February 28, 2011

Personal PR – How To Fly Your Own Flag

On many occasions of any career, there are times where it’s vital to represent yourself fully. To make the best publicity you can for ‘yours sincerely’. And there are easy tactics you can use…

Whether you are applying for a promotion in your existing organization; looking for a new job altogether; or simply experiencing a performance review, there are steps you can take that will enhance your outcome.

Most, if not all individuals, find it hard to tweak their achievements to make the best of them. Whether this comes from naivety, modesty or simply a misjudgment of what they can pluck from their experiences, it’s hard to say.

The truth is that long hours wringing hands and fretting need not be suffered. Because in the main, all you need when being assessed is already within you. All you need to create a really effective candidate – or A+ result in your performance.

There are six key steps to making the most of your assets:-

1. Start Early

Be aware. When you are in the thick of experiences and learning, always, but always be prepared to make a note – however small – of something that you did. You don’t have to write a whole portfolio of it, that can come later (just kidding!). Just notice when things happen.

2. Link to Role

By being aware of what you might need to take careful note of before you start looking for it. Here you’re simply looking for the categories upon which you will ultimately be tested and then you can start to create a list of your personal activities (the ‘What I did’ of your evidence).

3. Keeping Up

As you create this list of your activities, you categorize them as you go and as the evidence piles up, create a note also of the gaps too. Then you can pro-actively ‘create’ the activities you need to make your offer almost irresistible. You will become rounded and thorough and then have the luxury of deciding not just that you have enough, but you have a choice of evidence you can talk about when you are being assessed.

4. ‘I Can’t Find Enough’

It’s vital to understand that the evidence you create does not need to move mountains. A clear action you personally took, where you can demonstrate just four simple elements – What you did; Why you did it; What the outcome was and What you learned is perfect – and keep it short and succinct. It gives them clear facts and a space to ask you more too – A perfect candidate!

5. Last Minute?

Left it too late? No problem! All you need is a kindly colleague to ask you the questions and push you for answers. It’s amazing at what we leave out or underestimate in ourselves. With focus, it’s possible to create quite comprehensive evidence if you are coached to create it in a couple of hours with a ‘coach’ friend drawing from you the actual – even where you think there are few.

6. Blagging!

Actual lying can never be condoned – least of all because you’ll get found out and if you were successful and got something without really deserving it, likely as not it wouldn’t suit you anyway. You can – and must – embellish, by really stretching out all you do in a category and make it really sing for you. Every scrap of paper evidence; every single impressive fact and figure pile up to become much more interesting to assessors.

7. And Finally

Always but always focus on what you did. Yes, you personally. Using ‘we’ and’ they’ won’t cut it. Be brave and strong and shout about you out loud. Use the ‘I’ word and really show what you are made of.

We all do pretty good work. We all deserve that you be recognized and in the main, we don’t shout about ourselves enough. And when you don’t, who will?

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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January 12, 2011

Poor Management? This is No Solution!

Happy New Year!

OK, so after the hectic period of Christmas and New Year, I sort of forgot my usual Sunday evening activity of writing my newsletter. I knew it this morning and so I thought that I’d do it later on.

As it happens, this was fortuitous, because there was a phone-in on Radio 5 Live this morning as I was driving into my office that really resonated at first and, as the show and callers ran on, really began to annoy me.

It seems that the Cameron co-alliance, co-operative or co-alition thing – whatever we want to call it – has come up with a bright idea to stimulate business. They intend – or so it has been reported, that employees will not be able to take an employer to an industrial tribunal for unfair dismissal unless they have been employed for 2 years, rather than the current one year.

For once in my life as a manager, I found myself in complete agreement with the Union member of the panel. This was ably assisted by a rude, arrogant and 70’s command-and-control style business owner (Peter from South Wales) who, amongst other things, complained that women who are sick during pregnancy are a pain in the rear end.

I was amazed that he was allowed to get away with this – or perhaps there was little the presenter seemed to be able to do with such a rude, loud and equality-resistant man. It was a horrifying reminder of days gone by.

What I took from the program was that this change in the law is intended to nanny-state protect poor-quality managers who simply do not use existing processes, such as performance management or discipline rules to manage their people effectively, so would be given a right to get rid of under-performers – or indeed anyone they took a dislike to, with little or no redress for the employee. Back to pagan times then.

This is simply crazy. In 25 years managing, I was able to dismiss a few people who needed managing out of the businesses I was running because quite simply they were not good enough. Capable management practices enabled me to manage this adequately and legally within the framework of management.

I don’t think I needed some bizarre law change to do that.

No, this smacks of a soother to managers who simply have poor management skills. Managers who are unable to be effective; to hold difficult conversations; to be strong and fair; to be focused and rigorous with standards.

I once dismissed an individual whose performance was managed very precisely. It took myself and her line manager a full 12 months to work through the agreed performance assessment processes that were fair to the employee and to us. That was perfectly acceptable, if a bit of a challenge, but it worked and was fair.

As obnoxious caller Peter from South Wales, who found that someone pregnant who was ‘a little bit stressed’ and was signed off sick, well, it’s time to get real, my friend. Since when are you capable of making a medical decision about her condition? Time to manage effectively and what’s more, time to plan for the unexpected by developing more of your people, more of the time, so that you have a succession plan in place for eventualities just like this.

Mr Cameron, we need no changes in the framework for employees to be able to be got rid of more easily. What you do need to pay a bit attention to is the poor quality of managers we often find in this country and get that sorted out.

Not to create excuses for them.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Focus on Results, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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December 21, 2010

10 Things for Managers To Do With a Spare Hour

There are those times when you’ve got your management act together when you reach those ‘One Minute Manager’ (Ken Blanchard) moments.

In the first book of the series (there are lots of great follow-ups), our star manager ensures that he’s able to spend a fair bit of time gazing out of the window because all the plates are spinning perfectly, with the minimal of intervention.

So, when you’re in that place with your management performance, what to do?

Here are ten ideas that you might want to consider when you are able to devote a spare hour to any activity you choose. The list is, of course, not exhaustive and you will have some favorites of your own.

That said, if you never have time to spare, taking a look at some of these will help you make that time, because the outcomes they will tend to produce will be constructive in magnifying the available time you have.

So, what’s not to like about these?

1. Pick an item to delegate – finding something that you permanently do NOT need to do yourself is a good first step. Second is to find someone who genuinely will benefit from doing that task. Thirdly, take the time to explain why you are delegating to them and the outcome you are looking for (don’t necessarily tell them how!).

2. Say ‘thank yous’ – just get out there and catch your people doing something right and thank them for it. This one is really simple and extremely productive.

3. Take an alternative view – ask yourself what would happen to a situation if you took exactly the opposite course of action than you have a current tendency towards. Just wonder about it a little.

4. Go and listen – get into easy conversations with your people and spend much more (90%) of the time in the conversation listening and work at just 10% of hearing your own voice.

5. Ask for help – go seek someone else’s help with a problem you are challenged with.

6. Ask for feedback – simple as it says – go off and ask someone on your team how you did with something recently. Listen to what they say, discipline yourself to NOT make excuses, if it isn’t positive. Just listen, absorb and thank then for their honesty. Feedback is a gift.

7. Be nosy – go poke around where your people work – not with personal stuff, but find out what they’re working on and ask questions that will help them tell you more about it (and then listen a lot – of course!).

8. Take a walk – yep, it’s time to ‘leave the building’. Spend a little time (you have an hour I’m giving you, right?) and go for a walk. No, there’s no catch!

9. Ask a customer – work out a way to interact with a customer or client informally. It might be a chat on the shopfloor. It might need a phone call to a random client. Whatever, just go for it and – you got it – listen!

10. Ring yourself – as a final challenge to your customer/client service, take a chance and ring into your own business, ask for yourself and test the experience. You will find it a revealing and, hopefully, a rewarding experience, even when you find out that your line is engaged!

How much fun is that? Instead of filling that hour with other ‘stuff’, you qualify all of these activities for that very productive ‘Quadrant 2’ as defined by Stephen Covey in ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. Important and not Urgent.

All the more valuable and value-creating because of that.

Filed under Blog, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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December 20, 2010

Serendipity Rules

Just noticed that ‘Sliding Doors’ has started on BBC2.

It’s a favorite because it just shows the different possibilities we come across in every day we live.

And how those fateful opportunities we are given are decided simply by minuscule slivers of fate. Isn’t life fab!

Filed under Blog by Martin

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December 15, 2010

Go For Your Goals!

For many managers, career development is about putting the hours in, developing performance and skills and then moving up the ladder when the opportunity comes along.

The next rung to climb may, depending on the organization (and how organized they are) be structured to bring the best out of the potential that manager seems to have, dictated by the outcomes of assessments, performance reviews and consequently ‘noticed’ possibilities espied by line managers, project team leaders and others – often in random ways.

The next opportunity comes along on a wing and a prayer and suddenly you’re in the thick of a new challenge, trying to make the best of what you inherit. That can be an established team running well; a poor team who are struggling (‘Where did our last boss go, anyway?’) or a new project where the sheet of paper is blank.

The temptation to get in the thick of what you find is very attractive.

Heads down and see how things show up is an easy attitude to have. Being really busy from the off, shows the team your style of hard work, focus on the short terms and, above all, role-model the level of effort you expect from them real soon.

Smart managers are a lot cleverer than this. They DO invest their early days creating excellent relationships with their people. They show interest in them, listen a lot to show that they care and show they want to learn and understand about them.

And from a very early stage, they use the language of ‘goals’ and ‘expectations’ so that this becomes embodied in the culture of how the team will operate.

Some caution in the goals created will be necessary, of course, to ensure the direction taken is fully aligned with the outputs expected too. That said, there’s nothing wrong with creating goals together from early on in the relationships – and then together tweaking them as necessary.

The alternative of blindly drifting along, is a recipe for only one outcome, a vague set of results achieved with people who are puzzled with what they are supposed to be doing and disillusioned all the more because of this.

Better to have clearly focused goals to start and then refine together, than have ill-defined (if any) goals and no real direction.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Focus on Results, Management Basics, Management Development Tips by Martin

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December 8, 2010

Leadership Lessons of ‘The West Wing’

Many of you will remember that I’m steadily working my way through the 7 seasons of ‘The West Wing’ boxed set. And so far, it’s not difficult to appreciate why so many Americans (and others) would readily take Jed Bartlett as their President.

There are many aspects of Bartlett that are agreeable and none more so than his tremendous leadership of others.

In an example I watched just the other night, one of his senior team takes an incredibly brave step to ask Bartlett personal details of his relationship with his father. Whilst this might seem a step too far in his relationship with ‘Mr President’, Toby Ziegler is performing an ideal, if rather intimate service to his boss.

Initially, Bartlett is rather incensed at Ziegler’s impertinence and then, in the next couple of episodes, we see the true leadership come through, where he responds to the raw edge that Ziegler has exposed. Bartlett sees past his own bruised ego and ‘gets’ the point of Ziegler’s intervention.

In his own way, Bartlett shows Ziegler how much he values the man’s courage to speak up in such a sensitive area – and, incidentally, an area that Bartlett really does need to investigate.

In too many cases, leaders are so engrossed in their own ego that they fail to appreciate that giving feedback to your boss is a tough thing to do.

Bosses very often intimidate, whether they mean to or not.

To have the courage to give feedback is a rare thing in an employee. Even when they do get brave enough, the handling of this feedback has to be very careful indeed, or valuable relationships will stutter and the most likely outcome is that no more feedback will ever be forthcoming.

(Hint – never start to argue or justify your side of it, just thank them and accept the feedback very graciously and ponder on it honestly).

Great leaders – like the fictional character Bartlett that Martin Sheen plays so effectively – value both the very feedback they are given by acting on it constructively, as well as respecting the generosity and courage shown by the employee who has the kindness to offer it.

We see feedback as a one-way street – often interpreted by employees as ‘criticism’ (and negatively as a consequence) – where we dole it out downwards when we lead others (often more for our benefit than theirs).

Where we graciously accept feedback given that is intended to help us ourselves evolve, we make best use of the gift for our own benefits and also show our people that it adds value and is to be appreciated, which, in turn, makes it much more likely for them to value too when they are on the receiving end.

When we accept and look into feedback that seems hard to take, we are being provided with a perception of us that sometimes – often indeed – is just where our blind spot is.

And that’s such a valuable steer for someone to take the time and trouble to share with us.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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December 6, 2010

The Curiosity of Employees

How do children learn? It is, after all, something we all have to do – and the formative years of kids are fascinating to observe.

Children learn be experiencing new things. By having the freedom – whilst being protected by their carers as much as possible from harm – to explore anything and everything in their lives.

Each object, idea and concept is there for the level of study they feel appropriate, simply by being curious.

We let them be that way without demeaning them. We smile at their odd questions and behaviors and enjoy the moment with them.

Over the years of getting older, as we discover our emotional side, we lose the ability to take risks with new things in quite the same way ever again.

It happens to a greater or lesser extent in every single one of us, as we move into middle childhood and then as adults.

Often in the workplace, this can prevent learning and development, at the very least, with the possibilities to explore and learn by doing falling way behind in the self-fulfilment pecking order.

We protect ourselves from experiencing painful and indeed harmful emotions that hurt our self-esteem, by being a lot less inclined to do things when we have been affected before.

So, unless carefully nurtured, as employees we hold back and stay safe. We’ve experienced the bump on the head or the graze on the knee once too often to try it again, especially when it made us feel not only physically bad, but even more so when it hurts us inside.

As managers, we can really get much more from the potential of our people by making exploration and new learning a very safe place to go.

When we start to appreciate just what it is that we need to do to lighten up our people; to let them make their mistakes; to let them learn from the little bumps and scrapes that children learn from, we offer an enlightening experience indeed.

We are there to nurture our people to ‘find things out’ freely and without besmirching or embarrassing them at all, we do them such a favor. Indeed we develop our teams so effectively as well.

So once again, where we take the time to recognize exactly how each of our employees needs us to be, everyone can become a winner.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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November 24, 2010

Feedback Develops Everyone

Ironically, it often feels easier not to give feedback. For most people, whatever their role, the concern with what can be seen to be a confrontation is so much easier to delay, prevaricate with and – in many cases – simply put off altogether.

And that makes matters worse, almost every time.

Here are three ideas to help you get past giving feedback.

1. Be Fast and Frequent

When circumstances present themselves to give feedback, see it as a very positive opportunity. And then give that feedback, because it’s there for the value it can offer.

Giving feedback needs to be a regular activity, so that you begin to overcome the fear factor that so often comes with those much maligned words, ‘Would you like some feedback?’

The more you give feedback – not forgetting that it can so often simply be positive, without that negative sting in the tail – the more your people will learn to like it and be less defensive. Indeed, the goal we all seek as managers is where we add value by providing great feedback as a resource.

The better you give it soon after the event, such that it’s still relevant and fresh too, will be more effective than a few days later. Delaying says much about your level of self-esteem.

2. Make Feedback Two-Way

Being prepared to accept feedback means that you walk your own talk and your employees start to see the real reason behind feedback.

It’s actually there to help.

When we hear feedback, unless the language, trust and environment is perfect, it’s very easy to be defensive in response.

When as employees, we see our boss able to receive feedback willingly, appreciate it and be seen to develop themselves too, we start to want some of that.

As managers, accepting and showing the changes we make when we receive it, means feedback starts to be seen as not the monster with which it is so often tarnished.

3. What Do They Think?

Giving feedback has a prior step. Ask people if they would like to give themselves feedback first, listen and acknowledge and then share yours too.

And remember, ensuring that you acknowledge their positives first, shows just how much you value them as individuals and helps encourage people to try a different approach in the future in those areas where they might be better.

Employees pretty much do 95+% of their roles really well, so showing them perspectives of the opportunities to be even better needs to reflect how good they are first.

Want more? For 10 top tips on Effective Feedback, checkout here

Filed under Blog by Martin

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November 17, 2010

My Team Is Famous For…

Getting great people to be in the team is one of the most rewarding tactics to help managers deliver the results demanded of them.

Yet these ‘great people’ as employees can be so hard to find.

Some managers have found the key to unlock creating a successful team, by ensuring that they get well known for the environment in which they and their people work.

A compelling experience for those employees who are lucky enough to be in there. Indeed, an experience so rewarding that there is a queue to join.

Imagine that your team ‘brand’ is such that you have people clamouring to be a member. A reputation to ensure that you need not seek great employees any more – they come to find you.

In times where employee costs are most often the biggest expenditure any organisation has to endure, throwing money at recruitment is not only expensive, but it’s usually a waste of time.

Creating a renowned workplace experience that others want to become a part of, means that as long as the pay you offer isn’t stupidly small, you can get away with paying a good average rate for the job, so long as…

…what they find when they get there is good.

Here’s a secret. there are not that many components of good and what’s even more interesting, as long as you pay at an acceptable level, pay isn’t in that set of keys.

By providing an environment that your people like and enjoy, not only will the word get round and you find people come to you to join your team, you lose less of the one’s you’ve already got.

Now, it’s not about providing a cushy little number where your people can snooze their afternoon’s away. that’s not part of it at all – here are the keys…

1. A challenging job that:- stimulates and encourages employees to take risks and grow, safe in the knowledge that they will be supported and not chastised when things don’t quite go to plan.

2. Leadership that:- delivers it’s promises; values the individual; listens much more than speaks (whilst communicating effectively); is trusted and trust others; oils the wheels to make delivery of high performance easy for the team members; can be hands on; pays attention to what’s going on.

3. Have fun – simple as that!

With these in place, your team will definitely be famous for…the team that it really is worth being in.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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November 13, 2010

Help – Who’s In Charge?

The best managers do what they are supposed to do. They lead and manage their people to deliver the outcomes that their role requires.

Be this in a business that delivers products and services; an organization that is there to serve the public or maybe a not-for-profit body who do their best for those who need help.

A manager’s role is to get the best from their people.

This means that they focus on that key role and ensure that they have a team around them whose purpose is to deliver the systems, processes and standards that are vital for the team to be effective and efficient.

And sometimes that doesn’t work so well.

Take the case of a junior team member who wants to take some time off.

A hard worker, always ready to go the extra mile and to do that little more, because that’s their way of being. They always find the time to get there a bit early or to stay on when the business needs it.

They need a couple of hours off to help a sick relative to go to a medical appointment and they are even prepared to swap their shifts around to cover their time.

They trip off to HR to ask for the time, because this is the agreed team process for getting a bit of flexibility into employees worked time, to be told that ‘it’s not allowed’, by the HR assistant (who is, by the way, only acting on instructions they received).

They go away with their tail between their legs cursing how good, flexible and committed they themselves are to the team, whilst the organization does not give back to them in their time of need.

Where manager’s delegate the delivery of activities that the team needs to have in place, there’s always the risk that ‘the rule’ that’s in place is going to lose sight of a bigger picture issue, where that’s the rule that is implemented inflexibly.

The bigger picture being the (often small) acts of goodwill that engender motivation and commitment from the workforce when they recognize the efforts that their people make inwards.

Whilst there needs to be a system to prevent chaos, every manager needs to be sufficiently in touch to be receptive to the open and honest feedback that’s vital to understand whether the processes are simply serving themselves – or the team is being served by that valuable process that’s so useful.

Is the dog wagging the tail – or the tail wagging the dog?

Good managers delegate effectively.

Great managers sound out their people, by creating interactive relationships that go both ways, to ensure that the whole delivery of delegated activities serves to team as a whole – and not just get the boxes ticked.

Whilst compliance is important – it’s not the most human of ways to be – that needs a manager to use the time they have freed up by delegating effectively, by listening to what’s happening at grass roots – and responding to their needs within a process that works for the team, and not otherwise just because it’s always interpreted in a straight line.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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