From Good to Great Manager – Part 5 – Knowing What Matters

Great managers know what matters.

They know both what matters to the organisation (vision, values, goals, behaviours, strategy in action) and what matters to individual employees.  Their families’ names. Who is terrified of flying. Their favourite hobbies and interests.  Who has expressed interest in a leadership role.

They take every opportunity to recognise and appreciate what matters to the organisation and to recognise and respect what matters most to the individual.  They help to connect the dots between what matters to people personally and what matters to the organisation.

In my work with Progressive Managers often the largest challenge is that of recognising the good stuff.  Often managers do not see enough of what people do to be able to observe (even less recognise) it.  And if they are in a position to observe it, often the subtleties go un-noticed and un-acknowledged.

The best managers know what they expect to see an employee doing to support vision, values and goals.  They look for it  – and when they see it they acknowledge it.  If they don’t see it then they will ask questions:

‘Is there anything more that you could do to put our values into practice?’

‘Are there any opportunities that you can see to help reach the goals we have set?’

Good managers know their stuff.  They know excellent work when they see it – and they know that they MUST appreciate it.  Lesser managers struggle to distinguish excellence from mediocrity – and unwittingly establish a standard that says mediocrity will do.

PMN Partners With Doncaster CVS

Doncaster CVS
The Progressive Managers’ Network is partnering with Doncaster CVS to launch the network in Doncaster. PMN offers bite sized, fiercely practical, management training to help you succeed. The first training event is free of charge so that you can try it without risk.
Would you like to learn a management tool that is guaranteed to:
  • Save you time
  • Increase levels of trust in your team
  • Improve communication
  • Make you a noticeably better manager
  • Get more done – more quickly
  • Accelerate the professional development of your team, and
  • Reduce the pain of performance reviews?

Then come along to a free introductory session of the Progressive Managers’ Network at the Doncaster CVS on March 13th from 13.30 to 16.30.

At the event you will get a free gift to help improve your management worth more than £25.

Places are strictly limited so please book your place online here. Or call for more information on 0113 2167782.

If you know of a manager who might be interested please forward them a link to this page.

Future Dates for PMN in Doncaster:

April 9th – Giving and Getting Great Feedback

May 14th – Practical Coaching for Managers

June 18th – Effective Delegation

July 16th – Effective Time Management

All workshops run from 13.30 – 16.30.

Great Management Quote

“Great work is not about ergonomically styled offices in different shades of blue and green. It is certainly not about all the processes of human resource management. It is not about leadership – not leadership from above, anyway. It is not about technology. It is about kindling the inner human spirit that makes us the people we are.”

Richard Donkin, Blood, Sweat and Tears; The Evolution of Work


121s and the Return on Investment in Relationships

Tom Peters encourages managers to obsess on R.O.I.R – the Return on Investment in Relationships.

Usually what has to be invested is not cash – but time. And the challenge is to invest that time effectively.

For me, without doubt, the most effective tool for ROIR with employees is the 121. These are structured, documented 30 minute meetings held with each member of staff, every week. They provide the most effective ROIR with employees that I have ever seen.

ROIR through 121s comes in many forms:

  1. increased staff retention
  2. improved productivity
  3. recognition and acknowledgement of progress
  4. appreciation of those who are performing well
  5. identification of under performance and early resolution
  6. promotion of behaviours that reinforce strategic goals and values
  7. increased tempo of coaching to develop potential and performance
  8. deeper professional relationships
  9. increased trust
  10. increased influence
  11. increased responsiveness
  12. better support of team members in their work
  13. conduit for ideas from the front line to be heard and acted upon
  14. management support for every member of the team – every week
  15. improved communication and focus on what matters
  16. progress made and recognised on a weekly basis
  17. increased sense of urgency in the team
  18. encourage individuals to think through their contribution to team or organisational objectives
  19. increased initiative and enterprise
  20. planning remains flexible and dynamic
  21. documentation makes performance reviews simpler and less contentious
  22. barriers to high performance are removed
  23. factors contributing to poor performance are identified and resolved
  24. formal opportunities for delegation
  25. feedback – both given and received
  26. increased employee engagement
  27. improved knowledge management and knowledge sharing
  28. better talent management and development
  29. increased creativity
  30. more responsibility taken voluntarily by more people
  31. reduced absenteeism
  32. more diversity as 121s recognise that ‘one size fits one’

Perhaps some of these are things that you as a manager need to work on. If you are already using 121s then think how you can use them more effectively for the things that matter most to you and your business.

If you are not already using 121s then you have a tremendous opportunity to improve your management practice.

By the way – additions to the list are very welcome!

Boom times or recession: It is all about people

However when the economy takes a downturn it is easy for the tyranny of the bottom line to ride rough shod over effective people development processes.

As Gill Corkindale says:

“People skills will be more important than ever as we head into the uncertainties of 2008. The threat of recession, global credit squeezes, and political uncertainty will magnify the challenges all businesses will face … But without emotional intelligence, clear communication, delegation, feedback, giving recognition and celebrating success, companies will fail their employees, their customers, their shareholders and all their other stakeholders. Ultimately, they will probably fail completely.”

While you might be itching to crack the whip, focus on sales and reduce costs – you must maintain a focus on people and relationships. Only by effectively managing team members will you enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your organisation.

How to Motivate Your Problem People

Everyone has motivational energy. Everyone acts in ways that they believe will make things better for them, their loved ones or the wider community.

Even problem employees are driven and committed — it is just that the direction or nature of their drive and commitment is not recognised or valued in the workplace.

In trying to motivate problem employees, most managers either:

  • try to “sell” their viewpoint to employees—or
  • dismiss them as ‘lazy’
  • avoid managing them all together and hope that the problem will go away.

1. Create a rich picture of the ‘problem’ employee.

Don’t simply label him difficult. Build a relationship and find out what drives him, what’s blocking those drives, and what might happen if the blockages were removed. A system of regular 121s should let you build a relationship that can achieve this within a month or two.

2. Replace predetermined ‘solutions’ with feedback

Don’t demand new behaviours just point out the impacts of those already in place and ask what he might be able to do differently? Help him to develop a menu of possibilities and choose to follow the ones that interest him.

Does your workforce have the right skills?

Currently ‘Skills’ within the workplace is high on the government agenda. Funds are filtering down into regional ‘pots’ that have been allocated to support the up-skilling of the nation’s workforce. David Lammy, Skills Minister commented, ‘Yorkshire and Humber has the highest proportion of low skilled workers in the country because its traditional manufacturing industry could rely on low skilled workers.’

In the past two decades the region has suffered from the decline of traditional industries with massive job losses in coal mining, steel, engineering and textiles. These have been partly offset by growth in financial, legal and telephone-based services. Were these really low skilled jobs that were lost? Just because the skills did not show up on the national qualifications database does not mean that these were unskilled workers! Was a miner really less skilled than a telephone worker with an NVQ Level 2 in Call Centre Operations?

The skills that your business needs should not be determined by Mr Lammy and the agendas and prejudices promoted by an army of skills brokers. The skills that your business needs will be determined by your customers, by your markets, by your suppliers by your competitors and by your decisions.  It is likely that the skills needs will change quickly and significantly – so the real premium will go to those that learn – continually.

The Limits of Lean?


Earlier this week I went to ‘An Evening with Simon Hill’. Drawing on his experience of manufacturing industry and Yorkshire Forward, Simon Hill, Executive Director of Business at Yorkshire Forward talked about strategic business improvement using ‘Lean Principles’. Simon chose not to offer a quick reminder of what these Lean Principles are – leaving a proportion of the audience in the dark. As a reminder they are:

  1. Specify what creates value from the customers’ perspective
  2. Identify all the steps along the process chain
  3. Make those processes flow
  4. Make only what is pulled by the customer
  5. Strive for perfection by continually removing waste

With its origins in the world of total quality management Lean Principles provide a wonderful way to ensure efficient product or service delivery by allowing the whole business process to be analysed and made efficient. It emphasises systems, compliance, analysis and objectivity in pursuit of the perfect process. It really is scientific management for the late 20th Century. It is one of several business improvement tools that can help an organisation with one of its purposes – that of the efficient delivery of a product or service.

However increasingly efficiency is not the only game in town. Indeed it is not even the main game for most organisations. Renewal, re-invention and transformation are increasingly the key drivers of sustainable value creation in modern knowledge based economies. If I heard Simen rightly then after a considerable investment of money and time in implementing Lean his business had just about managed to stand still. Now this is an great achievement for a manufacturer of automotive components in South Yorkshire – but I doubt if it carries the seeds for a major economic re-birth.

My concern is the ‘story’ that Lean tells about the nature of business and enterprise. That it is about analysis, rationality, incremental improvement and mediocrity – giving the customer just what they ask for – when they ask for it. It is that the expectations of the customer should drive the production of the organisation. And Lean is not just a set of tools – it is a management philosophy – a culture. It becomes the way we think and act.

Andrew Mawson – one of the UKs most outstanding social entrepreneurs tells of the first time he asked some members of his community what they would really like to do. It turned out that they aspired to go on a day trip to the coast. Fair enough thought Andrew and worked with them to make it happen. After the trip had been undertaken he asked them what they would like to do next? And the reply came – ‘Let’s go on another trip to the (same) coast’! Let’s do it again! Andrew recognised that the aspirations of his customers were narrow. That he could provide experiences far more powerful and effective in driving community development. He understood that they had no real idea of what was possible. So he proposed that their next project was to be a journey across the Sinai desert. As their supplier he transformed their ideas of what could be achieved based on his on his knowledge, experience and expertise. This would never had happened had been trained in Lean principles.

And now Lean Simon tells us Lean consultants are being engaged by Yorkshire Forward to increase organisational efficiency. No doubt pieces of paper will soon be travelling less far on their journey through the offices, being touched by fewer people and processes generally more efficiently. And many of the employees perceptions will be reinforced that their role is not to facilitate the entrepreneurial re-birth of the region – but to design and administer effective bureaucratic processes.

For me business is about emotion, aspiration, imagination, passion, energy and risk. I am not making an argument for waste (although I do often find myself encouraging clients to ‘create slack’) but I am arguing for cultures that favour action and re-invention over perfection. If the price of Lean is a culture that favours analysis and incrementalism over imagination, re-invention and risk taking then I for one find it a price I am not prepared to pay.

At the end of the presentation I asked Simon whether he really felt that Lean held the answers to sustainable competitiveness in knowledge based business – whether it could drive the creativity and innovation necessary to compete in the future. And he answered ‘ No!’.

Good Boss Behaviours

As part of a training session on Managing Your Boss I recently asked a group of managers to think about what their best managers did that made them so good.  I got lots of the usual labels (passionate, visionary, inspiring etc) and had to work quite hard to explore what they actually did that made the followers believe them to be those things.

Here are some of the results:

  1. Always drove ideas forward
  2. Made you feel a part of it, valued your achievements.
  3. Saw in me things that I did not see in myself. A mentor.
  4. Tended to say ‘yes’ – always encouraging – looking for reasons ‘why’ rather than ‘why not’.
  5. Saying  ‘Thanks’.  Appreciating my work.

You will notice that I still didn’t get to the behaviours behind some of these.

What did the boss do that made you believe they were driving ideas forward?  Regular updates, clear achievements against goals?

How did the boss make you feel a part of it?  What did he or she do?

What does your boss do that makes them so effective?

Describe their behaviours in the comments section below.  The best entry by the end of the month – January 08 –  (as decreed by me) will get a prize.

Better Time Management in an Instant!

Time Management

Time management has been on my mind for a while now. Early last year I re-read Druckers’ Effective Executive – the second chapter of which, ‘Know they Time’, is devoted to time management. I recommend it highly!

For the vast majority of managers that I work with making significant improvements in their time management is quick and easy. It simply requires them to:

  • Work out their top priority for the coming week/month
  • Block out at least 2 x 90 minute slots each week when they are going to work – without interruption – on moving that priority forward.

It takes no more than that – get time for your priorities on your schedule!

This is important because so many managers just hope to fit progress on key priorities around a morass of standing meetings, e-mail and fire-fighting. Weeks slip by without any focus on progressing the priority. Yet once it is scheduled – and the time protected – BINGO! – the priority gets time and progress is made.

And while I am at it – unless work is really THE most important thing in your life – take great care about giving up week-ends and evenings to do it. Working longer hours is rarely the key to getting more done. It usually results in getting less done and only serves to slow down the rate of work; why have a sense of urgency to get the job done if you can always stay just another half an hour?

If you find that you must work evenings or week-ends then always make sure that you have a firm end-time for the work fixed – and stick to it. Make an appointment with what you love outside of work (family, hobby whatever) immediately after your work commitment and keep it. This will force you to use your time effectively.