Progress School in Leeds

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Are You a Jackass or a Progressive?

There is a widespread belief that the best way to manage a donkey is through a combination of stick and carrot.

As long as the right ‘extrinsic motivation’ is applied at the right time, at the right end, there is a chance that the donkey will do what we want it to.

  • Unless of course the donkey has had enough carrots for one day
  • Or becomes so accustomed to the stick that it is no longer effective
  • Or the donkey sees it self interest lying elsewhere – enough carrots for one day – I am heading off for the nettles….

Then the donkey is very likely to go into stubborn mode.

We might try bigger sticks and juicier carrots, but the donkey is not for turning.  ‘Jackass Management’ no longer works.

Even when it is working as well as it can, the best we get from ‘Jackass Management’ is a situation where the donkey does the bare minimum neccesary to pursue the carrot and avoid the stick.

Yet ‘Jackass Management’ is still incredibly prevalent.  Sub-conscious perhaps – but prevalent.  Our own self image as ‘an enlightened and person centred manager’ may prevent us from seeing our own jackass tactics.  But we cannot escape the mediocrity that our ‘Jackass’ Management creates.

The alternative is a management that is based on a genuine relationship in which both parties self interests are clearly negotiated and mutually pursued. Management in which both parties strive to give us much as they can – because they believe that is in their own self interest – rather than doing as little as they can to get the carrot and avoid the stick.

I call this Progressive Management.

Making the shift from ‘Jackass Management’ to Progressive Management is not difficult.  It does take some time, a little technique and a lot of courage.  It leads to:

  • significant productivity improvements
  • increased well being
  • reduced workplace stress
  • more creativity and innovation
  • better employee engagement
  • lower costs and
  • happier customers.

It requires us to see our job as helping other people to do great work rather than as donkeys to be manipulated to our will.

So why don’t more people make the transition from ‘Jackass’ to ‘Progressive’?  Because they are too busy wielding sticks and carrots to take the time.

If you would like to learn how to be a Progressive Manager then please visit www.progressivemanagersnetwork.co.uk

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What Can We Learn From The Apprentice?

This is the title of a piece in a LinkedIn conversation.  Here is my perspective:

I think we need to be careful about what we learn from The Apprentice and other reality shows in the ‘business genre’.

‘Cost control’ is paramount in some organisations and in really simple tasks that only have to work in the very short term.  Keep costs low and con your way to a victory.  As long as you can keep finding new ‘marks’ you will be ok.  In the real world, appropriate investment and tolerance of ‘failure’ in the right market experiments is vital if you are looking to encourage creativity and innovation.

We could learn from The Apprentice that lying, backstabbing and cheating work.  As does staying off the radar for as long as possible.  All great tactics for having an ‘OK’ career in a traditional bureaucracy, but not what I would recommend to many of my clients who are interested in exploring their potential though and doing ‘good’ work.

Why do so many bureaucracies still reward such behaviour?  Because they are too scared of sacrificing the short term gains that they achieve in order to build long term value.  Managers often lack the courage, or do not know how, to do what is right.  I meet this situation OFTEN – especially in sales teams!  I also meet a lot of sales trainers who train this type of approach!  In fact I have seen highly successful teams that specifically recruit to this mode and just cull the worst performers every year.  It works a treat to shift units.  The costs in distorted and broken lives are externalised – so who cares….

What we can learn from The Apprentice depends very much on what we are trying to do and what ideas, models and values we use to frame it with.

My worry is that for anyone who has not been involved in ‘business’ they just learn that we are lying, cheating, money grabbing, backstabbing, environment wrecking, delusional dummies.  That business is about snake oil salesmen and the short term pursuit of cash and profit over any other value.

For aspiring ‘business people’ who just want material rewards as quickly as possible I think it legitimises a completely inappropriate set of behaviours that we should be sniffing out and eliminating.

For many managers it leaves them questioning whether they should maintain their faith in working with good, compassionate caring individuals – or whether they too should recruit from The Apprentice mould.

More perspectives inspired by the Apprentice:

Tre really is on another level

Management, Dragons and Apprentices

The Sorry State of Management?

Yesterday I trained a group of around 20 managers all of whom were members of the Chamber of Commerce. It was a free ‘taster’ session – a 2 hour glimpse into the power of real management development to improve performance and relationships at work.

Feedback from the group was VERY positive! There was consensus that if we used the ideas discussed consistently and courageously we could probably expect productivity gains in the region of 25 – 40%.

Yet some of those who attended felt they could never put these ideas into practice:

‘Our directors want us to spend less time managing and more time working. They want to see nothing get in the way of production’.

‘Our directors have cut budgets for training and development – we even had a hard time getting away for free training sessions like this one.’

‘I have a member of staff who always hits targets, but she does it at the expense of her colleagues. She lies and cheats and upsets everybody. I have tried to give her feedback and would like to fire her – but because she sells so well my boss won’t hear of it.’

‘In my job customers ring up and often shout and swear at me. My boss says I just need to be more assertive’.

This is a reality of working life for many in SMEs.  This is why so many SMEs erode quality of life and wellbeing rather than contribute to it for their employees.

It reflects the somewhat sorry state of management and enterprise education today.

  • Why don’t we do a better job of helping more SME entrepreneurs to manage more effectively?
  • Why do so many businesses avoid learning how to manage constructively?
  • Why do people choose to work for such poor bosses?
  • Are we turning into The Apprentice on a national scale? Rude, brutish, short-sighted and backstabbing?

Conscious Capitalism

I have been watching a movement develop over recent years called ‘conscious capitalism’ or ‘conscious business’.  It provides a different take on what it means to be a ‘social enterprise’.  The idea is being pioneered by amongst others, John Mackey, CEO of Wholefoods Supermarket.  In a recent speech he says:

A Conscious Business is one which has two major attributes that define it:

  1. It has a deeper purpose beyond only making profits. Just like individual people by following their hearts can discover their own sense of deeper purpose, so can the business enterprise. I believe that great businesses have great purposes that inspire them to higher levels of success. Think for a moment about some of the greatest businesses in the world and ask yourself whether they exist to fulfill a greater purpose beyond only maximizing profits. Certainly Apple does, driven by its intense desire to create “insanely great” technology which transforms our lives in positive ways. Clearly Google does too with its passion for discovery and desire to operate an ethical company. One of the best examples in the world is Grameen Bank in Bangladesh founded by 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammed Yunus, which exists to end poverty in Bangladesh and throughout the world. Every business has the potential to discover and actualize its higher purpose—it has the potential to become more conscious.
  2. The Conscious Business also understands the interdependency of all of the major stakeholder groups—customers, employees, investors, suppliers, communities, and the environment—and the business is managed to consciously create value for all of these major stakeholders. Instead of viewing the stakeholders in terms of win-lose relationships with conflicts of interest dominating their interactions, the Conscious Business understands that there is a harmony of interests between the stakeholder groups and that by working together greater value can be created for all of them. At Whole Foods we understand that management’s most important job is to make sure the team members are well trained and happy at their work. The team members in turn understand that their job is to satisfy and delight the customers and happy customers result in happy investors through the prosperity of the business. A virtuous circle is created with all of the stakeholders flourishing together.

Who will create the Conscious Businesses of the 21st century—businesses that have deeper purpose and are managed consciously to create value on behalf of all of the stakeholders?

John Mackey, May 2008

This feels to me like a much more coherent, honest and powerful approach to making business work for the planet than cleaving it along  ‘social enterprise = good; for profit = bad’ divide.

Of course words are relatively easy (although John Mackey has found that words have got him into lots of how water in the past.  We have to judge the movement by its achievements.  But I am hopeful.

You can read a much fuller paper by John Mackey called ‘Conscious Capitalism’ here.

Mini Me or Maxi You?

mini-me

When you teach, coach and instill a new way of thinking into every employee in your company, so that when employees are faced with any decision, they would do whatever YOU would do as the business owner or leader, you very quickly create a company which stands out in its market place as one which is attentive, alert and focused on its customers needs.

Richard Parkes Cordock

Richard Parkes Cordock produces great advice for managers and entrepreneurs.  I am an especially big fan of the Millionaire MBA programme.

However I think he has got this bit wrong.

I want to employ people:

  • who can do things that I can’t do,
  • who can see choices that I can’t see,
  • who act from their own unique perspective to take the action that they believe will be best for them and the business.

Success depends on diversity not a monoculture of mini mes.

18 tips for Better Partnership Working

I have just completed a 2 day workshop with a great group of partnership managers.  Here is what I learned!

  1. Get really clear and comfortable about your self interest. Your personal  reaction to the opportunities and possibilities offered in your role.
  2. Communicate this powerfully in language that the recipient will understand and value.
  3. Develop your professional self interest – the overlap between your individual/personal and professional/organisational response to what REALLY matters.
  4. Build your power to influence what really matters through investing in person to person relationships. Invest in a series of 121s. Share what really matters to you. Be clear on how they will perceive you.
  5. Use the allies/opponents/adversaries/fencesitters/bedfellows model to help you structure this.
  6. Become power hungry (why wouldn’t you want power to make what you believe in happen? Don’t leave power for the bad guys of this world to grab!)
  7. Building a powerful coalition around your ideas inside the business is as important as building one externally.
  8. Know your reputation – find ways to find what people REALLY think of you and your agenda – but are too polite to say!
  9. Don’t be busy fools. Work on the most powerful relationships. That is the relationships that give you the most power – this has little or nothing to do with the ‘authority’ power of the other party. Think leverage. Think goals.
  10. Think ‘enlightened self interest‘  and here.
  11. Ring fence thinking time – 2 lots of 90 minutes a week – to develop your agenda – rather than respond to the needs and agendas of others. This will increase your sense of control and reduce your levels of stress – as well as making you much more effective and creative. GUARANTEED.
  12. Agree on the ends.   Be different, challenging, creative and risky when it comes to the means. You don’t always have to play by the rules. Think Mandela.
  13. If you play by the rules of bureaucracy it will find ways of stifling change.
  14. Don’t let years of socialisation in being helpful and humble result in you being a selfless partner. Nobody wants to partner with Uriah Heep – but they may just take everything you have.
  15. Resist the safety of bureaucracy – maintenance, safety, dependency (external locus of control).
  16. Pursue the entrepreneurial way – greatness, courage and autonomy (internal locus of control).
  17. Don’t waste too much time and energy on the difficult people. Invest it in those who share your self interest – life is just better that way.
  18. Always take your own chalk and be cautious in your selection of cues….(this is not a mystical metaphor – just a statement of fact).

Anything I have missed?

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

Carl Jung

More Customer Service Craziness?

Mobile phones and insurance policies.

I like NEITHER.  Yet renewal time comes around and we dutifully spend hours on web sites to ‘compare the market’ and get great prices.

So this morning, after a mammoth web-surfing session I rang KWIK FIT Insurance Services to tell that we were not renewing our existing policy because we had found a better price and insurance coverage elsewhere.  I was put on hold while they transferred my call to someone who could ‘cancel down’ their renewal quote.

In fact I was transferred to someone who was trained to stop me placing my business elsewhere.  He asked me why I hadn’t rung them for a quote as they can offer better deals over the phone than they do over the net!

Not what I wanted to hear!

Mobile phone companies are the same.  They only offer you their best deals once you have already decided to place you business elsewhere!

Bad psychology and bad business!

So – in spite of all the recommendations to use web-based comparison sites to get the best deals and safe money – the best bet is to use those sites to find the best deal you can – and then ring up call centres and haggle to see who will beat the deal!

Hardly model customer service though is it?

So much for progress.

If you read my HP rant then you maybe interested to hear how it finally got resolved!   Eventually they told me they would issue me with a letter to authorise the seller to replace the machine. Yippee!  Then two days letter I got a call from an engineer telling me he was outside my house wanting to repair the machine!  I am the other side of the city about to go into a meeting.  No-one has mentioned this change of plan to me – or that the engineer was coming!!

Eventually without any further dealings with call centres I was able to get the engineer access to the machine and he replaced the motherboard.  Should be back in busniess soon!

People Are Our Greatest Cost – Honest Banker Shock!

You know when you hear a Chief Exec say,

“People are our greatest…”

and you are thinking yeah, yeah I know – ‘ASSET’.

Except on the Today programme I heard the CEO of RBS (rumoured to be looking at 20000 redundancies) say,

‘People are our greatest cost’.

Cognitive Dissonance or what!

Life is complicated though.  Most of us are BOTH great assets and great costs in weird and dynamic combinations.

Outstanding managers have systematic and effective processes (121s, feedback, coaching, delegation etc) for developing both the asset part of the equation AND the cost.  Yes, outstanding managers do want good people to cost more, and more, and more – because they recognise that what matters is the value that they create – not how much they cost.

How are you doing with your systematic and effective processes for asset development?

Barriers to Coaching

Prem Rao writes a great blog and one of his recent posts identifies 7 barriers that prevent managers from coaching their team members as much as they ought.

Now I spend a lot of my time teaching managers how to coach and while I agree with all of Prem’s 7 I would have to add a few more barriers that I regularly encounter!

One is the perception that coaching takes a along time and is expensive.  While coaching can take several weeks to really improve performance it is usually used to address a problem or an opportunity that has existed for months!  Taking 6 -9 weeks to make real progress on an issue that is important but not urgent has to be a great use of any manager’s time.

But this brings us to another barrier to coaching.  Coaching is a classic Quadrant 2 activity in Covey terms – it is itself an important but seldom urgent part of the work of the manager – After all you can always postpone coaching for another day without the wheels falling off.  Secondly the issues that require coaching tend to be Quadrant 2 in nature – they are important but seldom urgent.  So we are caught in a double whammy – not only can we afford to postpone coaching we can also postpone addressing the issue that coaching would be perfect to address.

Another barrier is the perception that it will take up a lot of the managers time if they start to coach – in fact it will nearly always save time – especially if used in partnership with delegation.

Then there is the association of coaching with under-performance.  The perception that coaching is something that is done (certainly at middle and lower levels in the organisation) as a last resort effort to address under performance.  This makes it awkward for managers to broach the subject of coaching with high performers.

Finally I think that many managers fight shy of coaching because they are insufficiently secure in their own technical competence and believe that their own short-comings might be exposed if they start to coach.

The solution?

Set an expectation that every manager will coach every member of the team every week.  Train managers how to coach. Hold them accountable for this expectation and reward those that deliver! 

Not only will you see progress in terms of performance and value creation, you will also start to develop a culture where you really do ‘invest in your people’.

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