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Category: Management

  1. How to stop people moaning

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    Today, it’s lucky that I only had about 3 hours of work that I HAD to get done, because I made a breakthrough in something I’ve been struggling with for years, and I needed to strike whilst the iron is hot.

    If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that my broadband is terrible. It is my second favourite topic to tweet about after L&D. I have complained, privately and publicly to anyone and everyone for about the last 5 years. My complaints have been ignored, or politely dismissed. Sometimes I’ve managed to get as far as an email exchange but things soon dwindle from their end.

    But today an actual person took interest. She gave me her direct contact details and asked me to call.

    • She LISTENED to my frustrations
    • She ASKED what I’d done so far, and about my circumstances
    • She set me a clear ACTION POINT.

    Which I put into place immediately!!!

    The terrible nature of my broadband has been a bug bear for years. It is largely outside of my control. However, what this lady was able to do was help me to find something that was WITHIN my circle of control, and challenged me to do it. If I complete the task she set me, she will then take the next step. She put the ball in my court, but has indicated she’s in the game with me.

    I’ve always been a massive fan of Steven Covey’s Circle of Concern Model – it genuinely changed my life, and reduced my stress levels considerably, and she just put something within my Circle of Control.

    It made me wonder about how many people moan about things at work? Does anything ever get done as a result of these moans, or do the moans just gradually suck the life force out of the people who work there, and so the business itself?

    It’s true that we sometimes moan about stuff that doesn’t REALLY matter. Sometimes a moan is cry for attention. Sometimes it’s a genuine frustration. Regardless of the seriousness of the moan, following these 3 steps can help eradicate them…

    If we LISTEN, and if the moan is something that doesn’t really matter, just the fact that we have been listened to may well be enough. If it isn’t, ASKING shows that you value the persons’ feelings and can again either stop the moan there OR become the first step in solving a problem. Often, like me, people feel frustrated and powerless. They actually WANT to solve the problem and are willing to take action and put the effort in, but they feel that it’s out of their hands. If they are empowered to solve the problem, they will. All they need is for someone to help them to see alternatives, expand their circle of control and hold them accountable.

    My bite size training module on Empowering Leadership touches on this as well as other useful tools.

     

  2. 10 Mistakes New Managers Make

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    It's disappointing that even today, many people take on, or are promoted into a job without real training. This is a sad reflection on a businesses induction training - and if you need help with that then our friends at Keystone Development are highly recommended.

    But the purpose of this blog is to highlight some of the mistakes that new managers make in the hope that forewarned is forearmed. So what are the typical problems?

    1. Not setting out expectations – What’s obvious to you may not be obvious to others. They are not mind readers. Discuss what is expected and set clear goals and objectives so that you CAN leave your team to get on with things.
    2. Poor planning and prioritisation – Many managers simply react to what is happening around them, or jump to attend to their boss whenever called. Even very hands-on managers need to take time to plan each day and identify what MUST be done, as well as focus on the future.
    3. Not delegating – You can’t do it all yourself, and you shouldn’t try. You have a team now, and people in that team need to feel useful and valued. Do your fair share of the work, but don’t do it all.
    4. Focussing on paperwork – many managers make the mistake of focussing all their time and energy on paperwork, reports, admin and spreadsheets. Reading and manipulating data will not achieve results. Managing is about PEOPLE so prioritise them over paperwork.
    5. Lack of Trust – When you have high standards, and when you are responsible for the work of the team, it is tempting to check everything personally. However, this creates a bottle-neck and makes the team feel that they are not trusted. Instead of spending time checking, spend the time coaching.
    6. Trying to be ‘one of the guys’ – Of course you can have friendships at work, but when you are at work, you are a manager. You cannot gain respect as a manager if you act too much like one of the team. set and stick to boundaries.
    7. Not asking for help – When you start a new job or are promoted, give yourself time to grow into the role. You don’t and can’t know everything you need to from day one. Learn from more experienced managers, ask for advice and even consider getting a mentor.
    8. Being busy rather than productive – Many managers rush from one crisis situation to another, from one meeting to another. They work long hours but never seem to achieve anything. Identify the activities that will add most value to your objective/team and focus your time on those. It feels good to 'save the day', but this can be addictive and managers who are too involved are doing, not managing.
    9. Being too eager to please – Many managers feel their job is soley about helping others (which in part it is), but this doesn’t mean getting involved in things that don’t help your team to achieve its objectives, or getting sucked into other peoples problems. Sometimes you have to make unpopular decisions or have difficult conversations. Being respected isn't always about being nice.
    10. Poor performance management – Managers have a duty to manage the performance of their people. This means having conversations every day about what is going well, and where improvements need to be made. Giving feedback is probably the single most important skill that a manager needs.
    We have done our best to provide training materials to give people the skills to avoid these problems - In particular, our New Manager Bundle and Performance Management Package have been designed to help new managers to get to grips with the basics and avoid these common mistakes.
  3. The Coaching Continuum

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    At the outset, I would like to frame this piece by stressing that I DON'T advertise myself as a coach. I have a basic qualification in coaching and don't offer coaching as a stand-alone service. However, I do help managers to develop basic coaching skills so that they can have constructive and developmental conversations with their teams. So... here's goes.

    I ran a half-day session on coaching skills for managers recently. There was a confusion over what coaching actually is. As I see it, it means different things to different people. The construction manager will tell you that he's coaching people when he shows them how to build a wall; the engineering team leader may tell you she's coaching people when they solve a problem together; the professional coach may tell you that it's about unlocking personal obstacles.

    Some people are scared to offer 'coaching' at work because they associate it with counselling. Some people feel that it can only take place in a long, formal session and therefore isn't compatible with the modern business needs of agility and pace. Others think that they can only coach someone if they are an expert themselves.

    This is why I wanted to state my position at the start: I'm not precious about the definition people use. To me, 'coaching' can fall anywhere on the continuum below, and the format of coaching will vary depending on the nature of the issue, the urgency of finding a solution, the relationship between the individuals, whether there is a single 'right' way or many, and the risk associated with choosing an untested path. What matters is that people work together to find the best way forward for them.

    coaching continuum

     

     

    I cover this in my bite-size module 'Coach People', as well as the core skills. It's not designed to provide the skills needed to be a professioanl coach. It's designed to help line managers have supportive yet challenging developmental conversations with their people to create learning from real-work situations.

  4. Good Leadership boils down to one thing...

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    Recently, I’ve had a number of reminders of fundamental things that we all need to practice to be successful, and last night at my Zumba class, there was another.

    I haven’t done a Zumba related blog for a while, and it’s actually more of a Leadership one. Management and Leadership development is important. No question. A good management induction helps new leaders to understand what’s required of them, and leadership development helps them to learn to execute these things well. That’s why I offer both a New Manager Development Bundle and a Leadership Package!

    But there something more crucial than any of these (important) skills. And it’s something ALL leaders and managers can do from day 1 in the role.

    And this is where the Zumba analogy comes in.

    business leader

    At my last class, my teacher did not have the same energy and enthusiasm as usual. She seemed distracted, and almost like she didn’t want to be there. As a result, MY energy wasn’t the same as usual. It was as if subconsciously, I didn’t want her to feel alone. It wouldn’t be right for a mere class member to be better than the teacher, so I didn’t put the effort in. I didn’t work off the same number of calories, and neither did I enjoy it as much.

    You see, she is our role model. She’s the one who shows us how it’s done. The one we all want to be like. She is our leader. (As it is, she wasn’t feeling well, so actually didn’t want to be there – she’d rather have been at home in her pyjamas with a Lemsip).

    But it made me realise that the single most important thing that any leader can do, and any level, in any organisation is to role model the behaviour they want to see from their team. If the team sees the manager being negative, cutting corners, blaming others and having no enthusiasm for their work, it is likely that they will follow suit.

    Leaders simply need to be the person they want all their team members to be.

    I’ve made a career of designing bespoke management development programmes on behalf of busy L&D managers, and of course, I believe that they add value. However, this one thing can be done by ALL managers and leaders, from day 1, with no cost and no resources.

  5. New Year, New Approach to Developing New Managers?

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    Everyone is starting to wind down now, and thoughts are turning towards 2018. Maybe end of year reviews are taking place and people are considering their career development.

    If you are promoting people to a management position for the first time - make sure you don't leave them to 'sink or swim'...

  6. Realistic Time Management

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    I'm pretty good at managing my time, but like many things, I've only truly gotten the hang of it when I hit my 30s and had kids. My husband and I parent without a safety net (AKA extended family) so we are superb at planning and scheduling: Some days it can quite literally be one in one out, but our ability to organise things has always served us well. Of course, it's one thing planning, organising and scheduling, but the REAL trick to making it all work is to be reliable. We have to totally trust each other to do what we say we will, when we say we will.

    This is kind of background to the point I want to make.

    When I run Time Management workshops, the recurring problem is how to fit more in to an already overstuffed diary. People feel stressed and never seem to finish their to-do lists. I am not stressed and I always complete what I need to complete (barring illness or natural disaster). That's because I'm realistic.

    • I'm realistic about how long things take
    • I'm realistic about my abilities
    • I'm realistic when setting goals and agreeing outcomes with clients.

    I'm lucky I know. I work for myself so it's easier for me to take control of my workload than those who get work allocated from someone else and that undoubtedly helps.

    But my work is largely creative, and creativity doesn't tend to stick to schedules (Which can very difficult to explain to the highly qualified PRINCE2 project manager you are liasing with). Just yesterday my brain didn't properly switch on until 4pm, and then it was pretty much time to fetch the kids and go into 'mum' mode. I'd faffed around for 6 hours yet had little to show for it. 

    Today I've been a lot more focussed. I've cracked on, and if tomorrow is the same I'll have totally caught up with where I expected to be at the end of Wednesday.

    So you are probably thinking that if I can do 3 day's work in 2, I'm under-utilised. Surely I could do more work? Aren't I taking the mickey and slacking off?

    My feeling is 'NO'.

    I've been in this game long enough to know that I have brain dead days, and computer-problem days, and days when clients don't get back to me and days when I need to tend to some domestic emergency. So I factor it in. No point in pretending that it isn't going to happen, it is, so I plan for it.

    That's why I always build in the 'buggeration factor' and never allocate more than 80% of my time. If I've got 4 days work planned in a week, my diary is full. Because something will cause a set back during the week. We don't live in an ideal world, we live in a real world, and real world planning takes imperfect things into account.

    So, my top 3 tips for stree-free time management are:

    1. Be realistic about how long you have and how long things actually take (not ought to take)
    2. Set realistic goals - ones that you are 99% sure you can achieve
    3. Build in the buggeration factor

    And if you want to run an interactive bite-size training session to help people plan their time better, we have everything you need!

  7. How to be Resilient

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    I’ve been struggling to write a bite-size training module on Resilience for over a year because resilience is natural to me. It’s like asking Adele how to sing, or David Beckham how to play football. They just do it.

    In trying to pin point why I’m so resilient, a number of factors come to mind:

    1. I have to be. I left home for university at 18, and (initially at least) being surrounded by strangers, I had to look after myself. There was no-one to come to my rescue if things went badly. This has continued. Though married to a massively supportive husband, it’s just us two. We don’t live close to family and we’ve moved around a bit meaning we don’t have long-standing close friends. It’s just us. We have to just deal with whatever life throws at us in the best way we can. There really is no point crying when things go wrong and waiting for someone to come to my rescue. No-one (other than my husband) will, and he can’t always do that. I must be able to get myself out of my own holes.

    2. I’m quite unemotional. Not to Mr Spock levels; I do experience happiness, sadness, frustration etc, but I’m not one of these people who experiences massive highs and lows (sometimes many times in a day – how do people cope with constant emotional rollercoaster?). I struggle to understand why people go into mourning all over again every anniversary of a loved one’s death. I mourn when the people I love die, but then it’s in the past. Likewise, I find it odd when people seem ecstatic over minor good news. Recently my car was broken into, and although I knew I should be angry or upset, but I wasn’t. I was annoyed though… my first thought was “Darn – now I can’t go to the cheese shop as planned” followed by “who do I need to tell about this to sort it out?”, which leads me to the third point…

    3. I’m practical. As is my husband. When I discovered Stephen Covey’s Circle of Concern I identified with it immediately: When faced with the unexpected, my reaction is always “what can I do about this?”. Eighteen months ago I had two large projects lined up for two different clients: One of the clients called me to apologise that it was going to have to be cancelled due to a budget review. The very next day the other client called cancelled due to major re-organisation and the fact that she was being made redundant. My reaction was to make a cup of tea, take a moment and then contact a consultancy I have a relationship with to ask if there was any associate work going. There was a little, and I was grateful for it. I can only do what I can do. These contracts were gone and I needed to find alternative work, so I did.

    4. I accept change quickly. This is related to the first 3 points. I was a bit concerned about my lack of emotion, but then realised very recently that I simply move through the ‘change curve’ very quickly – sometimes in a matter of minutes. So yes, I DO experience anger, depression etc. but they are fleeting: My (logical and practical) brain is able to quickly get to the ‘testing/bargaining’ phase and work with the new reality.

    I’m still not sure how to put this into a bite-size training module, but later in the year when I have less commissioned work, I will try.

  8. Brexit - The Mother of all Change

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    Firstly, I'm not going to use this blog as a way to express my own political views or feelings about the decision of the UK to leave Europe, so you can all relax.

    Instead, I'm going to focus on the reactions to that decision: Within households, workplaces, social media sites, more traditional media and thoughout government, the Reaction to Change (Grief) curve could not be clearly illustrated. Those who wanted to remin feel angry. Those who voted to leave feel shock. These are strong emotions and whilst these emotions are so raw, we can't act rationally. We need time to process what's happened, and to work out what that means for us (not what politicians or biased press will have us believe it will mean for us). When we've processed that, we can start to THINK about what the change means as opposed to FEELING it.

    Once we've thought about it, properly, we can start to think about behaviours, and what we can do now to make things better for ourselves, and make this decision work.

    This is one of the biggest and most fundamental changes I've ever experienced. Other big changes in my life - having children, setting up a business, moving across the country have all had a lot of preparation time and that makes things easier. Big changes without proper preparation are always going to be harder.

    Within organisations, there are rarely changes on this scale, and when there are, they are usually planned, controlled and managed with one message being clear, as opposed to multiple conflicting ones flying around. But people still feel shock, anger, depression and confusion, as well as maybe a little excitement, curiosity and hope. During this emotive phase, there will be conflict: It's normal and can be healthy as long as it's managed and doesn't become personal or damaging. With time and support, people adapt. Without either, the change will be destructive. Therefore, managers need to understand what happens to people as they experience change, and be able to provide the right sort of support at the right time.

    As this topic is so 'hot' right now, if you buy both Change training modules; Manage The Impact of Change and Handle Resistance to Change in the next 4 weeks, we will send you our Module on Managing Conflict free of charge. (Offer ends 22nd July 2016, Manage conflict sent via email once payment for Change Modules is made).

  9. Resistance to Change - It's Normal!

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    Anyone who knows me personally, or has read a number of my blogs, will know that I LOVE Zumba.

    Last year when my then Zumba Instructor decided to stop teaching it in favour of a form of glow-in-the-dark 'rave' aerobics, I found another Zumba class...and I was very happy doing what I loved doing twice a week.

    However, times change. New things come along and some people get bored easily. Now my new instructor decided to drop one of the Zumba classes in favour of Clubbercise. Devastated may be strong word, but I was really saddened by this. Afterall, I'd been here before. I'd tried the alternative and I didn't like it. 

    I realised that I was going through the classic reaction to change (grief) curve which is covered in our 'Manage the Impact of Change' Power Hour.

     change curve

    At first, I tried to ignore the facebook messages that cubbercise was coming soon (immobilisation). Even when the instructor went on her course, I convinced myself that she would do classes on a different day. This new-fangled nonsense wouldn't affect me (sounds like denial doesn't it?). Then she announced that my class was being replaced. Anger! My immediate reaction was "Well, I'll find another class", "I won't go on principle, then she'll HAVE to switch it back to Zumba". I'd tried this sort of thing before and didn't like it. However, I soon found that alternative classes were either on at times I couldn't get to them, or were run by instructors that simply aren't energetic enough for me. So...that helped me towards 'bargaining'. Maybe this class would be different to the one I'd tried before. It was being run by a different person afterall. So I convinced myself that I would attend 2 classes, just to support the instructor, and find out if it was going to be as bad as I expected.

    So I went. Trying to keep an open mind, but struggling. BUT because I knew I was going through the change curve I was able to keep my feelings in perspective.

    The class was OK. Better than I expected. So, I find myself hitting 'depression' - that Zumba is unlikely to be reinstated, at the same time as 'testing' - I'm genuinely giving Clubbercise a go.

    So why is it so hard to adapt to change?

    dancing-273875_1280

    In our 'Handle Resistance to Change' Power Hour we explore how resistance to change is often due to us experiencing a loss of some sort. We explore 5 typical losses that are often the underlying the reason for resistance. I took a look at them. Maybe my resistance was due to a loss of security (familiarity) or status (I'm good at it) - but whilst these may be a factor, they aren't the main reason. The main reason is that I really REALLY enjoy Zumba. I love the variety of music, I love the routines. So maybe this should also be taken into account when we meet resistance to change: Enjoyment. Enjoyment is something we feel - It can't be rationalised, reasoned with, or explained away. So maybe when managers need to introduce change that takes away people's enjoyment, they perhaps need to consider this in their approach. Accept how people feel, be empathetic, give them time, find similarities between what is new and what is old (even though the music is different, around half the moves are the same in Clubbercise, which helps a bit), be supportive but accept that sometimes people won't be willing to make the chance and they will look for satisfaction elsewhere.

  10. The Virtuous Cycle: Performance and Support

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    As my kids get older, I’ve noticed that the Hawthorne effect (first cited in 1958, but relating to studies conducted in the 1920’s & 30’s) is very much alive and well.

    Both of them have participated in sport of some kind or another since they started school. They do it mostly for fun, but there is also a small part of them that wants to be really good (especially in my son’s case). My son has both tennis and badminton lessons; my daughter, trampolining. They are both good (but not outstanding) in their chosen sports.

    In both the tennis and trampolining, the club is happy to take the money and they go through the motions of coaching them. The kids enjoy their time, but they aren’t passionate and although they do improve, its only slowly. The coaches spend more time with the kids (or parents) who demand their attention or have extra (private) lessons.

    In badminton, my son has been given lots of attention and praise by his coach. We get regular feedback on his progress too. He has been actively encouraged, challenged and supported from the beginning. As a result, his performance has improved at a much greater rate than in other sports, and his motivation and commitment to badminton has also increased. This of course, brings more attention from the coach, which means his performance improves, and encourages us to let him have more lessons. It’s a virtuous circle.

    virtuous circle

    Maybe managers should treat all their team members as potential champions, even when their performance is nothing special. Maybe the attention, support and challenge will motivate someone to try just a little bit harder and perform just that little bit better, just as it did in the original Hawthorne study. We all need to feel that someone is rooting for us; that we want to make someone proud.I’m not sure if my son has more natural talent for badminton than tennis, but his performance is certainly better. I don’t know if his performance led to the extra coaching support, or if the extra coaching support led to his improved performance: All I know is that the two are clearly linked and that this 'virtuous cycle' runs both ways.

    Setting goals, giving regular feedback, coaching, and motivating people are fundamental responsibilities of a coach…and of a manager. They are the things that result in high performance. If your managers need help getting into these habits, our bite-size training modules can help. Little, frequent boosts can make a huge difference to everyone's performance.