Its All About the Relationships, Stupid!

One of the basic assumptions behind my work in the Progressive Managers’ Network is that excellent performance depends on excellent relationships.  Relationships that are characterised by:

  • engagement
  • honesty
  • 2-way communication
  • creativity and innovation from everyone
  • development and progress

And still the most common objection that I face in my training?  “Mike I haven’t got time to spend building relationships.  I just need to get them to do as I ask.”  The longer term pursuit of excellence is consistently hi-jacked for the short term acceptance of mediocrity.

Great post here from Carmine Coyote which provides some clues about why getting relationships right really matters.

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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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Twitter and the Progressive Manager

Over the last couple of weeks I have been checking out the latest (?) web 2.0 phenomenon that is twitter.  (As I write these words I am so aware that at some point in the future, like  a week on Thursday this will seem so very dated!).

I mean really checking it out.  Giving it  a thorough workover, experimenting with it.  Seeing if I can use it for anything helpful and productive.

And I love it!  Well, most of the time.

Twitter is a simple blogging site with one very severe restriction.  Each post has to be less than 140 characters.  That is about two short sentences.

Check out my twitter page here www.twitter.com/mikechitty to get a feel for it.

I can choose to follow peoples ‘tweets’ and they can choose to follow mine.  Each time someone I follow tweets – I can see what they are up to.  If they bore me or aren’t relevant then I stop following them.  If they are interesting, relevant, entertaining, resourceful or in some other way they bring colour to my day then they stay on the follow list.

Easy to set up and addictive to use, already twitter has helped to me connect with a whole bunch of people that I would otherwise not have found.  A Llama farmer in North Devon who is passionate about small business; a sheep dog handler in Northamptonshire who loves facilitation; a rugby loving family man from Exeter who earns his living trying to make local strategic partnerships work. I know more about the workings of the #uktrains than the fat controller.

All of these and many more have provided me with information, insight and opportunities.  I am currently following about 200 people and being followed by a similar number.  As I get more efficient in using twitter I will be able to follow more without it taking more time as I get better at filtering and searching for stuff that connects.

Essentially I use twitter as a flow of information and intelligence into me.  It is a great tool for what the strategy bods call ‘environmental scanning’.   I learn a lot of very useful, hard edged stuff that helps with work.  But I also learn some very human stuff that keeps things compassionate and warm.  I know that one of  my fellow twitterers has a son who is hospitalised with asthma at the moment, I know another has just relocated from Seattle to Washington DC.  I learn about the human being as well as the professional which, while it might annoy some, I love.

I am also followed at the moment by a couple of hundred people.  Some of these just follow anyone.  The more you follow and are followed the better is one viewpoint.  I am more discriminating.  I only follow people whose tweets work for me!  Some are following me because they are interested in my work, my ideas and what I am doing.  Some follow me because each tweet acts as a little nudge – perhaps reminding them of something they learned from me.  (I am considering set up a specific PMN account to tweet daily reminders about the power of 121s, giving feedback, coaching etc).

Having a community of followers, albeit small but perfectly formed is very flattering.  And another useful little community for me to test ideas on, ask for help from (yesterday I got a great response for requests for good online whiteboards that allow me to co-create and talk about diagrams with others on the web!) and generally commune with.  A plea for examples of social media being used to good effect in community development has unearthed several leads for me to explore.  Another twitterer has put me in touch with a consultancy looking to showcase great enterprise projects.  As a marketing tool, twitter is working for me.  It  does takes time – I reckon I spend an hour a day twittering – but it doesn’t feel like work – and it ‘fits’ wonderfully into the spaces between bigger pieces of work.

At the moment the twitterverse seems to be overpopulated with techy types. Twittering about twitter the way that bloggers used to (and still do) blog about blogging.  You can always ‘unfollow’ them.  But there are also different themes emerging, such as:

  • How can we use web 2.0 to get better at what we do – whether that is management, education and training, providing services for mental health, starting businesses, researching markets or whatever.
  • How can we use web 2.0 to engage more people
  • What role can the web play in community capacity building, economic and social development.

These themes engage me.  Knowing about them helps to pay my mortgage.  IT is not all about web 2.0 – but if you are not thinking about how web 2.0 impacts on what you are trying to do in life then I think you are missing a trick.

So for the manager twitter can:

  • improve communication with the team, peers, customers and the competition
  • help get early warning of problems and opportunities
  • portray a more human and rounded face of you and your organisation

So at the moment twitter gets a big thumbs up.  I won’t be deleting my twitter account just yet.

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

Measuring Management

Managers spend much of their time measuring – market share, year on year sales, voids, arrears, return on investment, customer satisfaction, orders fulfilled, calls handled per hour, orders placed, orders fulfilled (again), total invoiced, hours billed, attendance, productivity per employee etc

Why the obsession with measuring stuff?

Because it gives us the data to recognise what has changed, what needs to change, and when we make the change – whether it has had the impact we planned.

But none of these metrics are about US – the manager.  They are all about the performance of the system and the people that we manage.  And this often lets us of the hook for making real change in the way we manage.

What if we measured some more personal aspects of our management efforts?

  • how much time we spend listening in 121 conversation with team members
  • how many times we give REAL feedback – affirmative and adjusting – each day/week
  • how often we make sarcastic or cynical comments
  • how many times we interrupt others mid-sentence
  • how often we check our blackberry in meetings
  • how often we talk about values and vision
  • the amount of time we spend in meetings that are inefficient or worse
  • how many coaching contracts we put in place with our team members
  • what percentage of coaching contracts achieved their goals
  • how many significant tasks we genuinely delegated (rather than then allocated) because they provide great development opportunities
  • percentage of working time allocated to pursuing key objectives
  • how often we acknowledge our own development opportunities and make planned conscious change in our behaviours

I am convinced that if we started to measure our own personal performance in relation to some of these more personal aspects of management, most of us would we would pretty quickly get some powerful data on what we needed to change.  Measurement would also pretty quickly confront us with the fact that our perceptions of our performance are markedly different from reality.

As we make planned changes based on measurements of our own personal behaviours we will soon see a very positive impact in some of the more traditional areas where measurement prevails.  The act of measurement itself would also increase the likelihood of planned changes being implemented and seen through.  That after all is perhaps the main reason why we measure.

To make sure that important things get done.

Twitter and the Progressive Manager

Why should progressive managers engage with twitter?

Well this post and video pretty quickly summed it up for me.

http://tinyurl.com/b4enb5

Early days for me using twitter – but so far it looks promising!

I am going to twittering some management tips and twitter about community based enterprise and how to develop it!

Any of you twittering?  What works and what doesn’t?

If you want to you can follow my twitters at:

http://twitter.com/mikechitty

The Advantage of Social Enterprise

Rob Greenland over at The Social Business has written a piece about how the ‘table’ that social enterprise has fought so hard to get a place at has collapsed.  I am assuming Rob means the table where policy is thrashed out and funds are allocated.

The high political table.

The table of the bureaucrats and the planners.

Rob’s analysis is that this table has collapsed.  They have no cash to spend since the bankers have grabbed it all.  So “What is a social entrepreneur meant to do now?” Rob asks.

Well I think the collapse of this table could be just the tonic that the social enterprise sector needs.

The sectors’ advantage is not in being a cheaper route to market for bureaucrats  – implementing their policies and plans (although this may be a legitimate benefit it CAN offer).  Its’ advantage lies in the ability of social entrepreneurs to tell stories of social change, social injustice and progress. In being able to attract, retain and develop talented and committed people who share in the vision and have the potential to manifest it.  In harnessing the potential of those affected by injustice and using it to drive progress.

So instead of trying to manoeuvre to catch the crumbs from the top table perhaps the sector should focus on sharpening vision, improving stories, and building a movement that people will want to join and work in because of its autonomy, independence and creativity; its ability to provide fulfillment and a decent wage – not because of the funding streams that it can secure (along with KPIs, evaluation frameworks and other game playing  inducements attendant with the mainstream).

When we are sat at the top table we have our backs to the real social enterprise marketplace.

Of course the sector needs to maintain good relationships with the ‘top table’.  It needs to influence, lobby, advise and occasionally disrupt.  If it can secure investment on its terms than so much the better.  But it needs to ensure that the money and power available does not corrupt – as it so often has.  That the pull of the cash does not lure us away from core purpose and beliefs.  That it does not allow us to kid ourselves that the latest funding stream to ‘do things to people’ might just work – this time – if we can only get our hands on the cash.  The social enteprise sector has to have the guts to be uncompromising on vision, values and beliefs.  It has to maintain integrity.

This requires the sector to develop an entreprenurial management and leadership culture.  A progressive mindset.  Progressive management.  Not Political.

The social entrepreneur needs to be comfortable and competent at managing and leading through vision, values, social goals and objectives and then relying on creativity and innovation to secure sustainable investments.  They must be obsessed with the social change they are trying to deliver and the recruitment and retention of a tribe of professionals and volunteers who can help.  Not with reading the political runes.  They need to promote change, not maintenance, autonomy not dependence (on the top or any other table), courage not conventionality.

The advantage of social enterprise is that it can be transformational.  People will join a transformational movement and bring to it their passion, creativity and hard work.  Turn it into another transactional part of the prevailing bureaucracy and this advantage will be lost.

And finally of course any organisation can be a social enterprise regardless of structure.  Many ‘for profits’ have learned how to create social change and a sustainable profit!