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September 16, 2010

Self-Awareness Rules

Being able to be honest and realistic with ourselves is the best step we can take to grow.

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How to Manage 14% Better

Many organisations now use surveys to see how they are doing. Some are focused at customers and clients, whilst others look at how the employees think their workplace is.

The majority of employee surveys fell out of a brilliant piece of work by two researchers at Gallup – Curt Coffman and Marcus Buckingham – and led to their iconic book ‘First Break All the Rules’.

They found that how employees responded to just 12 statements about the work experience would dictate the profitability of any team, department or organisation. They called these Q12.

Using Q12 required a licence from Gallup (and hence why they aren’t shown here, though you can find them if you Google them), so many organisations pinched the concept and just wrote the questions a bit differently.

In fact, over time they have added significantly to the 12 original statements, with many employees being asked to respond to up to 50 or more. Which rather defeats the object! Still, many HR and leadership teams couldn’t help themselves when given the opportunity to confuse and irritate their people!

A couple of the questions related to the employees experience of their manager. These related to interactions the manager has with the people in the team and how recently too, so I can share a story.

Jim (name changed) had faced a dire problem. On his promotion, he had inherited an operation with problems all over the place, which he’d had to fix. In the first year, sorting out core issues had been a focus expected of him by his own superiors.

When the employee survey was in, he didn’t do so well in the measures of him (though some results might have related to the previous guy too). In year two, he made a very conscious effort to be more visible to his people; to speak with them more often and to, well, be a bit happier too!

The year two results showed him still below the average for managers like him, but they had improved by over 14% on the previous year.

The moral of the story? If you want to engage better with your people (= be more effective with them), get out there and spend time with them – all of them.

You know it makes sense.

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

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August 31, 2010

Appreciation – Learning from Your Team

One of the simplest management tactics you can use to build trust and positive morale is where you find a small amount of time in your day to appreciate your people.

This can take the form of praise; encouragement; delegation and even that simplest of activities, just saying ‘thank you’. Sometimes even just keeping it personal is very effective indeed.

I recently came across a team where the manager wasn’t the best at saying ‘thank you’ or showing appreciation in much of any way at all.

One of his team was leaving after a few months only, to go back to college – she was 19 years old and had settled in very well, becoming a big contributor to the team very quickly.

The team had 7 people in it and it was clear that they would all miss this employee – and indeed she gave a strong impression that she would miss them too (even marking ‘so sad’ on the calendar for her leaving day!).

This was made very clear on the day after she left, when she returned to the office and left everyone a small card.

Inside the card were a few sentences which thanked each one personally for their friendship and how much she would miss them. There were also a few words of what was so special about each of them, including the manager himself.

Now, I don’t know if the hint was taken by the manager, but every individual was not only hugely touched by the gesture, but each was surprised and enlarged with the rosy-glow of the value they each contributed to the person leaving.

Small, personalized, honest and very appreciative were the comments. But what a difference they made to each of her friends and colleagues. A difference that would be long-lasting and specific to each of them.

As managers, we can always learn a lot from our people, when we take the time to notice – and then apply – what we observe.

It takes a little effort to get down off that high horse we sit on when we are the boss – and when we are humble enough to do so, we can make great steps forward, making our own difference as we go.

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

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August 24, 2010

Keeping Your Team Members Happy

A manager’s role is to build successful teams that deliver the business. We aim to seek for higher and higher performances from those we encourage, cajole and develop.  How do we keep them all happy?

We strive to create refined, capable people to inhabit our teams. The results we seek cannot be delivered by us alone, because simply we cannot do it by ourselves.

Like the soccer coach – the results come from those who cross that white line for us. All the plays the team practice during the week, are for nothing if they don’t deliver ‘when Saturday comes’ – as they say!

As managers we have to hone their skills, tactics and flair for then.

Yet what happens to our people when we’re done developing them. When they can grow no more in the circumstances that we are in a position to offer them?

Indeed is it possible that they can grow no more with us at their helm? Could that be possible?

The simple answer is – of course they can reach a peak in the team we have them in; with the support and challenge we help them with.

And sometimes, when they achieve that zenith, we have to make the more courageous decision to let them fly off and seek a new level of opportunity, to make the next leap.

Successful management is not simply about building a team that serves us well. It’s much bigger than that.

When we help create fulfilled employees, the bigger picture is where we have to be brave and let them go. We have to celebrate the success they achieve with us and – where this is what they want – prepare them for a bigger stage to explore and reach for the next level, with our support and enthusiasm.

In soccer, managers of smaller teams strive to create better and better players for the good of the team and then, whilst it may be a sad time, encourage them on to bigger teams; new arenas and bigger opportunities.

That’s where the bigger managers stand out – loving the growth they see and then accepting – no, encouraging – their people to be the most they can – even when that means moving on.

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

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August 10, 2010

A Manager’s Skill – Balancing Fun and Focus

Having fun is a vital component of any successful team. Managers will do well to encourage their people to enjoy their work, joining in when there’s a laugh to be had, where appropriate.

For a manager though, it’s always going to be a fine line between the fun the team are having and the need to be entirely focused and professional within seconds of the laughter subsiding.

And there will be occasions where the manager of the team needs to quietly and firmly change hats to make sure that having a fun experience doesn’t get in the way of delivering solutions that meet and even exceed expectations of customers and clients.

That’s where real managerial skill comes in.

Being able to join in with the fun as well as having the capacity to ensure that the team are quickly as professional as they need to be, requires a delicate touch – and one where the most effective managers show their difference.

Everyone loves to have fun together, it’s one of the most important tactics to build effective relationships with the individuals in the team.

Great managers go along for the ride and then take over the steering before matters lose focus – and with that, the true value of the team.

Filed under Blog by Martin

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August 9, 2010

Waving The Management Magic Wand – Part 2

Last week, we looked at how to make more of the opportunities you have to make things different.

Wafting your own magic wand around yourself and the way you do things is one thing, but how can you use it effectively to ‘magic’ better ways of doing things from your people?

BTW, if you have one of these – let me know and I’ll patent it.

Because here’s the secret. You can only change yourself and you cannot change others directly, however hard you try.

Now, what you can do (and successful managers do this very effectively), is to amend your own behaviors and attitudes to influence your people to be different. When they are different, they will see better ways to be and then the delivery of their work will improve.

The ball is back in your court.

So, here’s an action you might want to think about. What are the issues that you come up with that are your ‘I wish…’ moments with your people.

Then, what are ways that you could start to amend the way YOU are, that might be more likely to get the performances that would help them grow and develop into what you want?

Don’t know? Then ask them what they need to be different from you – and how that will help them.

This tactic makes the difference in so many ways.

You partner with them in solutions; you show that you are willing to change; you show you are not the smart-arse who thinks they know everything; you show you value them for their input too (there are more benefits, by the way…).

In the ‘Circles of Influence’ in your life, you are at the very center.

Make it worthwhile the only way you can, by looking inside first, before you seek to blame others.

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

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August 2, 2010

Waving The Management Magic Wand – Part 1

OK, so we’re all managers, right? And although we might keep it to ourselves, we all probably have moments when we whisper to ourselves, ‘I wish…’.

Never fear, we all in this together, so you can tell me it’s so…

Little things that our workplace does to us that really, it would be so cool to, well, be different.

Whilst I am not able to give you the magic of Master Potter’s magic wand, I can help you a little here.

It’s about being focused and taking action.

Part one this week is about issues that are all about you. Next week we’ll attack those ‘I wish…’ issues about your people.

For this week, we’ve enough to work on with you alone.

When you want things to be different, there is only one answer to that wishfulness thinking. It’s about grasping the issue ahead of you and being strong (sometimes brave) enough to handle it.

You see, many time we want things to be different, yet we want magic to happen. Here’s a heads-up. The magic will only happen when you have the wand in your hand and you make it happen.

If they are issues about the way you do things, be resolute and decide it’s going to be different from now on – or, decide that you are going to live with it and find work-arounds that will make the difference.

So you can park the challenges someplace else apart from right in your face causing you worry, stress and frustration.

The wand, as they say, is in your hands (and, in case the message didn’t quite get there – no-one else’s, so, if it’s your way, stop blaming everyone else).

Filed under Blog, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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July 26, 2010

Simply About Buns

The simplest behaviors can make a manager. Sometimes those behaviors don’t even need to be regular; they are allowed to be inconsistently regular in fact.

Take the experience of buns. Once in a while, even the most senior – or junior – of managers, can do something that to them seems so ordinary, yet to their people it signifies in a small, yet profound way, an extraordinary respect that it is hugely important in how they lead their team.

The unexpectedness of something can show how much a manager cares for their people.

In was a quiet afternoon in the business when he brought the buns. They weren’t expensive, but they were unexpected. Not that he’d never done it before, he had. Yet it was almost as if today was a great ‘nothing much happening’ sort of day that he recognized the opportunity to do a little more.

Now whilst some managers might have had their people screaming down the phones for more business; or wanted to chivvy their people along on a flat day catching up with the boring stuff that so often got left, this guy was different.

Reflecting on the successes of a good couple of weeks (bun reward has to have a context; be for a reason), he took a time-out to share a few minutes to thank the team with the buns. Buns that cost a couple of pounds.

He also took time to accept the offered cup of tea and to chew the fat about well, anything. It was being what he was good at. Taking the time to listen to his people be passionate and share their lives a little bit, for a few minutes on a flat day.

A small thing? Sure. And it’s the sum of small actions that create a relationship that employees value.

Just a few buns and a few minutes.

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

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July 12, 2010

No Time For Excuses

Maybe I’m a bit late for this, but I do need to revisit the demise of the England football team in the world cup.

There are no excuses. Perhaps many would say that overpaid superstars ought to have fared better and that there was no appetite for the game in our players. The Spanish players, after their victory last night, might have something to say about that.

Ask every one of our players and they would tell you that they went all out for success – that their focus was entirely on bringing that 5Kg 18 carat gold cup back home.

As for the manager, there seemed to be times when he was completely perplexed in the outcome and then every opportunity to find some excuse for the failing – the ones that weren’t down to him, of course – were rolled out.

Sometimes it’s about bad luck.

Ever the optimist, I’m of the opinion that bad luck had it’s part to play at a particularly critical moment in the game we lost to Germany.

Frank Lampard’s ‘goal that never was’ came just a time where we could easily have clawed our way back into the game and with Germany’s precocious young team hauled back from a 2-0 lead, who knows what might have happened then.

Indeed many worthy winners of the World Cup have had extraordinarily poor starts.

Yet as manager, the buck stops with us.

There is no place for excuses that we try to hide behind. We get paid to be successful and when we aren’t, we have to stand up and say that we, ourselves weren’t good enough and we must do better. Then our people trust us, bond better with us and we get up another day to learn and grow and achieve more next time.

Even if the linesman and the referee are the only two people in the ground who didn’t go to Specsavers.

Filed under Blog by Martin

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July 9, 2010

Time to be Honest and Real

“We all are what we are”

Carlos Ruiz Zafon in ‘The Angel’s Game’

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