Focus on Results

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 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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November 2, 2010

Tough Management Decisions

As they say ‘the buck stops here’.

For managers, there is nowhere to run when it’s time to make the hardest of decisions.

And they need look no further for the biggest challenges they will face than with the personnel they have in their teams.

Most often when decisions need to be made, as long as facts are clearly taken into account, although there might be some difficulty in telling those who might be disappointed, the right decision is pretty clear.

Being ‘factual’ makes it much more easy, because objective assessments are much easier to make than subjective ones. When we let emotions rule our decision-making process, that’s when things start to unravel.

Faced with a choice between two great contributors, is often where a manager needs to tread most carefully. Whilst it might seem to be a lot more difficult then, looking hard and being absolutely objective – not to mention keeping the required outcome very, very close to mind – can make it an easier task.

Here a manager really does have to watch for the influence of personal preference; favoritism; emotional attachment whilst deciding.

Because these can often blur objectivity.

Making the best decision – often when it seems that there might be a loser in the process – sometimes has to be done.

It can be tough to get it right for the bigger picture – and that’s where great managers earn their crust.

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

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February 25, 2010

Refining Employee Relationships – Getting To The Bottom Line

When we are managers, supervisors and leaders, we build workplace relationships – and we do it for a reason. We want to achieve successes and we need to do this through our people.

This is the bottom line for the interactions we take our part in.

The purpose of relationship building in the workplace is pretty simple really. There is value for all sides of the equation and within that, it’s important to acknowledge that there is a bottom line.

As employees; indeed as business owners, managers and team leaders, we are all in it for something, because the most of us need the work we do.

When we attend work, we do so for some pretty basic reasons. We want shelter to keep us from the elements. We want to be fed and kept healthy. In modern societies we are very fortunate that these are pretty much covered off for most of us.

So we need more. The basics – the core rewards that work provides us with – are sufficient to provide the minimum we need. If that was all we went to work for, well, we that’s pretty much sorted.

The more we need is the cerebral value that work provides for us. The stimulation of the work we do provides a healthiness that is not measured by outward disease. Our mental well-being is provided for by finding stimulating challenges that we enjoy and get personal satisfaction from.

Work is not about material reward alone.

When we manage others, we take that on as a stimulating challenge that gets our juices flowing, so we too are satisfied from the fulfillment that we get from the achievements we make.

Both sides achieving successes in their own personal challenges, are leveraged by organizations to ensure that results from the whole, go to meet and exceed the results that need to drop out for the financial bottom line.

If managers and their employees have personal goals they want to achieve and these are aligned with the needs of the bigger organization, then we are all in business pulling together.

The glue that binds us is the way we communicate together. And we communicate most effectively by having close working relationships that enable us to make the best outcomes possible, where everyone is a winner.

That bottom line for the relationships we build is the pleasure – the joy even – we get from achieving what we want from the work we do.

It isn’t just about financial reward. It isn’t about getting a company car that’s a bit bigger. It’s not about the pension pot we build.

Relationships enable us to work together towards a common goal. The purpose of the relationships we co-create, is the bottom line for all of us, which is very personal, yet always contributes to the outcome our employers expect of us too.

So we are all winners together.

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

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February 23, 2010

How Workplace Relationship Building Solves Problems Best

Problems are a part of any manager’s day. They come at us thick and fast, providing challenges on many levels. With your team, many of these can be fixed.

With the full involvement and collaboration of your team – even better – many can be solved for good…

They say ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, because two minds working together will be able to create a better solution – one that is generally much more effective.

One of the purposes of creating active relationships with our people, is to ensure that we have every opportunity to make the most of thinking together.

Partnerships will generate more and better ideas that can be instrumental in delivering successes much more effectively.

Where – as managers – we spend the time with our people, both one-on-one as well as with our teams, we create the environment that is effectively a safe place to become much more creative.

As we listen carefully to our people – making the effort to hold back with our own ideas to let them come forward with their own – they begin to show their strengths. Often hidden from us, as their confidence develops, we see them demonstrate their full capabilities.

By developing a level of trust and respect that lets them open up willingly, our people take up the challenges we set before them, creating a sense of purpose that will drive them on – with their colleagues – to much more effective solutions.

As managers we are able to spend our days fire-fighting and coming up with sticking-plaster solutions that work for us in the short-term. This makes problems go away for a while, but these are intrepid critters and have a habit of keeping coming back.

When we create strong relationships with our people, they get involved too, sharing their own wisdom which you have nurtured when you are with them. And this enables far better, deep-reaching solutions – not fixes – that make problems go away for good.

We use the relationships we encourage, to make the differences we need, to make our management both much more effective, as well as easier for the best solutions we seek.

The time we invest in our people creates the returns that we seek, above and beyond like-for-like. Using the leverage of many minds on the problems we together face, we maximize the value we create.

Relationship building is two-way, with your people enjoying value from it as well. The returns you appreciate by making this effort are unlimited, because you just don’t know what abilities your people will come up with.

Finding purpose to building relationships is not hard and what can be delivered using you and your interpersonal skills probably cannot be overestimated – after all, you have amazing people around you.

Your job is to get their potential out in the open and exposed, helping you provide lasting solutions to the problems and issues that you have before you.

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

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February 9, 2010

Five Unexpected Benefits of Performance Management

Managing performance can be a challenge, especially where you have an organizational process to fulfil.

Outside the more obvious reasons for using such a process, there are more to go for, which will help managers realize why it is a useful tool to embrace fully.

Apart from the individual benefits for each one of your people, there is some incredible additional value that you can add with managing performance, rather than by letting it be a chore.

Check these out…

•    Succession Planning

Where you focus on the development of your people as part of managing their performance, you will ensure that you are growing capability within your team for the future as well.

With individual development, you provide for the challenges that happen when you lose people from your team.

When they leave for the new challenges you’ve prepared them for maybe; geography moves them on or even they retire, you have new, eager people that are ready to rock and roll.

•    Creating Momentum

When performance management is used to its best advantage, successes follow success. For each individual developing their skills and output, a mood of growth envelops the team members.

As your people sense that their capabilities are of value, they do more; create more; take risks and try on new possibilities and between them all, this rubs off.

Each tries more and achieves more, creating an upward spiral of success and a momentum of the ‘can do’ attitude so valuable in developing team spirit that synergizes the combined efforts of individuals.

•    The Culture

Once successes are achieved, not only is there a sense of what’s possible, you people are also focused on each other too.

They support each other as a team, rather than simple as individuals engrossed in themselves.

The culture will be one of mutual synergy, so powerful in making new, exciting things happen out of often almost nothing.

•    Building on What They’re Good At

When there is a culture of success, it comes where each of your people is fully aligned with their actions.

Some call this ‘being in the flow’.

This total focus, concentration and energy makes things happen so effectively that it becomes almost effortless.

A stream of activities that just seem to, well, work, is the return you get from where your people are building on the strengths they have with your encouragement and support, your coaching and developmental challenges.

When you work with people on where their true capabilities are, more becomes available from them and they rise to the new challenges you find for them.

When working in areas where people are in their ‘good at’ zone, much more becomes possible for them.

Your focus as a manager is to find where their performance ‘hot spots’ are and leverage that however you can, safe in the knowledge that you are delivering a win-win to them, so the results are perfect.

•    Creative Coping Strategies

Let’s be honest, no-one is a perfect employee – not even you!

So, there will be times where they are challenged more than is good for them in areas where ‘flow’ is a mystery.

In these gaps, it’s always a valuable support to acknowledge this together with them and help them find new ways to resolve these elements of the role they struggle with.

These solutions might be helping them delegate; helping them create workarounds; creative recruitment strategies; learning from poor performance and more.

By coaching them to solutions that overcome the areas where they aren’t fully at home, you will support and encourage the areas where they are excellent too, without wasting time wringing hands over the effort they need to make in unproductive areas for them.

So, let’s keep the activities that they can’t describe themselves and being ‘good at’ easy too!

There’s more to managing performance than the obvious chore of filling in bits of paper to make the process work and when you recognize the value, you will be much more ready to invest some time in it.

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

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February 5, 2010

Relationship Building Values – Developing the Feelgood Factor

Positive actions come when people feel they are contributing well. Excellence of performance comes from knowing that we are recognized to be doing well.

With the right relationships with your people, you can make the most of this.

People feel good about themselves when they feel that they are achieving success. They like to know that the challenges they have accepted are progressing and they are thought well of.

Yet sometimes, for many of us, it’s hard to take that objective position where we know for ourselves just how we are doing. Praising ourselves is difficult indeed.

When we are responsible for others in our team, it’s part of our job to get the most from each one of them. A manager’s role is closely focused on our skills with our people and nothing else should get in the way of that.

By taking the time to use the relationships we have built with them to full effect, we can make sure that the feedback we give is positive and constructive for them, giving them a sense of well-being in the work they do.

These relationships cannot be created overnight. The trust that is required to ensure that what they hear you say is accepted at face-value, is an investment that doesn’t come all at once.

As you make the deposits in the emotional relationships that you have between you over time, there comes an understanding that makes what you say to them be trusted and have all the more impact as a consequence.

Once the ‘feelgood’ factor starts to show up for them, there is a power in the new-found confidence that emanates from them.

Every action has an enhanced level of belief; every opportunity to try on new opportunities is met with possibility; every time they see something risky, there is a confidence to try that comes from their absorbed understanding of what they are capable of.

Feeling good about ourselves offers a further value that extends outside the workplace too. When we know that we’re doing a good job, we take it home with us. We are happier in our other lives, because we have a new confidence.

The value of a manager taking the time to get to know us well enough, to spend time telling us how well we are doing is immeasurable, in all sorts of contexts.

For the manager, they build on potential being realized. We grow our people and squeeze out of them what’s tucked away inside, making much more – almost anything indeed – possible.

Feelgood is a unique product of great workplace relationships and a manager taking the time to tell their people – authentically – that they are doing well.

From this, much more becomes possible too.

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

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February 4, 2010

Customer Complaints – Who Will Gather The Intelligence?

Complaints are a valuable asset to any organization, once you can ensure that your people are willing to play.

And to get them with you, they need to know that it’s not personal…

There is no greater value than that to be gleaned from your customers and clients who are prepared to take the time to give you feedback – which is a much more constructive way to describe a complaint.

These gold nuggets are literally worth their weight, when you are able to capture, dissect and respond positively to what you find out. Yet many organizations revel in low complaint rates!

The key to this is your people – all of them. It’s about turning them from being fearful of when a complaint comes in, to positively gleeful, because of the enormous opportunity it presents.

By ensuring that every one of them is geared up to sense when things aren’t going well, you will create an army of willing volunteers who are ready for action. Their job is to seek out and get to the bottom of any dissatisfaction they perceive.

This has to happen in the moment, all the time, or it will have passed and the opportunity will have disappeared into the anonymity of an ended phone call; a person now back out on the street; or the lost data storage of an online interaction that never sees the light of day.

It needs to be pro-actively sought, not passively responded to – or worse, swept under the carpet with the hope it will go away.

By encouraging your people to engage and interact with their clients, in any way at all, they will be able to get under the tough skin of a dissatisfied customer ‘not wanting to make a fuss’. They have to smell it out or it will slink away, unspoken, which is of no use at all to you.

They will probably capture more customer dissatisfaction, than you expect, especially to start with.

And when they do, it’s to be applauded. It’s to be celebrated.

Working as a team to find out critical information from those who have it, is a tactic any manager can adopt to ensure that customer service progresses, whilst also building the team togetherness ethic in a constructive, value-creating way.

By encouraging each and every one of them to engage their clients in any way they can, will make the conversation much more open and relaxed – and valuable.

Because, with this in place, many of your customers can easily be asked what they would love changed if they had the choice in the experience they have most recently had.

And that gives you – and your team – the vital intelligence to make your offer even better than it already is.

(c) 2010 Martin Haworth. This is a short excerpt from one of 52 lessons in management development at Super Successful Manager!, an easy to use, step-by-step weekly development program for managers of EVERY skill level. Find out more at

Filed under Blog, Customer Service, Developing Your People, Focus on Results by Martin

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January 29, 2010

Workplace Relationship Building – Hopes and Fears

Managers and supervisors are human. Let’s take that as a given. We don’t always feel we can share this with our people too much, but it’s true. We have feelings as well.

How we share that with our people is another matter.

One of the biggest challenges facing managers is their approachability. Despite the world moving onto a more ‘team’ approach in many workplaces, there is still a certain reverence for any manager with his people.

The irony here is that managers are just as vulnerable to the range of emotions as every member of their team, as was once said, ‘They pull their pants on just like you and I do everyday’!

So, recognizing that we are all the same, allows us to understand there might be differences in some things, but deep down, we live with ourselves every day.

In fact, because of the isolated nature of a managers elevated role, there are times when they are in a worse position that those in their team’s, because they have to maintain discipline and cannot therefore be simple ‘one of the boys’ (or ‘girls’).

This is an opportunity when building workplace relationships with employees. They don’t often have the chance to relate to managers in quite the same way as their colleagues, such is the still elevated ‘position’ that a manager holds.

The opportunity comes because relationship building offers the potential to get closer to your people by showing them that you are just like them. You really do have the same emotions as anyone else and, although most often it’s easy to put on a mask of competence, sometimes you too have bad days.

Days where you feel like you need someone around to talk to. Someone to share the fears you have about how things are going and, whilst it would be wrong to splay open your self-doubt too widely, there is nothing wrong with airing some of your self-concerns, once you have the right level of relationship.

Similarly, whilst you are keen to hear from others their aspirations and hopes, sharing yours with your people will do you no harm either.

Indeed, being a little more open with your hopes, fears and concerns will draw your people in, especially when you do it in a controlled way that emphasizes the relationship that you have with each others.

The hopes and fears you have in the role you hold are pretty normal. We all wonder about how we can cope, survive and be successful. As long as you do this in the right way, you will be valued for the way you show that far from being different, you are pretty much just like most of your people.

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

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January 26, 2010

Top Ten Benefits of Facilitation

By using facilitation as a tactic, you can ensure that you free up your people in all sorts of ways when they work together – after all, it’s there to make the process work.

But what exactly are the benefits?

Facilitation is a simple skill whereby the process to an end result is supported – especially in meetings – to ensure that the participants are able to contribute fully, without worrying unduly about the activity. They do the content, thinking and debate, the facilitator enables it to happen.

So, what exactly are the benefits of using facilitation in the workplace?

Here are ten of them…

1. Freeing
Because a great facilitator focuses specifically on the process, everyone else can get on with the purpose and outcomes and concentrate fully.

2. Structure
Meetings follow a precise route, engaging those present and reducing concerns. In the future, the process creates a ‘safe space’ for members to meet and contribute.

3. Clarity
The facilitated meeting clarifies roles and enables the leader to be fully ‘present’ – thus reducing their focus on the clock and their own, often internal, agenda.

4. Neutral
When using an internal or external facilitator, they bring a process-focused neutrality to the proceedings and have no role in the issue.

5. Value-Creating
Facilitated meetings create value. The synergies released once the process is clear, enable a freedom of thinking that provides for much better solutions.

6. Experiential
If used as a learning exercise, as well as a real activity, Facilitation is learnable. Like anything new, those present can be a little resistant, but still, with post-meeting review, lessons learned make subsequent occasions progress quickly.

7. Timely
Meetings which are facilitated are timely. With the focus created by a skilled facilitator, there is no wasted time, so building confidence, trust and team spirit.

8. Contributory
More individuals on the team are able to say their piece, because the rules are agreed upfront. Any minor transgressions are reflected upon quickly in the facilitated process. So everyone’s input is valued and inappropriate behaviors are controlled.

9. Progressive
Because the process is fair and ‘managed’, there is an understood commitment to outcomes and actions. Accountabilities are very clear, written down and agreed.

10. Clarifies Roles

Pre-meeting discussion between the facilitator and key players clarifies the roles of those involved in the activity. Thus a lead will have a clear understanding that his or her role is broader than driving his or her own solutions. Hence team skills are improved and the leader begins to appreciate the true value of the bigger team ethic.

When meetings are facilitated, progress happens. Facilitation in other situations can work too, so it can be used as a valuable tool to generate successful outputs, when people get together to work effectively and efficiently towards a common goal.

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

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