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  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 2

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    In my last blog, I reflected on how my recent experience with a young, tech-based business in Bulgaria demonstrated how a different type of management and leadership has evolved from that I grew up with. I’ve generally worked in more traditional environments, so although I was aware of this different approach, I hadn’t experienced it first hand.

    My work with these bright, young leaders highlighted that increasingly (and especially in more creative, knowledge-based industries) leaders have all arrived in their position via a different route. First-line leaders have skills and abilities that would have only been associated with the most senior people a generation ago or in more traditional businesses.

    tech workers

    They also have skills gaps and blind-spots. Without many years’ experience, they are brilliant in some respects yet may flounder in others. However, due to the flexible and agile nature of their roles ‘traditional’ management skills are less relevant (not unnecessary – just less important). With multiple lines of reporting, lack of standard operating procedures, few tried and tested processes or even set job roles, this type of leader needs an entirely different type of management and leadership development, focusing on:

    Managers of knowledge-based workers don’t always have the answers; they haven’t always done the exact same job themselves. Unlike their counterparts in more industrial or regulation-led businesses, they are less likley to have worked their way up through a structured career path. Instead they have adapted to the changing needs of the buisness and seized an opportunity. As such, their role is less about being the expert. Instead, they need to know how to unleash their team members’ creativity, and provide just the right amount of support and guidance to keep everyone pulling in the same direction. They are all about making the idea work, and ensuring expectations are met. Of course, these skills are important in more traditional industries too, but they are front and centre in every-day operations.

    READ PART 1 (more traditional industries) HERE

    In my final blog, I’ll discuss how this has changed management leadership training.

  3. 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.


  4. There isn't an APP for that...

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    Customer Service, Employee Engagement and People Development can NEVER be delivered by Smartphone.... and here's why...

    I saw a show advertised that we all wanted to go and see and got so excited when I saw it was playing on my husband’s birthday. In a state of giddiness, I quickly ordered the tickets before he got home. Birthday sorted. Job done.

    So I thought.

    I was looking a few months later for a show to take my mother to, when I noticed that the date for the play was wrong. It wasn’t on my husband’s birthday. It was a month later. WHAT???? In my excitement, I’d obviously made a mistake. He couldn’t go on that night due to work commitments.

    I searched the website for help but could find none. I emailed the ticket company and got quite a rude email back basically saying “Tough. The tickets are non-refundable” So, without much hope, I phoned them. Even with a bad line, the lovely Yetta not only transferred our tickets to another date, but she signed me up for membership (a win for them) AND got me some freebies for the evening (a win for me).

    People are better than apps. An app can give information, but it can’t react and adapt. It can’t give customer service, provide care, engage or develop people. For that, you need a person. People rock!

    To further illustrate this, I’m seeing a number of tweets coming out of Learning Technologies exhibition and conference that focus on apps and systems to improve employee engagement.

    You will NEVER increase engagement via an app. You may be able to improve communication, but communication is just a part of engagement.

    Like training and development – providing information is just part of the service. Apps can provide information about product, process and procedures, and this means trainers shouldn’t have to cover this in a classroom. But the interactive skills that most people need ought to be covered differently: face to face. 

  5. Will you be Little Mix to my Cathy Dennis?

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    If you are certain age, you may well remember Cathy Dennis. She had short but credible pop career in the 1980s, and then she disappeared.

    But she only disappeared from public view. She still has a thriving career in the music industry as a song writer. She has written songs for a host of highly successful pop artists over the years including Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, The Spice Girls, Little Mix, Katy Perry, S Club 7, Will Young, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and makes her living that way.

    She was a good performer, but maybe it didn’t satisfy her as much as writing. Maybe the touring just wasn’t for her. So she’s decided to support other performers by giving them decent songs to showcase their talents. Maybe these other performers write songs – but perhaps they aren’t GREAT songs. By taking a song written by Cathy, they can still have an involvement in the writing process by adapting it and making it their own, and making sure it plays to their personal strengths.

    little mix

    And that’s what I do. I am a credible ‘performer’ (trainer) but I would rather support other trainers who have the potential to be great if they have the right material to work with. Our Power Hour materials act as the raw song – the person who will perform it can edit it and adapt it to make it their own – add those little flourishes that they know will work well with their audience.

    So why not cut down your writing time? Take something good that’s already been written and make it your own. If it’s good enough for Kylie Minogue, The Spice Girls and Little Mix, surely you can do the same?

    And at the moment, theres an opportunity to get ANY of our standard sessions completely free - simply enter the draw here

  6. Little and Often gets Results

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    So, you want to lose weight, get fitter?

    Do you have a whole day of mad exercise and salad, and then consider your work is done for the year? I doubt it. You know that one intense day may have benefits, but on its own, it will do nothing apart from leave you exhausted (and hungry!).


    So why do people think this approach will work when they want to develop their staff? Is it REALLY going to be beneficial sending them on a one or two day course that overloads them with information and ideas? No matter how useful it is, they will come away exhausted and overwhelmed.

    Surely, in both cases, a ‘little and often’ approach will bring better results in the long term? A little exercise a few days a week combined with healthy eating is proven to be the best way to lose weight and get fitter. Similarly, short, regular ’just-in-time’ training interventions help people to absorb learning and develop their skills and knowledge over time.

    A monthly formal bite-size training session (like our Power Hour sessions), combined with self-directed learning, coaching conversations and feedback all add up to increase competence and confidence in a workforce. Crucially, they don’t overwhelm or exhaust the employee.

    Over the year, it probably takes no longer that an intensive 2-day course, but the results will be far better.

  7. Creating Training to Change Behaviour

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    This week, I've been to the Neurobusiness conference in Manchester, and it has given me lots of food for thought. Some things I need to reflect on and check out, whilst others are like finding a missing piece! One such session was about designing and implementing change, but change is what training is about so although the speaker (Gary Luffman) may have had large scale change in the forefront of his mind, I was focussing more on the small scale changes we try to bring about through training.

    It was comforting to hear to evidence-based research that backed up a lot of the practices we have learned to be 'good practice'. Things such as:

    • The need to repeat the 'new' behaviour many times if we want it to stick
    • The importance of really taking time to understand an individual's starting point
    • Focussing on the positives...what we should do, rather than the negatives, what we need to stop doing
    • Our brain can only process complex information and be productive for a certain amount of time before it needs a rest (and a change is as good as a rest), so we need to keep training sessions short and build in breaks. (Running sessions from 8-6 and have a working lunch really isn't going to work!)
    • Allowing people to identify their own training needs/objectives and define their own action plans means they are more likely to make a change.


    I was not aware that the brain is more active when we are standing up than sitting down...and I was pleased to finally have some justification for all the post-it note and flip chart exercises I write into courses.

    Neither did I know that properly thinking things through (in detail and step by step) is almost as useful as physical practice. Great news for those who hate role playing! Talking me through step by step what you would say and do in a particular situation is almost as good for your learning as showing me....It's all about creating patterns in the mind.

    I've said before that I'm a pragmatist. I don't care much for theories...I care for what works. That said, it was nice to understand a little more about WHY some of the things that work DO work. I realise that I'm cherry picking... I'm learning bit by bit, and as the old analogy states, the only way to eat and elephant is in small pieces... though why anyone would want to eat an elephant is beyond me!


  8. Making Time

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    Running a launch session for a new management development programme last week, the question "How am I supposed to find time to fit this in on top of everything else?" was raised. It's not unusual. We are all busy, so being expected to complete pre and post-course work AS WELL AS attend workshops can feel overwhelming.

    It isn't easy. I'm not going to pretend otherwise. But it is possible.

    making time

    Making time to do those 'important but not necessarily urgent' things such as personal development, business planning, team building etc. requires you to do three things:

    1. Plan. You need to set aside time in your day/week/month. Choose a time when you are least likely to get dragged into other things (so Monday morning isn't likely to be good for most people), and when there are plenty of other people around to deal with unexpected emergencies. Give people notice that you aren't going to be available. Be realistic about how much time you can set aside in one go, as that makes number 2 easier.
    2. Protect. Protect that time in your diary as if it were a hospital appointment, or a date with Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie. You wouldn't give THAT up on a whim would you? If possible, work somewhere else... at home, in a meeting room - anywhere where you won't be constantly interupted by people, your phone or your email. Switch your devices OFF.
    3. Prioritise (and Persevere!) If you get put under pressure to discard your plans and deal with (yet another) emergency, resist the urge to save the day, and take a step back. Pause. Think. Is this the very best use of your time? Is there another way that this emergency can be dealt with? Does it have to be you? Does it have to be now? If you give up your precious (supposedly protected) time, when will you get it back?


    For most us, no-one is going to die or come to serious harm if we don't immediately stop what we're doing and respond to someone elses emergency. Of course, if this IS the case, then drop what you're doing and go! 

    Unexpected events happen all the time. How many truly need immediate attention? Can you acknowledge the issue or put in a temporaly solution quickly? Are you solving someone elses problem? Should it even be you who is dealing with it?

    What's the worst that will happen if you DON'T attend to it immediately? 

    When we constantly fire-fight we can feel important, but it's exhausting and things never improve. Only by making time to deal with the important stuff can we ever make things better for ourselves, our colleagues, our organisations and our customers.

    If you want to take back control of your time, why not download our self-study workbook

  9. Leadership YOUR Way

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    Many of you know that I'm a zumbaholic, but this isn't really a post inspired by my favourite exercise. It's more about something I've noticed about a number of ladies who are part of a 'bootcamp' programme and links to personal effectiveness and leadership.

    Lots of ladies have joined the bootcamp programme and are getting great results. What I've noticed though is that in most cases their basic body shape doesn't change: they are simply slimmer, fitter versions of the shape they were before. Women with no waist still have no waist, though they may be two sizes smaller. Pear shaped women are still pears - just slimmer and lighter pears. When I lose weight, I struggle to lose it from my belly, but my legs and hips slim down. My sister gets a flat stomach with ease, but struggles around her hips. Even the fitness instructor who is fabulously fit and toned, stays curvy. It's the way we are built. 

    body shape

    I accept that unless I do something very radical (and very hard work!), I won't have a flat stomach, and even then there's no guarantee. So in the summer I wear shorts with long, swinging tops to make the best of what I have: slim legs. My sister wears crop tops with capri pants to show off her flat stomach and looks fab. 

    Leadership style is like that too. We are the way we are, but that's not to say that we shouldn't strive to be the best versions of ourselves as possible. Credible leaders are authentic: they accept who they are, make the best use of their strengths and proactively manage areas where they aren't naturally strong either by delegating, developing themselves or compensating in some other way. They are very self-aware and set an example by being the best they can be rather than striving for perfection. This makes them more 'real' and so people are more inclined to trust them. When a team trusts its leader, engagement increases and great things start to happen.

    So, if you want your leaders to go from good to great, help them to be the best version of themselves that they can be by developing Credible Leadership.

  10. An emotionally intelligent anniversary celebration

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    It was my wedding anniversary at the weekend. We had hoped to celebrate with a meal at our favourite restaurant, The Galleria. Living 100 miles away from nearest family members and having two primary school-age kids means that we very rarely get to go out as a couple. Our anniversary is the one time we really try to. Unfortunately, we weren't able to this year. Our usual babysitter was on holiday and although (for a short while) we thought we had found a compromise solution, it wasn't meant to be. 

    An emotionally intelligent way to handle this situation is to recognise how we felt and accept that it was disappointing. Then we interpretted why we felt this way...because we were missing out on a nice meal and being a couple (rather than Mum and Dad). So then we had a decision to make: be annoyed all night or find an alternative. Most people know what I fan I am of Steven Covey's Circle of Concern, and if you want to behave in an emotionally intelligent way, this is a great place to start. The chance of babysitters was gone. No point wishing it was different or hoping for a solution to fall from the sky. It was not within our circle of control. However, having a nice meal, just the two of us, was.

    So, we took action.

    • We popped to the local butchers, bought two fillet steaks and blew the dust off the Amarone. 
    • We fed the kids separately (we normally eat together as a family) and set them up with a film in the lounge.
    • We got showered and put on nice clothes. I did my hair and make up.
    • We had a nice meal, just the two us.

    OK, it wasn't the evening we'd hoped for, but it WAS a nice evening.


    It would have been easy to let our disappointment become the focus of our evening, but we didn't. We STILL wouldn't be going out, and we'd have been miserable too. However, many people do allow set backs to take all of their energy, but in the end, what is accomplished by that? 

    Helping people to take a more emotionally intelligent approach to work (and indeed life in general) can aid problem solving, decision making, teamwork and relationships as well as have a positive impact on tangible results. I'm not the most emotionally intelligent person I know by a long way, but I recognise when I'm behaving that way, and the benefits that it brings. You can raise awareness of Emotional Intelligence in your leaders and teams with our half-day training session. Why not take a look and think about how it could benefit you?