Innovation Takes Flight

Loving the man on the bicycle….

Social Media and Learning in the Enterprise

Hierarchies into wirearchies!

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?

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.

Building the Social System for High Performance

Whenever you see an organisation doing something consistently well, you can be sure that there is an effective social system behind it. The social system is made up of both a hard and a soft landscape. The hard landscape is that of meetings, information flows and decision making processes. The soft landscape is to do with behaviours, attitudes, values, respect and commitment.

Effective managers recognise their role in developing both the hard and soft landscapes of the social system – but recognise that it is the soft landscape – the way people and teams work together that really drives culture and performance.

When trying to initiate change, less effective managers work on the hard landscape. They change the organisational structure, replace key people or alter what is measured and rewarded. While such changes maybe necessary, they are NEVER sufficient.

It is the interactions between people that need to be changed, the information flows and the decision making processes. If people are not having the right discussions or behaving in ways that drive values and performance then the managers’ job is to influence them to adopt different ‘value creating’ behaviours.

In most cases this can be done using feedback. In other cases it may require more concerted efforts at coaching for the desired behaviours.

Recognising and shaping the behaviours that drive values and performance is the hallmark of an outstanding manager.

The social system changes and enables the organisation to perform consistently well because managers use mechanisms that ensure that the right conversations happen consistently and frequently. These conversations improve the quality of decision making and encourage behaviours in people’s every day work to accomplish the elusive goal of culture change.

Sue Wiley on Why and How PMN Works for Her

Renew Banner

Sue Wylie is the office manager at re’new in Leeds.

She has attended four PMN workshops and has used much of what we have covered in her work.  In this podcast she talks about PMN and how it works for her.

Sue explains why;

  • she thought she would never have enough time for 121s – but now would not be without them, and
  • how 121s actually save her time and avoid interruptions in her working day
  • how the principles and practices have driven progress in her team
  • the impact that 121s with her manager have had in her

You can listen to the podcast here.


Many thanks Sue!

If you have attended PMN training and benefitted from it, and would like to make a podcast with me – just let me know!  You could become an iTunes star!

Set the Foundations

The Mavericks at Work blog reminds us that all the:



mass collaboration



MySpace-ing and



in the world isn’t going to help if you don’t already have some very persuasive answers to some very basic questions:


  • What ideas are we fighting for?

  • What do we see that the competition doesn’t?

  • How are we rethinking our business every day?

The Team Building Away Day – And Why They Never Work


“In order to strengthen the concept of team working and/or cross sector team working, part of the awarding authority’s training budget is allocated to teams/regions for development days out of the office. Corporate training days for all the awarding authority’s staff are also held three times per annum, with the aim of promoting communication and sharing …”

I see this sort of thing on an almost daily basis – and it drives me mad!

An ‘authority’ with silos and poor cross-sectoral working thinking things will be fixed with some time out of the office teambuilding.

When teams start solving problems involving planks, barrels, rafts, pretend minefields/alligators/swamps and so on, team work will come shining through, because it will be incentivised, praised and rewarded. Trainers will look for behaviours that lead to good teamwork and cross departmental collaboration (open, honest communication, good listening etc) and will reward these behaviours with affirming feedback, praise and a warm cup of Bovril. Behaviours that undermine good teamwork will attract adjusting feedback and suggestions for behaviours that might work better. Team performance will be compared and clear winners and losers will be established – and no-one will want to lose.

The trainers will do what good managers would be doing every day. Observing what people do, comparing it to what the organisations requires from them and providing feedback and coaching.

Instead of burning the training budget with expensive off-sites and corporate training days the ‘authority’ should invest in setting up a process for clarifying the kinds of behaviours and outcomes that it wants to see in the organisation.

It should then set up a rigorous system of supervision and support (121s) so that every employee gets weekly feedback and coaching designed to encourage the desired behaviours and discourage the rest.

For a fraction of the cost of these ‘offsites’ the desired behaviours would become prevalent throughout the organisation within 6 months.


So the next time you find yourself asking your training department to set up a Team Building away day – just ask yourself if there might not be a better, more systematic and cost effective way of getting the results that you want.

Or better still – give me a call!

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’.

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.