Developing Your People

March 22, 2010

Starting Small In Taking Responsibility To Build Relationships

Creating excellent workplace relationships is a valuable exercise at any time. The responsibility for developing these, belongs to everyone in the team.

Getting this going needs to start somewhere…

Once we get clear in our minds that there is a significant value in having effective business relationships with our people – and for them with us – it’s vital to understand that the responsibility doesn’t fall simply on someone else.

Managers and their employees share that responsibility, so that everyone benefits from the value that workplace relationships – at their best, of course – provide for all.

After time being unaware that there is work to do, the simple act of understanding that each one has some level of responsibility can be daunting. And, when this happens, it’s possible that those first tiny steps to take that challenge on, becomes less attractive.

So, where to start?

When we realize that we all have to develop tactics to make the best of those we work with, the most important activity is simply recognizing that up to now, perhaps we might not have done as much as we could.

The simple act of noticing that we might have been more proactive; more receptive or even better, taken a look at what we are and aren’t doing, is a great first step to take.

Once that awareness have become apparent, next up is starting to acknowledge that there are steps we can take that will make the start in bring us closer to our people.

Now, whilst everyone has some responsibility for the whole relationship building activity, as a manager, it might well be useful to ensure that you take the lead, at least at first, by acknowledging and taking steps to appreciate that you have a responsibility to get things moving – at least a little.

As you notice where you might have stopped seeing that some of the responsibility for creating valuable relationships lies with you, you will start to see some of the opportunities for you.

These will be small at first, because relationships can only be started at first, then, as they gain momentum, you will find that more and more opportunities come to your attention.

It’s almost as if that small first step is the catalyst. Acknowledging that it is yours to do, at last in part will also trigger others to see the ffort you are making, and then do a little more themselves, every day.

You aren’t going to get everyone on board at first – you are going to be able to show them that you have seen the way forward and are grasping the opportunity.

Relationships only start when those involved start to recognize that they have work to do to make the best of these interactions.

By starting small to each take a shared responsibility, you each have every chance that this will grow – and then everyone will be the beneficiary.

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

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March 20, 2010

Management Development Tips – The Simple Art Of Coaching Your People

There are many ways to develop those employees that you have within your team. Some are more productive than others and depend on your own, personal management style.

The easiest way is to ensure that you use the momentum each individual has within themselves.

When we manage, we use the services of the individuals in our teams, to pull together to create a valuable return on our investment in them.

A lot of a manager’s time is spent focusing on ensuring that they do what we want them to do and chasing them till they do.

We can fire instructions all day long – and then tomorrow, come right back for more which, frankly, makes for a day’s hard work, every day of your career.

Or we can coach.

Over the last few years, coaching has got a bit of a reputation.

From a weird and wonderful ‘mumbo-jumbo’ new age activity (the ‘life-coaching’ thing), right through to seriously expensive executive coaching at the highest level, coaching comes in all shapes and forms.

For managers, it’s a behavior; a style of way of working that’s useful and effective and doesn’t require loads of time one-on-one and face-to-face with someone sitting across from you in your office for a couple of hours.

Coaching is best done in the informal relationships you have with your people, in the easy and regular conversations you have with them all the time.

The truth is that it’s not hard to find out for yourself what coaching is all about – and as you master it as a skill, you will have all you need to be a very effective – and attractive – manager style.

There are books and programs out there that offer instruction and advice about what to do first and second and last. The truth is that coaching isn’t that difficult at all – the experts and gurus just make it out to be!

Forget the huge expense and months, if not years, of exclusive and extravagant training, be it online, via conference call or as many away-days that you can squeeze in.

It’s always best to find ways to make it easy for you, with relevant, quick and simple action steps to use every day, to help you make the most of this amazing skill.

When you seek the information you need to understand what coaching is all about, you want to find only as much as you need to make this work really well for you. The information and skills you seek will be geared to simple application and practice, leading to a growing confidence inside yourself with results to boot.

Coaching is not at all complicated, whatever you might hear, especially at the level a manager needs. Good questioning and listening skills, mixed in with a healthy dose of effective relationship building and you’re there.

And it is probably the most powerful management skill you can use, in whatever business or organization you are in, at whatever level of experience or skill you currently have.

Because having a coaching attitude, overlays everything we do in the way we support guide and manage those in our care as managers.

And that’s very powerful indeed!

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

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March 19, 2010

Building Workplace Relationships – Being the Model

The value of excellent workplace relationships cannot be over-estimated.

Leveraging the interactions between individuals, be they manager to employee or visa-versa is incredible, so taking responsibility for this has to be progressed by someone.

When a manager recognizes that there is work to do on taking up the responsibility for making better use of workplace relationships, that’s a great start.

Simply noticing that the way they interact with their people is not as productive as it might be, is a huge step, because that awareness so often leads to an understanding of the situations they face.

With awareness comes a decision. Whilst the responsibility for moving relationships up to a new level does not entirely fall on a manager or supervisor, there is an opportunity for them to make the first step.

Recognizing that relationships are not working as positively as they might is one thing, the next step is the logical progression to appreciating that a responsibility for moving them forward is the first step.

Now, it’s possible that everyone on the team understands that there is more to come, but the management focus needs to be on leading from the front and grasping personally the responsibility for improving relations.

Sometimes, there can be hurdles to overcome. Past history, personal preferences and, yes, prejudices can get in the way. There can even be a bit of ‘Why should I?’ in the pot as well.

Managers need to see past this, because the rewards are clear. By taking the responsibility for moving forward relationships that aren’t working to their best, managers start to model for their people a broadening of attitudes that they will replicate.

When there’s a brick wall, someone needs to be prepared to take the first swing at it, because until someone does, there will be no progress. Once a chink of light is seem, others will become much more able to get involved themselves.

Where managers show that they will take responsibility themselves to improve the working environment by engaging better with their people, the relationships will all start to grow, with gathering pace, so that the value from everyone getting on better, with trust, support and encouragement, begins to be realized.

As you people notice those small changes, they too will embrace the needs for change. they will notice how improved relationships begin to make a positive contribution to their lives as well. They will begin to see that they have some responsibilities in this area themselves.

Where you take responsibility for the first steps and show them they way, your personal modeling at this stage will be the catalyst for significant shifts for each one of your team as well.

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

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March 17, 2010

Outcomes to Seek When Building Workplace Relationships

The relationships any manager builds with his employees is the critical factor that will decide whether they are successful.

No manager is an island and with the help and support of their team, they will be able to deliver. There is work to do to achieve this.

Managers make relationships with the people in their team for a number of reasons. There is, however only one bottom line purpose for any of the activities that managers get involved in – and that’s to deliver the outcomes that are required of them.

Relationships are the facilitator of success and there are real and vital reasons for this. Working with a team of people opens up the scope of possibilities for managers, such that there is leverage in the simple numbers, as well as varied inputs from the different characters there.

When relationships are built based on trust, honesty and shared purpose, there are many simple outcomes that will lead to that end goal being delivered.

Such relationships are easy to create when you ensure that you spend at least some part of your day in easy conversations with your people. Once that’s in place, between you will find you are much more able to deliver:-

•    Openness – ensuring that each side is prepared to let the other in
•    Volume – the numbers onside will help to share the load
•    Creativity – from openness comes the ability to ‘think out loud’
•    Synergy – sharing ideas enables each to build on the other enabling more productive outcomes
•    Commitment – through the bonding that comes with trust and honesty
•    Morale – built through all working together in an open environment
•    Motivation – comes from being heard, fundamental in all good workplace relationships
•    Support – because they are open, they ask for help more
•    Drive – when people feel a full part and valued, they contribute more to the bigger goal
•    Understanding – knowing each other well, means there is focus on common expectations
•    Communication – always works better when there is a great relationship

There may be more of these in particular locations like yours and if the relationship is good, you will have a clear route to get to know them better yourself.

Remember, the resulting value of these small outcomes of great relationships is much, much bigger than a simple sum of the parts. Yet whilst we might look for and even actively seek much more, each component needs to be in place to enable the whole to be that bigger benefit.

The base of good interactions between managers and employees has to come from the manager themselves in the behaviors they show.

Taking the time to ensure this is a strong element of your management toolkit is an investment worth making and over time, be assured that little effort will be needed to keep the plates spinning.

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

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March 16, 2010

The Importance For Managers of Attention to Detail

An eye for detail is critical in you want the best performances from your team. Your awareness skills need to be sharpened fully and noticing when there is something out of line, however minor, will serve you very well indeed.

When you create a sensitivity to the unexplained; unclear; silent and seemingly innocuous in your workplace, you find out more.

This works especially well when you get to know people, because you sense an off-day and become aware. You are not necessarily doing anything to start with. It’s just something you notice, log and perhaps raise later where it needs it. Having this innate sensitivity is very useful as you become and evolve as a manager.

When it comes to ‘things’ your sensitivity can be very valuable too. That unlabelled, seemingly empty box can be valuable product that goes out of date soon. It could be a time-sensitive audit that’s been sitting on someone’s desk for a while. It might be a wall that looks a little out of line or a machine that sounds a little unusual.

There are many, many opportunities to sharpen this awareness of yours, in all shapes and forms, depending on what industry you are in. It’s a talent that can be practiced by review after events as well as listening to the comments of your people and following through.

Sensitivity and attention to detail are skills that take little time and yet can be very valuable in the returns they provide, in efficient and effective uses of your time. Often any time invested here can be easily shown to be some of the most value-creating time you ever spent.

This is all about noticing and then gently investigating, through questioning and listening (those so valuable coaching skills that you learn), to focus in many situations where you need to know more – as well as raise the awareness of your team about the issue – and that you know!

‘How’s that audit coming along?’
‘What’s this here?’
‘What’s in that box?’
‘Who is dealing with this right now?’
‘When is product ‘x’ due in next’?

Being curious about things is almost as valuable as being curious about your people, important though that is. because ‘things’ give clues about the attention to detail of others, who have responsibilities that might not be as sharp as yours – in fact, they might not be as sharp as they need to be.

Not only will you learn much, your people will know that you are sharp too and through that, their awareness and attention to detail will get much better.

Funny, over a short period of time, not only will the number of empty, unlabelled boxes drop dramatically, but those that linger, you can bet your people will know all about them.

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

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March 15, 2010

3 Valuable Reasons To Develop Your People

One of the biggest reasons managers fail to achieve their best results is because they fail to make the move from ‘doing’ to ‘managing’. It seems much easier to work even harder and make sure the job is done right because it’s you doing it. This is not a solution that is sustainable.

Many managers make assumptions about the capability of their people based on the flimsiest of evidence, if there is any evidence at all. Often there is a belief that employees are incapable of taking on more and growing in their role.

They fail to do this because they find it hard to nurture and raise the bar for the people in their teams, many of whom have significantly more potential than is visible at the surface.

It’s not easy to pin the causes of this directly on those managers who seem to miss the ‘developing others’ boat. In many managers there is a significant difference in their aptitude for seeing the value in their people. Some seem more able to make the best out of the individuals who work with them and others find it harder.

In fact, there are real gems out there in our teams. Pretty often, you have people right now who are capable of much, much more. And when you find the right key, unlocking that potential can quickly and easily provide success for your business for years to come.

Just some of the benefits of well managed teams, where the individuals have been enabled to meet their potential are as follows:-

1.    Developing your people will make your job a lot easier, because much of the work that you seem to need to do right now, can be effectively delegated to others who are just as able to do it as their skills extend

2.    Developing your people will make them much happier, because as they succeed in achieving new challenges that stretch them, their interest is maintained, they feel good about themselves and they become more marketable, as their skills grow

3.    Both of these will make you a lot happier and much more fulfilled, when you see your people become better employees and that you have been the facilitator of them achieving their potential in the work they do

Each of these aspects of management are so often underplayed. It’s safe to say that there are far wider implications emotionally, mentally, socially and well as economically when you take the time to get people development right. This is where everyone’s a winner

You cannot make the business thrive without ‘Developing Your People’ being on the highest of your agendas. And that’s where many managers fall down.

They simply struggle to move from doing it all themselves, to fulfilling their own role of managing others to do their jobs well.

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

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March 13, 2010

Effective Workplace Relationships – External Influences

There is value in ensuring that the interaction between a manager or supervisor is effective. Both sides have much to gain.

Although this would seem to be a relationship between two individuals, who else might be involved?

When managers work closely with team members, the exciting relationship that builds is value-creating on both sides.

Greater productivity and performance being the most likely outcomes for the manager, whilst career development and a much better working experience for an employee – just two examples for each that can come from working well together.

There are challenges enough for those two to get together productively, with both sides needing to have the intention to succeed in how they interact, as well as being able to work to come closer together to create the right environment.

That said, theirs will not be the only influences that will come to bear, despite this seemingly being a one-to-one relationship. We are all shaped by our whole environment and it’s likely that these ‘external’ influences will need consideration and the working relationship progresses.

So, just who could be implicated in how two people interact, apart from those individuals themselves? Here are some possibilities:-

Family and Friends

This can present some of the most difficult challenges.

In such cases, employees can be influenced into working in certain ways by others who, variously, may not have the full picture; will have had very different work experiences; and ultimately, just be unwilling to go half way to work well with other people, especially managers who are trying hard to make things work better.

Managers need to acknowledge such pressures and ensure that whatever they do to make workplace relationships better, the external influences can be very robust. It’s not to give up on at all, indeed these workplace experiences might be a breath of fresh air to the person they are trying to be creative with. It might take time.

Having a consistent approach with all team members will help, so that those facing this particular issue will be encouraged to overcome other prejudices, to dig in and take the risk of trying on better working relationships with supervisors or managers.

Other Colleagues

When two individuals are working together to build a better working relationship, this can be influenced by the shared perceptions of others in the team.

This is usually caused by fear and other emotions, like jealousy or frustration and more.

Managers need to watch for the reluctance of individuals to get more involved. By ensuring that everyone in the team gets the same treatment, this issue usually resolves itself.

Other Line Managers

Managers are frequently encouraged to work in some bizarre ways by their colleagues, who might have experiences that are set in quite different circumstances and with different people and situations involved.

Managers need to understand that they will create relationships best, when they are being at their most authentic with themselves and not feel obliged to ‘do it their way’.

Being able to stand up and develop their own strategies takes courage and, from time to time, the occasional failure. this is all part of management self-development and is a very worthwhile exercise!

External Business Contacts

There may be times where the impact of other business contacts can affect the way that managers get on with their team.

Sometimes such extraneous influences can be hard to pick up on and adjust in favor of your own activities.

The key here is to be good at creating good working relationships with all of your people, all of the time, so that anyone affected by external influencers can see that the ‘home way’ is best and then they are likely to gradually fall in line.

These are a few of the possibilities – and there may be more. The key element here is to remember that whilst two individuals might wish to create a much more positive working relationship, there will be underlying and sometimes even unconscious thought processes that can take time to overcome.

Great working relationships are hugely valuable, not just to a manager who can get more out of their team, but, when working well, to each single individual who is on the other side of the desk, in the personal reward and development, not to mention exciting and motivating work, that they can experience too.

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

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March 11, 2010

Key Benefits Of Giving Feedback – For Everyone

When we hear those dreaded words ‘Would you like some feedback?’, it can drive fear through our hearts. Yet there are definite benefits to gain, once it’s a tactic that everyone gets used to…

Through learning how well we do and where we can get better, in a culture that is supportive and encouraging, the truth is, everyone wins.

All will get valuable returns when they are open enough to accept feedback that is regular, constructive and helps people grow through their learning and appreciation of what they do and how they do it.

On the one hand, by learning that they deliver good performance for significant proportions of the time they work, most people will start to recognize and appreciate the contribution they bring to their role.

This builds their confidence that they are valued as a team member. With greater confidence, people do more; they try more out; they take new risks and they stretch themselves; they share their skills; they prepare themselves for new roles; for bigger career steps.

Confidence and self-awareness are the building blocks of rounded, capable employees, most of whom have much potential hidden just under the surface.

On the other hand, by becoming aware of those areas where even just slightly changing behaviors and actions will make an even more valuable contribution, people get better at their job.

The driver for this is an innate desire by human beings to get things right and see the appreciation of those who measure their performance.

Some people are much more driven in this than others. To an extent, everyone wants to do their job well and be seen as someone who contributes fully and consistently.

Learning in a non-threatening way is the best route to developmental success for everyone. For you; for me; for your boss; for a small child. We all want to get better without feeling too bad about the bits we might have gotten not quite right in the past.

There are others who benefit from feedback, in the bigger picture:-

•    Managers benefit as individuals deliver more closely to the requirements of the business and as they grow into new capabilities for the future
•    Businesses benefit from the gradually improving performance of everyone
•    Stakeholders benefit too. Like customers who get better service. Stockholders who have better returns on their investment. Suppliers who have more informed dealings with your people. Families who have members who are more valued at work and share some of that in their behaviors at home.

Feedback drives improved performance and when we, as managers, take the time to make it a positive activity, our people will grow beyond their and our, wildest dreams.

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

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March 9, 2010

Managing for The Future Adds Value Today

Management is naturally in the moment. Challenges come to managers every day, hour and even less.

Yet there is wisdom in developing a mindset that seeks and effective future for the team too.

From experience, most managers don’t get ‘the future’ right away – they busy themselves with just today’s issues, which is, to be frank, quite understandable, if a bit short-sighted. Their days fill up with chaos and fire-fighting, because that’s where the urgency seems to be.

Crises are seemingly sent to make the day’s workload – every day – with only a hope that things will ‘get better one day’.

This is no way to exist, yet so often it’s a hole that managers get into and find it hard to clamber out of.

So, tactical activities have to be handled and, of course, for some of them, they take a bit of the priority in the day job to start off with.

There is another way to make progress as well. The best managers are able to recognize that it’s vital to step up to grasp the future, fitting components of it in whilst delivering what’s expected of them for today as well.

Planning for the future opens a lot of doors for you and every member of your team, in ways that can only lead to management and team success.

That success, when it is pitched the right way, will lead to improved opportunities in the future as well as, when leveraged well, making the workplace of today a lot less chaotic too.

Managers often look for short-term tactical solutions, rather than invest a little time in thinking about what their future needs are. yet, with some ability to ask what the future might need, they are able to position the short-term with the business needs for the longer term too.

The alternative is more of the same, which is depressing and demoralizing for all concerned, managers and their teams.

When ‘perception’ is that they only have time for the fire-fighting actions to get them through the day, rather than value-creating investment time that makes the difference, the struggle of today will be the same tomorrow – and the next day and the day after, disappearing over the horizon into every day.

As a consequence, looking at future needs doesn’t ever get started and before they know it that future is tomorrow – and then today.

Strangely, nothing has changed or gotten better – and the cycle continues. By grasping an opportunity to stick a stake in the ground right now and start to see what the future will need, there will be solutions sought and found.

Along the way, today begins to get fixed. And everyone gets happier and more effective too.

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

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March 8, 2010

Win-Win Management – Finding Small Gains To Start

As we set out to build relationships with our people, it’s vital that there is every opportunity to make progress.

And sometimes, you can be in the driving seat to make that happen.

Managers need the support of their people to build teams that will have positive impacts on the running of the business – and the outcomes that are necessary.

To make the most of this, good managers create valuable one-to-one relationships with as many employees as they can, such that rapport builds and creates win-win opportunities, where both sides get positive benefits from the interactions.

Where there is repair work to do – as new managers often find when they take on an existing team – perhaps where the previous manager has underperformed, the progress to rebuild trust can take a little time.

Employees who have suffered consequences of poor management relationships will by pretty shy when it comes down to exposing themselves to more painful experiences in the future.

So, this is when the manager really starts to earn their crust. Their efforts at this time will really need to demonstrate a changed workplace environment for the better, through the immaculate way they interact with their people.

There are many ways to rebuild relationships. There are ways to start them off too, but the key impact when things haven’t gone so well in the past is the white flag of peace to offer. Sometimes this can be enough for those forgiving types in your team.

Others will be less easy to turn around. They may be scarred more badly and will need real evidence of goodwill on your part, to accelerate the healing that will need to take place.

Managers can position themselves to make upfront gestures towards their people to more rapidly progress their collaborative input. Small actions to show their willingness to move relationships forwards are hugely valuable.

Be it a small gesture of thanks; an idea shared to help a learning need; simple trust building activities; remembering the name of an employee’s child; recognizing when they need to listen much more than speak.

Taking the first step to enhance a relationship with small gains for your people will quickly start the ball of a bond rolling. Once that happens, there are short-, medium- as well as long-terms gains to be enjoyed, on both sides.

The most interesting aspect of this is that although a manager is offering small gains to their people as a constructive activity to develop the relationship between them, make no doubt about it, this investment is one that will pay off over time for them too.

The key to building effective relationships is that both sides see benefits for themselves, whilst – and this is significant – allowing the outcomes to make the business more effective, efficient and organizationally valuable too.

So there are winners all the way round, just from a manager being prepared to stick their neck out and offer upfront value to a maligned bunch of employees.

And changing their views of the possibilities that can come from good management forever.

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

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