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Category: Management

  1. How has Leadership and Management Training Changed? - Part 3

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    In my previous two blogs on leadership and management in more traditional v tech/knowledge-based industries (which you can read HERE and HERE), I discussed how leaders and managers in different types of organisation have very different remits, and so need to have very different styles and skills.

    It’s not that one way is right and the other is wrong. Leadership/management style is either appropriate or not for the industry you work in.

    And this brings me (finally) back to the original question “How has Management and Leadership Training changed in the last 25 years?”

    When I started my career, it was in a regulated industry in a traditional business. People (generally) liked to be told what to do. Yes, they liked to have a little flexibility to add their own style, but generally, having a checklist explaining what was acceptable, what wasn’t and what good looked like was appreciated. It still is. Experienced people are still generally respected, and traditional training – both on and off the job, being guided by an expert still works. These people can’t learn at their desk. They often don’t have a desk. Many don’t have easy access to tech. Training needs to be formal and planed in advance BUT that doesn’t mean it’s all chalk and talk…’traditional’ training is much more interactive and much more respectful of the experience in the room that it was 25 years ago.

    In the creative/knowledge-based industries, leaders still need to be made aware of the boundaries they shouldn’t cross, but so much more is self-discovered, so much more is being created as we go. Training has to be much more reactive to give people (and the business) what they need rather than being able to create development far in advance because roles (and so training needs) are not so clearly defined. Learning is much more in the moment because the pace of change is so much faster. There is no single expert to turn to – everyone is an expert at something, so L&Ds role is much more about connecting people together in a meaningful way.

    And that’s where I think too much generalising about leadership and management training is dangerous. Too many people seem to suggest that a more traditional approach is not effective. Naturally, it’s not effective in a creative, tech-centred, knowledge-based business. Of course digital learning, peer learning is the right thing to do. It fits how the business works. However, a self-serve , on-line, peer-discovery approach to L&D will be less effective in more traditional industries. For safety and/or regulation requirements, people need to be signed off. Even in terms of process and behaviour, there needs to be a consistency across sites, and that means formal training – they can’t just do what they think is best. The consequences could be catastrophic.

    So the difficult thing for trainers is that there’s no single right way to approach L&D, it very much depends on your industry.

  2. How has Leadership and Management Training Changed? - Part 1

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    Earlier this month I was lucky enough to be invited to Bulgaria to support a growing team and help them to define ‘what good looks like’ and how to develop leaders for the future.

    For the first time in my career I was the oldest person in the room! One of the delegates asked me (as we anjoyed a drink after the workshop) "How has Leadership and Managament TRaining changed since you started your career?" I thought this was a great question, and I intend to answer it, albeit in a round about way.

    To give you some context, generally, I work with quite traditional organisations (manufacturing, construction, finance), but this client works in a highly technical and more creative sector, and most of the people employed there are very tech-savvy and brilliant in their own way. The traditional ways of working do not apply: People are given responsibility based on ability and attitude – not years of experience. This is quite different to how things used to be: generally, you couldn’t even be considered for a Team Leader role unless you had served 3 years, and no-one would be considered for a senior role unless they had a minimum of 10 years’ experience, no matter how good they were.

    In some ways, this was good… people with responsibility had lots of experience to fall back on. In other’s it was not – you could be held back due to some arbitrary rule, and of course, years’ service discriminates against women.

    However, it did make management training and leadership development quite easy. As a rule, we knew where managers were at each stage of their career: what they had done (and not done); what skills they would have developed already and ones they were unlikely to have; the level of decision-making they had experience of; and what responsibility they had for people management. In traditional industries such as manufacturing, retail, construction, hospitality, health-care, this still (more or less) applies. Jobs are more clearly defined, decision-making authority clear and reporting lines fixed. There is a hierarchy, and everyone knows what they are (and are not) expected to do. Information and responsibility still goes up and down the line, with good reason.

    Management and Leadership training in this sector still needs to focus on the more traditional skills:

    It’s not that ‘people skills’ aren’t important – of course they are! BUT focus on process and efficiency is more so. Leaders in this type of industry are reqiured to make the process work and ensure standards are met. Contrary to what many articles will tell you, it’s not out-dated. Not if you work in a traditional, process (or regulation) driven industry. It’s highly appropriate, so this is where the focus of core management and leadership development should be in my opinion.

    factory team

    Next week, I shall share my observations about how this is different in the knowledge-based/tech/creative industries.

    READ PART 2 NOW

  3. What racing around the world has taught me

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    around the world

    Sadly, it's not me that has been racing around the world - but 5 (now 4) pairs of intrepid explorers as part of a BBC programme. I don't usually watch 'reality' shows, but this one had me hooked from the start, as it quickly exposed how differently we handle uncertainty and pressure.

    The person who has been on the biggest learning journey is Alex. Probably becuase he is the youngest at just 20. All of the others have life experience to fall back on. It seemed that Alex had probably led a very easy and sheltered life.

    So even when travelling through Europe, he was out of his comfort zone: Without his phone, where normal routines didn't work, where he had to think for himself and adapt quickly, he complained, he sulked and basically struggled. His Dad (and travelling partner) was clearly frustrated at his immature attitude.

    In terms of the brain's social needs (David Rock) - all 5 elements had taken a hit: His Status (initially he was very image conscious), Certainty (for sure), Autonomy (he could no longer do what he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted), Relationships (him and his Dad weren't close) and sense of Fairness were all challenged. The Impact of Change was huge, and he struggled - which meant his dad struggled too.

    The thing is, he had no resilience. In his cosy little world, it looks like he'd never had his relisilience tested; I suspect that he'd never had to dig deep and get himself out of a difficult sitation. The easy option was always the preferred option, and resilience is something that can only truly be developed through experience. Yes, we can raise awareness and get into good habits, (which is what my Power Hour Module on this aims to do) but it's only when we put our resilience to work, that we can strengthen and develop it.

    And boy, in 6 weeks has Alex's resilience developed!! He is diving into new experiences where he previously backed away; he's being assertive, taking the lead and seems willing to fail. He's now (generally) enjoying the trip, and is a totally different character. His dad is (quite rightly) proud of the man his son is becoming.

    Change isn't easy - especially when you have limited life experience and haven't developed resilience. Organisations and middle-aged managers need to realise that, and demonstrate a little understanding and provide help. Those who are younger and experiencing uncomfortable change need to be brave, to trust those with experience, to take the help that's offered, and to try. 

    Bite-size training on Change and Resilience won't magically transform your organisation, or the people in it - but it will make things just a little easier for all concerned.

  4. 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.

     

  5. 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 contact Keystone Development for assistance. But even those who are promoted from within need a Manager's Induction. Heres why...

    lady learner

    New managers (like new drivers) may technically be ready for the job, but they lack a whole heap of experience and (as we all know), driving lessons can only prepare you for specific scenarios. The rest we have to learn as we go.

    So the purpose of this blog is to highlight some of the mistakes that new managers make in the hope that forewarned is forearmed. By anticipating difficulties, training teams (and the manager themself) can have a plan in place for overcoming them. Here are some of the most common challenges:

    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.
  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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'...

  9. 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!

  10. 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.