When Standards are Breached….

Successful modern leaders must be supportive of staff, but must also take decisive action to maintain standards of behaviour and professionalism in the workplace.

Are the worst leaders those who fail to support and develop staff or those who fail to effectively challenge people when standards of behaviour and professionalism are not met?

The best managers are those who are able to do both.

In order to establish and enhance standards in the workplace as a manager the first pre-requisite is a strong relationship of trust and respect.   It is possible to maintain minimum standards through fear – for a while at least – but if you want people to perform to their best then your relationship with them has to be strong.

As a manager you have to have a clear idea about what excellence is, and to be confident enough in your own knowledge and the relationship with the report to give feedback.

Usually when people hear the feedback word they assume immediately that the feedback must be negative or corrective. There is an assumption that feedback is given when a standard is not met.  However managers must spend time providing affirming feedback for all the great work that goes on – if they expect their adjusting feedback to be listened to.

Feedback needs to be given effectively.  It needs to focus on the specific behaviours and their consequences and leave the responsibility for making necessary changes with the report.

It needs to be given from a position of wanting to help and being constructive.  From wanting to see the recipient of the feedback produce consistently high quality results.  Feedback given from a critical, negative or superior place is rarely effective.

Micro Habits and Learning

Kevin Eikenberry writes a cracking blog and has recently been discussing micro-habits. If I understand him properly a micro-habit is a habit that you have for a short period of time – but then you lose.

So for example if you read a book for 30 minutes every day for a week – for that week you have the ‘micro-habit’ of reading. No doubt some people become more comfortable with the reading micro-habit, find some real benefits from it and it becomes a fully fledged habit. Something that they do, as a part of who they are, routinely. So micro-habits are experiments with new ways of being in the work. New ways of operating.

By definition these micro-habits are not natural behaviours. They are things that you have to make yourself do. Yo are forced to deviate from your norms. Once you experience some benefits and these outweigh the discomforts then the micro habits become habits – and hey presto – you have learned!

The big problem is putting up with the discomfort for long enough for the benefits to start to become apparent. Often the benefits lag behind the investment. Sometimes we give up too early.

So lots of micro-habits lead to lots of learning.

Is it true that without micro-habits learning in any real practical sense cannot happen?

  • What micro-habits have you taken up at the moment?
  • How long will you stick with them for?
  • How will you know if they are working for you?
  • If you aren’t trying new things then have you stopped learning?

After the Floods – Coping in Times of Crisis – and Thriving Once They Have Passed

I live and work in Yorkshire, which has been hit pretty hard by summer flooding. Tens of thousands of homes ruined and businesses disrupted across the county. It is taking an enormous physical effort to get things back on track – and hundreds of people are putting in super-human efforts to try to get things on the mend.

One of the upsides of this disaster is way it renews faith in human nature. The news is full of communities pulling together, helping each other and bouncing back; journalists proclaiming that ‘the people in this community are special’.

Unfortunately we don’t have many super-humans in Yorkshire and the strain is taking its toll. That is why I was pleased to see a great post today from Carmine Coyote on a one minute “stress busting” technique. If you are reaching breaking point, or even just beginning to feel the pressure then why not try it. It is a simple, 6 step – 60 second routine that if repeated several times a day will help you to recognise and manage your stress.

While it might help to manage the symptoms – and raise your awareness of the need to make changes in the way you work – Carmine’s technique alone will not provide a long term remedy to your stress at work.

That will only come when you start to manage differently – to:

  • build better relationships of trust and respect with fellow workers
  • give, receive and act on feedback on a daily basis,
  • coach every member of your team every week
  • delegate more and more effectively – so expanding your teams capacity to do more with less resources
  • focus on what really makes a difference – and stop doing the marginal stuff.

This requires

  1. a little bit of skill (it is easily learned)
  2. an iron will (otherwise you get sucked into ‘fire-fighting’ again!)
  3. a real determination to deliver on your responsibility to build a great team.
  4. a real belief that people are special and have tremendous potential.

Your job as a manager is to provide them with a context in which they do great work.

Why Managers Don’t Do Delegation


One of the most common challenges facing managers is that they simply have more work to do than is humanly possible. Yet in my experience they seldom, if ever, delegate. And often when they do delegate they delegate poorly.

The main justifications that managers offer for not delegating are:

  1. it will be quicker to do it myself
  2. it won’t be done to the standard that I would expect

These are nearly always managers who are locked into a stressful cycle of over-work and crisis management. In truth, although they complain about the brutal workloads and the crushing anxieties that they face, they are addicted to the adrenaline of crisis management. They will use any excuse not to change. Their own self-image is too heavily invested in their ability to keep the ship afloat.

They do not believe that they can make the change to become an effective manager and will use any excuse not to avoid having to try.

Progressive Managers are much more than champion delegators to qualified executors.

They are committed mentors, coaches and supporters for training and development initiatives that allow employees to develop their potential and build their careers. They recognise that the first time they delegate something it may take longer and may not be done as well as they would like. This is a risk that they are willing to take (and manage) because they know that this is how they build the capacity of their team. This will provide the opportunity to provide feedback and training to help their team member grow.

Great Post for Progressive Managers!

I often see a post and wish I had written it!  This from Phil Gerbyshack fits very much into that mould.


“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”

Audrey Hepburn

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”


2 Questions:

Who are you restoring, renewing, reviving, reclaiming, and redeeming?


Who do you believe in and do they know it?

I will add a third question:

Do you do the above weekly – with every member of your team?

Without weekly personal 121 communication efforts to restore, renew, revive, reclaim and redeem will be less than fully effective.

The Manager’s Dip

Seth Godin‘s new book is called The Dip. The Dip is the hard spot – it is the place that most people give up. Having started off with high hopes the dip is when ‘reality strikes’ results are not what were hoped for and you are faced with two choices; ‘give up’ or ‘push on’.

Every new management job starts out being exciting and fun.  Then it gets harder and less fun and then it hits The Dip.  It is incredibly hard and not much fun at all.  A scarily high number of managers are bang in The Dip. And they are trapped. Too scared to quit. And no belief in their ability to change.

Even the best managers fall into The Dip.  But they recognise it quickly and make some decisions (take some actions) that get them out of it quickly.  Sometimes they move on – and fall into The Dip in a different organisation.  Other times they stay – and they change.  They commit to beat The Dip because it’s worth it.

How do they beat The Dip?

  1. By building trusting and respectful relationships with other people who can help them to beat The Dip – managers, peers, reports, customers and other stakeholders.
  2. By building up the reward once The Dip has been beaten. (‘Do you know what it will mean if we can just get through this?’)
  3. By coaching, giving  feedback, delegating and developing the potential of every one who can help to get through The Dip.

Good managers know:

  • when they can beat The Dip and it is worth beating
  • when the Dip will beat them or it is just not worth the effort.

Some managers know neither of these things.  They just hang in there, working long hours, making little progress like a hamster trapped in wheel and The Dip just gets bigger and deeper.

5 Minute Management Breakthroughs

Exactly how much can you as a manager achieve in 5 minutes? The truth is that for many managers, 5 minutes is more than enough time to create a management breakthrough – to transform (at least temporarily) the nature of their relationship with the people that they manage.

So here are some ideas:

Find Out What Matters

Spend 5 minutes with each member of your team, and ask them about the things that matter most in their life. When you know what really matters to people and provide management that reflects these priorities the working relationship is transformed.

Try this: “I’d like to know a bit more about you. Can you take a few minutes to tell me about the things that are most important to you at the moment?”

The response might be initially work oriented or not. If it is work oriented try a follow up question such as “And what about outside of work? What things are important to you there?”

A small minority of people will not be happy talking to you about non work related stuff. Most will be thrilled that you want to spend a bit of time finding out about them as people rather than employees.  If you are using weekly 121s this is a great theme to explore on a regular basis.

Recognise the Good Stuff

The vast majority of things that happen in the vast majority of organisations are overwhelmingly good.  However as managers we learn to focus on what is not good, what is not expected, what is not under control.  This can make us seem hyper-critical.  Take a minute to think about all the GREAT things that your team has done this week.   Take opportunities to focus on the good stuff, acknowledge it and thank people for their contributions to it.  But mainly just be aware of it.  As you build your awareness of the achievements of your team you will build a more constructive relationship with team members.

Move Into Service Mode

Take 5 minutes to fill up everyone on your team’s coffee (or water) cup. Buy them an ice cream on a hot day.  Serving is a great way to show your team that you care. Especially if you know who drinks coffee and who drinks water before you get started.

Serving people is a great way to strengthen the relationship.

Thank You

Write as many thank you notes as you can to your team in 5 minutes. Be specific, and let them know just how much you appreciate them and their work.  You can send choose to send a quick e-mail,  but a hand written Thank You note works much better.

Most of these things work well if you do them just once.  Most work far better when they are repeated – perhaps daily, weekly or monthly.  We are great at spotting patterns and making meaning.

Set up patterns that show that you care.

Then people will begin to believe that they really are your ‘greatest asset’.

Mintzberg Knows a Thing or Two – Respect and Trust

“Corporations are social institutions, which function best when committed human beings (not human “resources”) collaborate in relationships based on trust and respect. Destroy this and the whole institution of business collapses.”

Henry Mintzberg

So what will you do this week to build trusting and respectful relationships with a bunch of committed human beings to make the world a better place?

Make that Change

Most people need a good reason to do something new.


All they need is a flimsy excuse to not do something for the first time.

What excuses are you using to not make changes in the way you manage?

Social Entrepreneurship and how to miss the point!

Thanks to Rob Greenland for bringing to my attention the development of the Leeds Sports Trust.


Leeds Sports Trust – Fit for the future
Leeds City Council has decided to transfer its sport and active recreation service into a Trust. The Trust will be a ‘not for profit’ charitable business with a strong social purpose agreed with the council and approved by the Charities Commissioners.

The prime motivator behind this re-structuring appears to be some VAT regulation that means as a Trust the whole empire can save some VAT.

However, the real prize of developing a Trust of this kind is the possibility of developing  an inspired, engaged group of employees who are able to take real ownership of the development of the Trust and the role it can play in the City.

The opportunity to develop a culture of ambitious social enterprise is the high value prize here – not the exploitation of an accounting loophole to re-coup some VAT.