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!