management

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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September 29, 2010

Adequately Managing Employee Expectations

There’s a small action you can take, right away, that will build  confidence in you personally, as well as ensuring that the trust that  your people have in you is high.

I’m pretty sensitive to it –  perhaps it’s just the way I am – but it’s a very important behavior that  I notice easily when it happens.

You see, I really expect people to do what they say they will. It’s not much to ask!

Now, that doesn’t seem so hard now, does it? well, you might be surprised.  In fact managers so often fail to deliver, it’s little wonder that they  fail to create the respect and trust that they need to be effective  managers.

And there’s such a simple way to ensure that you are seem to deliver what you say you will.

Under-promise.

Here’s an example.

I  was once placed in a tricky situation. The organization I worked for  had a rigid salary review process – one that once a salary raise was in  place (and it was an annual activity) there was no way to change it.

Yet we had to make the budgets balance before we could tell out people what they had achieved and were going to shortly receive.

One  of my supervisors was not happy with the outcome of her review and came  to tell me so. In fact, I had inherited the review that year (from a  previous manager) and it seemed to me that there was just cause for her  concern.

But I couldn’t fix it there and then. In fact, although  there was a small window to ‘fix’ such matters – at the half year mark –  I wasn’t prepared to ‘promise’ an increase then even.

What I did  do was promise to take a further look at her situation and be as fair  with her as possible and depending on her meeting some criteria we  agreed.

I was never perfect at this. I did notice that because I  held ‘keeping promises’ in  high regard in my business life, I would  always do my best to ensure that I met the expectations others had of  me.

Under-promising has so many benefits – and it’s a tactic that  is very worthy of consideration, particularly when you have taken time  to create relationships with your people upfront.

Filed under Blog, Management Basics, Management Development Tips, 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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December 7, 2009

The Fine Art of Managing Exceptions

It’s vital for any manager to create a disciplined approach to the way they manage their team.

Discipline enables a focused approach with employees and the deliverables that are their required goals.

Team and individual discipline includes a number of rules and protocols by which every member of the team knows what is and isn’t acceptable. This is good for everyone, because each knows where they stand.

With the rules of the team being understood by all, this can be very freeing, actually enabling much more creative work, because the boundaries of acceptability are clear.

So, with all this in mind, what happens when someone on the team wants to behave in a manner which is normally beyond the agreed way of working? What does a manager do when what one of the team feels is quite acceptable as an exception to the rule?

In fact this can be the ace up a manager’s sleeve in how they build the team and it requires a secondary set of ‘unwritten’ rules that allow for exceptions. The key to this is that these unwritten rules are applied absolutely equally amongst the team.

Let’s say you are a retailer with a peak of business at Christmas. The written rule is that no-one has any vacation in the month of December. That’s a reasonable expectation for any employees who choose to work in that sector.

But what happens when a member of your team has a personal reason for asking for the rule to be overridden? What happens if their daughter wants to get married in the Caribbean on Christmas Day, with a few days beforehand to prepare for celebrations too? Is that permissible or not?

In these situations, smart managers allow an occasional exception to the rule in special, one-off circumstances, to show they care and understand what’s so important to their people. In fact it’s common sense, because any parent is going to attend whatever their employers says, so to lose a valued team member because they ask you to bend a rule is simply illogical.

Much better in such circumstances to allow it to happen, with strict controls and also with a strict management of any other people who choose to test this ‘rule’. After all, you could not manage the business if everyone chose to ask the same year.

That is, of course, quite unlikely, so where common sense prevails and you wave them of wishing them a great time, you will do much to create goodwill.

Of course, the rule within a rule needs to apply to everyone and needs to be seen as such.

But to deny your people reasonable, if exceptional occasions in their work environment is most likely a battle that will not see the organization as a winner, especially if those rules are not flexible enough to allow exceptions.

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

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November 14, 2008

Manager or Leader – What’s The Difference?

Two absolutely necessary things needed for the survival of any organization are leadership and management.

While leadership is the ‘quality’, which determines how far a company will go and how successful it will be in the long run, management is the ‘quantity’ that deals with the daily workings and the implementation of current plans that will help in the immediate health of the organization.

Maybe! Truth is, both are pretty important.

Although we might try to distinguish between them and aim to get them into a neat little descriptive package, it can be quite a challenge.

Maybe the way to separate the two is that a leader deals with the longer term aspirations and opportunities, whilst a manager will be more focused in managing the resources, including people, to achieve shorter-term goals for the ongoing health of the organization.

Then again, managers need to be leaders sometime…

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

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November 10, 2008

It’s All About Perspective (and Change, and Listening, and…)

So, America has elected a new president and it seems, a very different one at that.

Perhaps because of his ‘difference’, the expectations on President-Elect Obama are high indeed.

It’s usually true that as the ‘new manager’ (well, that’s what being a president is really!), there is a belief that things will change. Of course when you newly arrive, then that’s an excellent time to start.

The risk, when you can clear the decks with new ideas, standards and even people, is that you can alienate those around you whose support and help you need as you aim for progress.

For Obama, this is the American people. For you, it’s the team of employees you need to work with, as you make the changes.

When you are new to a position, it can be easier to make the changes that are vital. When you are incumbent already, you need to take a freash look at your weaknesses and blind spots from time to time.

If you have created good, open and collaborative relationships with your people, you can seek their guidance for those areas where you may be less than effective enough.

Taking time to get to know your people well will work well for you, as it will (dare I say it!), for President Obama.

Filed under Building the Future by Martin

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