The Boss’s Lie

“What I want is someone who will do what I tell them to.”
“What I want is someone who works cheap.”
“What I want is someone who shows up on time and doesn’t give me a hard time.”

So if this is what the boss really wants, how come the stars in the company don’t follow these three rules?

From Seth Godin’s Linchpin

Making Partnerships and Alliances Work

Great blog post on this topic in today’s Washington Post.  They offer 8 Is for making partnerships work that are worth considering:

  1. Individual excellence. Both parties must have strengths on their own, because weak players cannot prop each other up.
  2. Importance. The relationship must have strategic significance. If it is just casual, don’t bother.
  3. Interdependence. The strongest and most enduring alliances occur when the parties are different in some respects and need each other to carry out an activity they would not otherwise do.
  4. Investment. One sign of commitment is a willingness to invest something in the partner’s success, such as equities or personnel swaps (business “hostages for peace”).
  5. Information. Transparency aids relationship formation. If you don’t want a partner to know too much about you, why are you in the alliance?
  6. Integration. There must be many points of contact that tie the organizations together in joint activities.
  7. Institutionalization. A formal structure and governing board ensures objectivity, and that alliance interests are considered, not just each company’s interests.
  8. Integrity. Trust is essential. Alliances fall apart in conflict and lawsuits when partners do not act ethically toward one another nor strive to contribute to the other’s success.

How many enforced public sector partnerships get even half way to meeting these criteria for success.

This suggests to me that being successful in less than ideal circumstances is going to take more determination, more time and more persistence.

You can read the full post here.

PMN BOGOF

Just a gentle reminder that we have some ‘buy one get one free‘ offers coming up on PMN workshops.  This means that when you book a place at one of the BOGOF workshops you get another place free.

I have also developed 2 new workshops which have proven very successful.  The first is on effective partnership working – giving you the skills and knowledge you need to make the most of your partnerships at work. Whether you have to work in a local strategic partnership (LSP), a sub-regional partnership or a purely private partnership this workshop will give you the tools you need to become much more effective.  Dates for this workshop will be published shortly.

The second is on Managing Underperformers and looks in detail at practical and effective ways to  make sure that underperformers don’t drag down the performance of the team.

BOGOF workshops:

April

22nd (pm) Stop Hate UK/Unity Business Centre – Brilliant 121sBOGOF

May

20th (pm) Stop Hate UK/Unity Business Centre –  Giving and Getting Great Feedback – BOGOF

You can see the full schedule of PMN workshops here, and book places here.  If you have done these sessions and found them useful then please do recommend them to others.

Many thanks.

Mike

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

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 a High Performing Team – Part 2 – Anticipate Conflicts

Organisation divides people. It sets up conflict:

  • Who does what? – task conflicts
  • How do we get this done? – process conflicts
  • Who gets what? – resource conflicts

Failure to anticipate, recognise and resolve these conflicts leads to the most dangerous conflicts of all – personal conflicts.

Two people in conflict can usually both make a plausible case for their position. You can of course handle these conflicts just by issuing a decree. However the value of a high performing team, and the measure of your ability to manage it is in getting a decision that has allowed everyone to have their say, for pros and cons to be fully explored and for commitment to making the decision work to be built.

Handled like this, conflicts become powerful team building tools as people start to recognise that the group can make better decisions than any one individual and that no one person has all the information required to make the best decision.

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.

The Fine Art of Progress

I get fired up about management because it the best tool for helping both organisations and the people that work in them to make progress.

Outstanding managers are able to facilitate the progress of both the individual and the organisation and to connect these in a way that results in win/wins for both.

They do this by:

  • regularly creating time and space to allow people to understand what progress looks and feels like right now – for them and for the organisation
  • building a consensus around the ‘direction(s) in which progress lies’
  • enabling people to make things happen in pursuit of progress – they promote a ‘bias for action’
  • by building the skills and confidence of people to act creatively and pro-actively in pursuit of progress within the mission, vision and values of the organisation.

One of the greatest opportunities for performance improvement is to take more time to explore these questions about progress in some depth and then to link them to immediate next steps – practical things that individuals and groups can do to close the gap between where we are now and where we want to be.  And this is what Brilliant 121s are all about.

What Gets Measured Gets Done

This is the title of blog post by Jim Estill over at CEO Blog – Time Leadership.  And as Wally Bock says this is ‘one of those hoary old management sayings that hangs around because it’s both true and useful’.

Interestingly in the main body of the post Jim changes the saying slightly to:

What gets tracked and measured gets done.

The addition of this one word makes a massive difference.  The truism leads to poor management because it often gets put into practice as:

  1. What can be measured (objectively) that appears to be a reasonable proxy for what we want to get done?
  2. Let’s measure it and then hope we will get the important things done.

However many of the ‘important things’ are difficult to objectify and measure.  But they can usually be tracked.

Take for example this core value:

‘We challenge complacency and the second rate and embrace change’

My guess is that it would not ‘get measured’.  My second guess is that it would rarely be tracked.  And my third guess is that it would therefore rarely get done!

So how might it be tracked to see if it does get done?

By asking regularly (in 121s perhaps…) questions like:

‘Have you found yourself putting any of our core values in to practice this week?’

‘Which ones?’

‘How did they help or hinder your progress?’

we can regularly track core values and are far more likely to get all team members thinking about how they live the values (or not) in their day to day work.  We can track which are being used to shape practice and decision making and which ones aren’t.  Can you imagine the impact on equality and diversity in your organisation if every employee was asked regularly:

How has your work, this week, lived our value of ‘welcoming people’s differences’.

Or have you found any situations this week where living this value was difficult?

So revisit the mission, vision, values, principles and objectives of your organisation and ask yourself:

  • Are these important enough for me to want to measure or track regularly?
  • How can I track these in such a way that they are more likely to get done? (If you are doing 121s this should be a no-brainer!)
  • Do we have the balance right between tracking and measuring the ‘whats’ the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’?
  • What are the risks of writing these sorts of statements and then not tracking them regularly and building them into expectations around employee performance and development?

Your answer to this last question might feature some or all of the following – hypocrisy, mediocrity, blandness, disillusionment….

Understanding Your Organisation – Part 1

Most of the managers that I work with have an incredibly detailed knowledge of the organisations that they work in – or at least of the parts of it that they come into regular contact with. Far fewer have a good understanding of what their own organisation looks like from a more strategic or higher level perspective. This imbalance in perspective can cause too much focus on the here and now and not enough consideration of the medium and longer term. This deceptively simple, yet powerful model can help to restore a bit of balance.

It starts of with a recognition that every organisation does something (operations) for someone (customers). Whether the operation is about providing a service or a product – understanding what you provide to your customers – and their level of satisfaction is clearly important.

Customers and Operations

Just considering these two parts of the organisation can raise a host of powerful questions:

  • Who are our customers?
  • Why do they choose us?
  • What do they love about we do?
  • What do they hate?
  • What do they pay for? What else might they pay for?
  • What do they use? What else might they use?
  • How are our customers changing?
  • How efficient are our operations?
  • How effective are they?
  • Where is there most scope for improvement?
  • Who is responsible for managing operations?
  • Who is responsible for managing customers?
  • How effective is the working relationship between them?

Now let’s add a third component to the organisation that will help us to thrive into the future – a cunning plan – a strategy.

Customers, Operations and Strategy

The strategy loop invests time and money in thinking about what the organisation should be doing today if it is to continue to thrive in the future. In simple terms the operational loop is about earning today’s bottom line. The strategy loop is about ensuring tomorrow’s. In many organisations the strategy loop is almost vanishingly small. Only a few people ever think about it – and acting on it is even rarer! Sometimes ‘strategy’ is done on an annual basis usually tied up with the planning process and budgeting. Often it is done in a top down way – strategy is conceived in the board room or the chief execs office and handed down for implementation. Frequently it does not exist at all!

This strategy loop opens up some further challenging and potentially very valuable questions:

  • What is our strategy?
  • How is it developed?
  • Who is responsible for developing it?
  • How is it communicated?
  • Who is able to shape it?

This gives us a fuller picture of the organisation – but it is still not complete. A final component is required to link strategy and operations together. A component to ensure that operations inform strategy and that strategy is put into practice in operations. This component is management.

Customers, Operations, Strategy and Management

This is just about the simplest complete model of an organisation that I can imagine. A manager who is able to develop well founded knowledge of customers, operations, strategy and management is well placed to succeed.

A management team that is able to ensure balanced development of operations, management and strategy – driven by a thorough understanding of customers and their changing needs should be unstoppable.

  • Is management equally effective at developing both operations and strategy?
  • Does management make sure that what happens (operations) takes full account of strategy?
  • Who is responsible for management in your organisation?
  • How could management be improved?

This simple model of the organisation can provide a powerful catalyst for diagnosis and improvement.