Management and Leadership CPD

I was recently asked a question as part of a tendering process about how I manage my own CPD in relation to Management and Leadership.  What surprised me about my answer was how dependent my cpd now is on both Blog and Podcast subscriptions.

Membership of the Northern Leadership Academy provides me with some very good leadership CPD.  I recently attended the NLA Leadership Open Space Event and a one day workshop on Action Learning for Leadership.

Cipd membership and a very full reading programme and authoring the PMN blog also keeps the cpd going.

I am currently taking part in a Project with the University of York looking at Diversity Proofing Management and Leadership Training.

I also subscribe to:

  • Harvard Business Ideas Cast – Harvard Business School – The Harvard Business IdeaCast, from the publishers of, Harvard Business Review and Harvard Business Press, features breakthrough ideas and commentary from the leading thinkers in business and management.
  • Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders – The DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar (ETL) is a weekly seminar series on entrepreneurship, co-sponsored by BASES (a student entrepreneurship group), Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and the Department of Management Science and Engineering.
  • Management – Management podcast: interviews showcasing the latest thinking from business school professors and other experts – London Business School
  • Naked Strategy – Naked Strategy is a monthly x-ray for business leaders. Presented by Laurence Haughton and Max McKeown, the show shines the spotlight on the strategic issues that lurk behind the business news headlines.
  • Peter Days World of Business – Insights into the business world with Peter Day – featuring content from his Radio 4 In Business programme, and also Global Business from the BBC World Service.
  • SmallBizPod – SmallBizPod is the weekly podcast dedicated to small business, start-ups and entrepreneurs. News, views, interviews and practical advice.

Too much management in the NHS?

Back to work after the bank holiday and another morning waking up to Radio 4’s Today Programme. This morning it was medical doctor (retired I believe) who caught my ears claiming the the problem with the NHS today was too much management. And I have a certain sympathy for his point of view. Peter Drucker once said,

“Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.”

and there does seem to be a fair bit of this in the NHS.

But how do we square this with the Healthcare commission report that found that fewer than 1 in 5 of staff in my local PCT or Acute Trust had received a performance review in the last 12 months that they found helpful? Personal development plans are poor and ineffective and staff engagement is weak.

The answer is obvious.

The problem is not too much management, but too much of the wrong kind of management. The kind that is obsessed about measuring ‘performance’ and then hectoring (in some cases bullying) staff to produce more – rather than engaging and developing staff in the challenge of providing ever improving healthcare.

What is required is not more of the ‘scientific’ management of the performance management consultants but more person centred management that helps staff to reconnect with their reasons for joining the NHS and helping to find satisfaction and fulfillment in a job well done.

(If you are interested in this topic then you must check out the post that Tom Peters has just written.)

Conscripts, mercenaries, and volunteers

Willing volunteers outperform conscripts and mercenaries every time. They are more innovative and creative as well more diligent and disciplined.

Volunteers have bought into a mission and a purpose rather then been bought into it.

Much of the private sector is struggling with how to turn salaried staff from conscripts and mercenaries into volunteers. Finding ways to engage them in the work of the organisation. To provide them with fulfilling and rewarding work.

Much of the public and third sector seems to be taking almost exactly the opposite path. It finds ways to turn passionate and caring volunteers (people who have bought into the mission) into conscripts and mercenaries. This is achieved by:

  • making them servants of the system rather than servants of their customers
  • imposing performance management systems that often fail to recognise quality service delivery
  • entering into inflexible and output related contracts for service delivery that shrink opportunities for innovation and improvement
  • managing them as if they are units of production rather than as caring and compassionate people full of insights into how to improve performance.

It is a strange paradox that many private sector clients are making genuine efforts at developing employee engagement in pursuit of profits while so many third sector and public sector organisations are developing processes and systems that alienate employees and volunteers in pursuit of efficiency.

Focus on Processes – NOT Medals

It has been fascinating to listen to some of the Olympic athletes talking about the secrets of their success. Many of them report using mantras to trigger actions that have contributed significantly to their success. I am sure that some of these mantras might also produce results in your organisation.

Examples include:

  • ‘keeping it in the boat’
  • ‘focus on the processes and not the medals’ and
  • ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’

‘Keeping it in the boat’ relates very much to recognising those things that we can control that are likely to lead to great results. Focussing on what we can make happen and not worrying too much about what others are doing.’

‘Focus on the processes and not the medals’ is a mantra for at least some of the cyclists – especially the pursuiters. Forget about the medals and the glory – just focus on executing well those things that you know make for great performance.

‘The aggregation of marginal gains’ is another cycling mantra and refers to the significant difference that many small, practical changes can make to performance. While individually each of these changes seems to trivial to make a real difference the net effect leads to a significant improvement.

In some organisaitons you get the feeling that the domninant – if unstated – mantras are:

  • ‘Leave well enough alone’ or
  • ‘No-one ever got the sack for being mediocre’.

Please do share your favourite mantras – Olympic or otherwise.

We might even find a small prize for the best!

Why A Progressive Managers’ Network?

“Most managers become managers because they have mastered the hard skills needed for a specific job. Unfortunately, most haven’t mastered the soft skills of interpersonal relations.”

Creating More Effective Managers Through Interpersonal Skills Training – TRACOM Group

If not here then where, if not now then when?

People are inherently creative and passionate problem solvers.

If they are not creative and passionate problem solvers at work then they will be creative and passionate problem solvers somewhere else.

If they are not being passionate and creative problem solvers now they will look for an opportunity where they can be creative and passionate problem solvers soon.

There are people who have given up on the possibility of being creative and passionate problem solvers. They have learned that their attempts to make things better are unwanted or unsuccessful. They have given up trying to make progress and have settled for maintaining the status quo.

  • Do you manage people who fit this description?
  • What part has your management style and ’organisational culture’ in fostering this kind of passive behaviour?


An organisation where:

  • people on the frontline make operational decisions that help to better serve customers
  • pressure to perform comes from peers and a sense of shared purpose rather than from a boss
  • teams, not managers, decide who to recruit
  • everyone knows what everyone else earns – and what they do to earn it
  • where ‘top’ pay is limited to 20 times average salary (the norm in private sector if 400 times!)
  • employees think of it as a community on a mission to make a difference in the world, rather than a employer
  • mission matter as much as the bottom line – and BOTH matter a lot
  • every employee feels that they are running their own small business and takes day to day decisions accordingly

What could you do to make your organisation more like this?

Would the effort be rewarded?

Are you Getting the Gifts?

Initiative, creativity and passion are gifts.

They are benefactions that employees choose, day by day and moment by moment, to give or withhold.

They cannot be commanded.

Gary Hamel – The Future of Management

Nor can they be bought.

You can’t get these gifts from employees by challenging them to work harder.

Nor by exhorting them to ‘beat the competition’ or ‘care for the customers’.

You will only get these gifts from employees when you give them a purpose that merits their best.

Using the Right and Left Brain at Work

Most organisations are designed to maximise the contribution of employees left brains to the pursuit of success. Targets are set, plans are laid, logic is deployed, progress is measured and accountability is maintained. Such ‘left brain’ activities fit nicely the milieu of meetings, time pressures, deadlines and procedures that form the social system of most organisations.

However most of us choose an employer based on ‘right brain’ criteria in pursuit of ‘right brain’ goals.

  • Will the work be fulfilling?
  • Will I part of a great team?
  • Will my efforts help to make the world a better place?
  • Will the job give me a lifestyle that works for me?

It is the ‘right brain’ that is the seat of creativity, imagination, innovation and passion. Unless we build a social system that feeds, stimulates and enables right brain contributions we should continue to expect as many as 1 in 4 of our employees to be looking to leave in the next 12 months, while 2 of the remaining three will be in survival (‘count the years, months and days until I retire’) mode.

Take a quick audit of your social system (meetings, processes and procedures) at work. How many opportunities in the average week are there for meaningful ‘right brain’ conversations that are likely to lead to the successful pursuit of right brain goals?

Of course it is easy for our left brains to rationalise away this paucity of ‘right brain’ opportunity in the name of efficiency and the pursuit of effectiveness. To overcome this tendency just remind your left brain of the critical importance of enabling good people to do great work, and of the need for frequent and regular innovation and renewal, if your organisation is to survive never mind thrive in the next few years.

You may find that it gives your right brain just enough time and space to do some big picture thinking.

Need More Creative People?

If folks don’t appear to be creative at work, it’s not because they lack imagination, it’s because they lack opportunity.

– Gary Hamel – The Future of Management