in business has changed over the past few decades, and we need to rethink the way that we lead other people. Historically, being a leader has been about setting goals and direction for the team, but I see the Generation Y-ers- (i.e. born after 1980) – demand different things from their leaders. While previous leadership ideas were based on directing and controlling, I believe people nowadays want to be seen more as individuals, to be given the space to get on with their job and to be trusted to get the results in their own way. Historically about two-thirds of people will adopt a different ‘personality’ depending on whether they are at home or at work but I believe it is the people who are the same at work and play that provoke the stronger emotional engagement from their staff. People are far more likely to want to work for them than for managers who don’t have that authenticity. If leaders fit into a particular mould and act in a certain way, their people see through it and ultimately trust them less. I also think it is more participative and facilitative whereas before it was a lot more directive. The benefit is empowerment. People put in more effort when they feel empowered and ultimately that impacts on bottom line performance. Leadership style will also depend on the team. For example, ultimately if you have a junior team, you are going to need a leader who can set the vision for the team. With an experienced mature team the manager might take a more participatory role. Ultimately enlightened organisations give their leaders more freedom and space to find out who they are and to learn what works for them. These things cannot be taught on a traditional training course.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Managing Talent is Vital for Your Organisation’s Future Prosperity

Managing Talent is Vital for Your Organisation’s Future Prosperity I believe that one of the biggest challenges facing many businesses today is having the right talent to enable them to successfully compete in the future. I have worked with many businesses who are having to face up to a tough reality that a number of their key executives are likely to retire in the next 5-10 years – many of them without many natural successors. I didn’t see this issue so starkly 20 years ago, and probably two things have happened over the intervening period. For some pressure has been such that they had to reorganise and resize themselves to a point where the talent pool that would have been ready to step up into key roles are either not ready or not there. For others, growth has been dramatic, with business expanding globally. This has meant that the talent, skills and experience required to lead teams across many countries has not had the opportunity to develop fully. Also, I don’t think this issue just affects large organisations either. A couple of years ago the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) undertook a study which showed that on average 30 per cent of small-business closures take place because of the lack of an effective succession plan, as many owners do not make sufficient arrangements to hand the business over after they retire. Whether your business is a large or small one, I believe it is vital to address this issue for the future success of the business. Companies need to integrate their talent and succession planning strategies with their strategic business plans and view talent management as a long-term, continuous process, not a one off action. This requires us all to think and do things differently. For example, in my opinion managers need to do a number of things: • Think strategically. Talent management requires a strategic perspective. What are the things that might impact your organisation in the future? Will it grow and acquire other businesses, or is the market shrinking and therefore a different leadership approach may be needed? What ‘type’ of managers and business leaders will be needed in the future? • Understand the organisation’s key roles. Which functions and roles in the organisation drive the majority of the business’s value? This requires us to think broadly, and not just about traditional leadership roles. For example, what specialist technical roles such as product development, which may be as equally important are needed? Once this is complete it is a straightforward task to examine the age profiles of those currently in the key roles. How many of these could retire in the next 5-10 years? How many of these roles have ‘ready now’ successors? • Identify the requirements of the key roles. Effective talent management requires clarity on technical and behavioural requirements for the roles as well as specific experience, such as international or specific market experience. All key roles should have the necessary components and characteristics for superior performance clearly defined. These requirements can then be used as a basis to assess people, either internally via the promotion process, or externally via recruitment. • Understand who your talent is. Clearly you need to know who has the potential to fulfil the key roles. Information can be picked up through your internal performance and development management processes or in conjunction with a formal independent assessment process. Discussions can then be had with the individuals concerned. Do they have the desire and motivation to progress? Progression may mean extensive travel and/or working in a different country to their native one, which does not suit everyone. • Finalise your succession strategy. Once you know who is likely to retire, and who the potential talent is, objective decisions can be made about how the key roles will be filled in the future. The business may have all the talent it needs or may need to go to the market to recruit specific talent. The business may wish to recruit and bring in new blood or can all the key roles be filled from within? Should the strategy be a balance of recruiting externally as well as promoting internally? • Define career paths for internal promotions. Once your succession strategy is clear, establishing career paths and the ability to describe the requirements for pursuing the path becomes easier. Creating effective career paths requires two components, knowing the requirements for the next level and creating a clear plan of how to gain the necessary skills, behaviours and experience. • Link talent management with performance management. Talent management and succession planning should become a part of the organisation’s performance management and career development processes. Regular performance discussions are important to collect evidence of how potential successors have performed. In addition, the discussions also provide the opportunity for managers to coach talent to ensure ongoing development and readiness. • Provide ongoing development. Managers need to support the ongoing development of their talent to ensure they make the necessary progress. This might be through work opportunities and projects, coaching or specific training courses. • Monitor readiness and prepare a succession plan. Senior managers need to meet at least annually to agree who the potential successors are for the key roles and to subsequently monitor their progress. Who is ready now to move to their next role? Is there evidence to suggest that any of the successors will not ‘make the grade’? If not what action needs to be taken? • Ensure ownership. Talent management and succession planning needs to be owned by line managers and needs to be actively led and sponsored by the Chief Executive or owner of the business for it to be successful. What I have described above may at first to appear to be overly complex, but each step in itself can be made quite simple and need not take an inordinate amount of time. However, if your business does not focus on talent management and succession planning then the availability of talent for your key roles will be left to the fickle finger of fate. Surely the future success of your business is too important for that?

Friday, 13 July 2012

Improving the Motivation and Satisfaction of Your Staff

I read an interesting article by Kenneth Sheldon and Sonya Lyubominsky about their research into what makes people happy and reflected on how their research can be applied to motivate our staff more effectively. They recruited people who had experienced two types of change: • Circumstantial Change – which involved relatively important alterations to their own circumstances (such as a pay rise, house move or purchase of a new car) • Intentional Change – which involves changes that required effort to pursue, (such as learning a new skill? Changing career or joining a new club) Sheldon and Lyubominsky asked the participants to record their levels of happiness over a number of weeks. The results consistently showed that although people in both groups experienced an immediate rise in happiness, those that experienced circumstantial change found their happiness levels quickly reverted to back to their initial levels, while those who had made an intentional change remained happier for a longer period. Why would this happen and what are the implications for or anyone else who manages people? According to Sheldon and Lyubominsky it is due to a phenomenon known as ‘hedonistic habituation’. Humans get a great deal of enjoyment from any news from a positive experience. However, give someone the same experience time and time again they quickly become familiar with it and so stop getting anywhere near as much pleasure from it. I believe the implications of the research for myself and anyone who manages others is very significant. Encouraging your staff to learn new skills, take on new responsibilities or being involved in challenging projects will provide a much longer sense of satisfaction for staff than giving them a pay rise. I am certainly not advocating that we don’t pay a fair wage for employees but in today’s tough economic climate, when it can be difficult to justify pay increases, we must not forget the motivational benefits and satisfaction we all gain from developing ourselves and learning new skills.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Having a crucial conversation with your boss

At some point in your career you will come across a boss who you find difficult, tough to get on with or just plain irritating! This can be difficult to resolve because you may see things in binary terms, either keep quiet and put up or destroy the relationship with your boss and possibly lose your job! I once had a situation many years ago when I ‘inherited’ a new boss. He was a decent guy and wanted the best for the business. The problem for me was his style. His office was about 150 miles from me and so I only saw him face to face every 2/3 weeks. He wanted to know in great detail what I was doing when I would get things done and would frequently ask me to update him. I felt at times I was spending more time keeping him informed than I was doing my job! I had a reasonably senior role being responsible for a factory of several hundred people and enjoyed the level of responsibility and independence I had with my previous boss and could not cope with what I saw was ‘over control’ . I needed to do something but recognised that simply confronting him and telling him to ‘back off’ would get me nowhere. I decided to wait until our next meeting to discuss it. At the meeting I explained to him what I thought my overall objectives and targets needed to be and how progress could be measured. I also provided specific instances where he had asked for frequent updates from me or instructed me to do things in a certain way. I explained to him that I felt this to be very ‘controlling’ and had become frustrated with the consistent updates and reports. I asked him if there were ways that we could work more efficiently together – I recognised that he needed to know that the factory was performing well and suggested giving him a weekly update on a number of KPI’s. I also suggested that we have formal monthly 1:1 reviews where we could discuss performance and progress. Whilst it was a risky strategy I also said that if all I did was do what he told me to do then one of us wasn’t really needed. The discussion paid off. He recognised that his style was not helpful to getting the best out of me and I recognised his need for ‘comfort’ that the factory was performing well and there were no major issues. Sometime it’s important to face up to these types of issues. While approaching your boss about a difficult subject, my own experience is that it is far preferable to do this than leave things unsaid. If approached in the correct way, most issues can be discussed and resolved. It is important to explain to your boss the issues (with specific factual examples) and how these things are impacting on you. Ask for their side of the ‘story’, how do they see things? Are your views similar or opposing? By discussing the issues in an adult manner you will ultimately resolve them.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Demonstrating Greater Impact

Early in my career as a trainer, I had some pretty tough feedback from a client who claimed that I didn’t have enough ‘impact’. This was a bitter pill to swallow as I had never been given feedback like that before, and to make matters worse the client didn’t give me any specifics about what led him to think this. My first response was to dismiss the feedback, as it wasn’t supported by specific examples to help me understand what I was or wasn’t doing and so I felt the feedback was about as useful as a chocolate teapot. A number of years later I read an interesting book about body language by the husband and wife team Alan and Barbara Pease. It was only then that I reflected on the feedback I had been given and realised that it was probably certain aspects of my body language that gave the impression that I lacked conviction or impact. The more I read about it the more I realised that by making subtle changes to what I did would enable me to be seen in a more positive light. I noticed that when I was training and made a particular point I had a tendency to step backwards slightly rather than staying still or moving forwards. I also noticed that I occasionally shifted my weight from one foot to the other, which gave the impression that I was unsure or nervous (although I didn’t feel nervous at the time). In addition I recognised that I held onto the flipchart probably too often. This probably gave the impression that I was using it as a crutch and it certainly didn’t help me to emphasise any points I wanted to make with my hands. Making myself aware of my own body language made me feel pretty uncomfortable and self-conscious at first. However, I realised that I needed to make a few subtle changes to what I did if I was to create a more favourable impression. However, I worked on these 3 things and so far so good, I haven’t received any more feedback about the lack of impact I have when training, well so far anyway!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Three Tops Tips to Reduce Workplace Stress

Research studies have shown that workplace stress impairs a worker’s ability to function intellectually, emotionally, and in his or her interactions with others. He or she is rendered incapable of meeting the requirements of the job.

The following three recommendations to reduce workplace stress are offered as a beginning step:

1. Clarify: Be sure each employee has a job description, and fully understands everything on it. If you are the employee, request a job description. Know WHO is responsible for a task, and WHAT the task is, and you will reduce workplace stress.

2. Control: Give employees as much control as possible, since control directly impacts reactions to high stress situations. An employee who is allowed, within reason, to control his or her workflow will be much more able to handle workplace stress.

3. Communicate: Make communication easy among workers. Employees and employers alike should be comfortable with conversations about positive and negative situations. Comfortable communication on small matters can lead to communication on workplace stress, thereby reducing the problem.

A wise employer will reduce workplace stress. A wise employee will do everything possible to communicate his or her to the employer, and work together to reduce workplace stress.

Would you like more information on how to reduce stress in the workplace? See our Managing Stress Training Course, or call Mark Evenden on 0845 409 2346.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Is leadership different now to 50 years ago?

I came across the transcript of a talk given by Field Marshall William Slim about his experiences of leadership at The Seventh Elbourne Memorial Lecture in 1962, and wondered if the essence of leadership had changed much in the past 50 years.

For those of you who have not heard of him, Field Marshall Slim was born in 1891, fought in both the First and Second world wars, and was wounded in action several times. During World War II he led the 14th Army, the so-called "forgotten army" in the Burma campaign.

What Slim spoke about at the memorial lecture made interesting reading. He believed leadership to be a combination of Courage, Willpower, Judgment, Flexibility, Knowledge, Integrity.

First courage because it is the virtue in a person. Without courage there are no virtues. Faith, hope, charity, and the rest do not become virtues until it takes courage to exercise them. For example, a leader has to have courage to make the right decisions and stand by them.

Next, willpower – the determination to see something through.

Then judgment, a cool balancing of the pro’s and con’s, which is essential because the greater a person’s courage, the stronger their determination and the greater the disaster if they choose the wrong course.

With a changing world, flexibility of the mind is essential. So ‘I’ve done it this way for the past 10 years and been successful’ is not a good reason as it may once have been for traditional approaches.

Knowledge is also vital as he or she must keep a jump or two ahead, not just of competitors but also followers, otherwise they have no justification for trying to lead them. Leaders therefore must never stop learning.

Finally, leaders must have integrity, and integrity in a leader is more than honesty, it also means a having a genuine love your people.

What he said struck a cord with me and my own experiences of leading teams, and so I decided to delve a bit deeper by looking at more recent leadership. I opened my copy of James Kouzes and Barry Posner book, The Leadership Challenge, to see what they had to say about leadership.

Interestingly in the section about what followers most admired in their superiors, Kouzes and Posner identified that the characteristics were 1) integrity (is truthful, has conviction), 2) competence (capable, productive, efficient), 3) forward looking and 4) Inspiring.

So the qualities Field Marshall Slim espoused 50 years ago are in my view very similar to those identified by Kouzes and Posner, and are therefore still relevant today. For example, both describe the importance of honesty and integrity, knowledge and competence.

The main difference I feel between what Fiield Marshall Slim’s view of leadership was and leadership today is that we want our leaders to be forward looking and provide direction. However, perhaps this was not much of an issue for him, because what he was trying to achieve was probably very clear to his troops anyway.

Friday, 27 January 2012

12 Behaviours of Leaders Who Inspire Trust

I would like to share with you 12 common behaviours of trusted leaders around the world which build and maintain trust. When you adopt these ways of behaving, it's like making deposits into a "trust account" of another party.

1. Listen first
2. Talk straight
3. Demonstrate respect
4. Create transparency
5. Right any wrongs
6. Show loyalty
7. Deliver results
8. Improve
9. Confront reality
10. Clarify expectation
11. Practice accountability
12. Keep commitments

Remember that these 12 behaviours always need to be balanced by each other (e.g., Talk straight needs to be balanced by Demonstrate respect) and that any behaviour pushed to the extreme can actually then become a weakness.

The job of a leader is to go first, and to extend trust first. This should not be a blind trust without expectations and accountability, but rather a "smart trust" with clear expectations and strong accountability built into the process. The best leaders always lead out with a decided propensity to trust, as opposed to a propensity not to trust. As Craig Weatherup, former CEO of PepsiCo said, "Trust cannot become a performance multiplier unless the leader is prepared to go first."

The best leaders recognize that trust impacts us 24/7, and 365 days a year. It underpins and affects the quality of every relationship, every communication, every work project, every business venture, every effort in which we are engaged. It changes the quality of every present moment and alters the direction and outcome of every future moment of our lives -- both personally and professionally. Will you inspire someone’s trust in you today?

Monday, 16 January 2012

Giving Better Presentations

by Mark Evenden @ Developing People

Presentations are often quoted as being one of the most feared things that a manager has to do. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Yes, the first time that you give one you will be very nervous, and in my experience, although the nerves will never go away completely, the more practice you have the more confident you will become. The following are 10 tips that have helped me over the years to deliver more effective presentations.

1. Research your audience. What is it they need to know? What do they know already? Make sure that you match your content to them and structure your presentation clearly by starting with the introduction, followed by the main content (facts, arguments, supporting data), and finally conclusions and a summary.

2. Think about how you will be perceived by your audience. Giving a presentation is like giving a performance, and so dress appropriately for the occasion so that you present the desired image to your audience.

3. Your body language is important. You will be more believable if your body language is congruent with what you say. So practice in front of a mirror, use a video or get feedback from a trusted friend/colleague. Try not to be seated when giving a presentation - your body movements will be restricted, your voice will not be as powerful and overall the presentation will have less impact. In general, stand with your feet shoulder width apart, use open gestures and keep your hands below shoulder level – and of course smile!

4. Speak with conviction. Believe in what you are saying. It will help if you write you presentation yourself. Stand up and speak slowly, clearly and loudly. Pretend you are speaking to the person at the back of the room. Never ask if anyone cannot hear you - I once heard someone reply to the question, ‘Can you hear me at the back?’ – ‘Yes but I don’t mind swapping with someone who can’t!’

5. Don’t read from notes. While it is quite acceptable to refer to your notes from time to time, do not read from them for extended periods. If you miss something, do not worry as your audience will not know. If it is important then come back to it, if not simply move on.

6. Maintain eye contact with the audience. Eye contact is important because it gives the impression that you are talking to people and not at them. Make direct eye contact with a number of people in the audience and every now and then glance at the whole audience. In this way the audience will feel involved.

7. Respond to your audience. Watch your audience, how are they responding to what you say? Are they interested or have they become bored? Change your strategy if you need to. Speak more quickly (or slowly!), vary your tone, and be prepared to add additional material to regain their attention. The key to this is being prepared, so that you know what can be left out or added if needed.

8. Make sure that any audio and/or visual aids you use ‘add’ to your presentation and are not the reason for it. Avoid gaudy colours, too much animation, unnecessary sound effects and those dreaded bullet points. No one wants to sit through 100 PowerPoint slides! Check that all audio visual aids work in plenty of time before the presentation, and have a backup plan in case anything fails.

9. If you are giving hand outs tell your audience ahead of time so that they don’t waste time writing unnecessary notes. If you wish to give them out at the start be prepared for the audience to flick through them while you are talking.

10. Finish on time. Time your presentation to perfection by practicing it and knowing what you can add in or leave out. It is important that you know when to stop talking! To end your presentation, summarize your main points and leave your listeners with a positive impression and a sense of completion.

You don’t have to go on a management training course to improve your presentation skills. By following my simple hints and tips set out above, combined with plenty of practice you will soon be able to deliver the perfect presentation! Good luck!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Management Training - How to Make It Stick!

How often have you been on a Management Training course and failed to implement what you were taught?

Many organisations struggle with the same issue – there is no point spending time and money on Management Training and Development if the participants don’t put into practice what was learned.

But how can you encourage your managers to ACT?

The key to ensuring Management Training is successful is quite simply to:

1. Make it relevant and useful.
2. Provide appropriate sponsorship, follow up and support.

Make it relevant
It is vital to make the Management Training relevant to the participants by ensuring that they can apply what they have learned immediately when they return to work.

For example, you may send someone on an advanced Excel course so that they can learn how to build complex spreadsheets. However, when they return if they don’t have an opportunity to apply their learning immediately, they will soon forget it. Habits are only formed by people continually practicing what they learn.

The second element to ensuring success of a Management Training programme is sponsorship. To gain commitment from managers to use their learning, it is essential that Senior Managers sponsor the Management Training effectively. For example, senior managers should:

• Demonstrate public commitment to Management Training and the benefits it will deliver to the organisation.
• Regularly review with participants how they have applied their learning.
• Sanction any inappropriate behaviour from the participants (e.g. participants not turning up to training sessions).
• Regularly sell the benefits of training and development.
• Target and hold their managers accountable for delivering improved performance.
• Accept the significance of their role in the success of any Management Training.

By ensuring that Management Training programmes are sponsored appropriately by Senior Management and the content is relevant and useful to the participants, will ensure that the participants THINK and ACT differently as a result of their learning.