‘Our People Are Our Greatest Asset’ – The Big Lie!


It is rare to work in an organisation these days that does not claim that ‘Our people are our greatest asset’.

This is the BIG lie! If it were true then we could simply recruit our way to success.

The truth is that some people are assets while others are liabilities and many managers find it hard to tell the difference. And managers who can effectively work with both assets and liabilities are rare. Instead we just settle for a complacent acceptance of the status quo.

So if people are not our greatest asset – then what is?

Well how about one (or more) from the following list:

  • Ideas
  • Passion
  • Energy
  • Commitment
  • Skills
  • Time.

How would we manage people to harness every idea, every ounce of passion, energy and commitment, and every skill; to make sure that none is wasted?

Focusing on what we expect people to contribute to our organisation holds the key to significantly improving our effectiveness as a manager.

From Good to Great Manager – Part 4 – The Power of Delegation

Good bosses delegate.

Great bosses set up sensible monitoring routines so that they know how that delegation is going.

Good bosses engage employees in helping them with major projects.

Great bosses give their team members the major projects and are available to support them as required. They give the team members room to operate – without cutting them off.

Good bosses walk around the office talking to people – what Tom Peters calls Managing by Wandering Around or MBWA.

Great ones do that too, but they are careful not to ‘intrude’. They use MBWA as a way of getting information that helps them to give accurate feedback, to coach effectively and to delegate.

Congratulations to Bradford LEGI Team…

…for organising a morning of learning and development based on the experiences of the three community based enterprise projects commissioned by the council as part of their 3 year LEGI programme.

It was the second time they had attempted something like this and I thought it was a big improvement on the first effort! It was possible to get a real insight into the work of BizzFizz and Camberwell GRID in the LEGI programme and I did my best to talk about the work of Inspired Futures working under the guidance and support of the Sirolli Institute. I found the time allotted (45 minutes) was way too short to cover the lessons learned so far – but hopefully I gave some insights into the work and progress made by Inspired Futures.

I think we probably played it quite safe and skirted some major issues – probably for fear that we could not really get into them in a safe and effective way with the time constraints available. Alan Wallace from Camberwell really tried to get some meaty discussion going – but without more time to really develop the arguments and without a much stronger sense of mutual support it felt almost irresponsible to lift the lid on Pandora’s Box!

For me the issues requiring substantial development included:

  • Getting beyond the low hanging fruit (the enterprise ready) to really make a difference to the enterprise culture – providing radically different types of support to those that don’t see themselves as enterprising;
  • Establishing links and coherence across projects – making things simple and straight forward for the clients rather than the service provider
  • Ensuring that projects are fully client focussed – rather than looking at strategic goals, outputs or sustainability targets. There is a danger that project sustainability will become a more important driver than responding to community and client needs. This is perhaps especially a challenge for the GRID projects that have buildings to fill. It must be very easy to see every potential entrepreneur as a prospective tenant.
  • Enterprise and entrepreneurship as a double edged sword.  We all want to see more enterprises, start-ups and business growth in the City. However this has to be enterprises/entrepreneurs with a real chance of long term viability and sustainability. Encouraging and promoting entrepreneurship and enterprise as ‘inherently good’ may well spawn a large number of start-ups that later fail. This could set back attitudes towards enterprise by a generation. Small business is a hard and risky endeavour. Even with the most robust planning the truth is ‘we just don’t know’ what will happen. So instead of encouraging people into enterprise it should be developed as an option – and they should be helped to explore it as just that – an option. Not to be encouraged – or sold – regardless of the pressures to achieve numbers. Starting businesses is easy. Keeping them open and making them successful is another thing entirely!
  • ‘Accessing’ the community/Prospecting – finding people to work with. If people do not want to be helped – they should be left alone. The challenge is not to push our services onto people – but to develop a track record and service that is a positive part of the community (rather than a service from the outside to be ‘sold’ into the community). When we have achieved this, gradually, over time more and more people will be attracted to the service and benefit from it. Word of mouth marketing will enable the service to take off.

LEGI funding in Bradford has 18 more months to run – although hopefully projects will be supported beyond then. 5 years from now will the LEGI legacy in the city be seen as like rainfall in the Sahara that caused a thousand seeds to flourish briefly and die? Or will it succeed in transforming parts of the Sahara into enterprise fertile communities?

  • What did you make of the event?
  • What issues did it raise for you?
  • What do you think we, as a community enterprise support providers, should be doing to ensure the longer term success of the current activity in Bradford?

Why Blog on Enterprise and Entrepreneurship in the Community?

For almost 20 years now I have watched and advised a large number of projects, programmes and strategies designed to encourage enterprise and entrepreneurship in communities in the UK – both affluent and poor.

In already affluent communities the efforts focus on business attraction and retention – through property development and subsidies, improving transport links and other infrastructure.

In poor communities the efforts tend to focus on outreach work, motivation, training, improving access to finance and the development of local workspaces – intended to increase the capability and capacity of local people to successfully get a foot on the enterprise ladder.

Large sites are demolished and re-developed using the public purse to attract private sector investment – usually from retail or commercial sectors. The resulting developments are commercially lucrative shopping centres and business parks. They generally result in the rich getting richer as global brands are able to exploit the large scale development opportunities involved.

In poor communities the development work tends to involve large scale demolition of social housing involving the disruption and re-location of entire communities. The best projects result in well designed new estates with plenty of community spaces and facilities. They have education and training facilities designed to help local people in the new community to access the jobs that have been created in the affluent areas.

This has been the pattern of development for decades now.   If the objective is ‘narrowing the gap’ it does not work. The gap between rich and poor continues to widen. The developments in the affluent areas are increasingly seen as irrelevant to people living in the poorer communities – as they do not aspire to be fodder for call centres, back offices, and retailers.

It is time for a different approach. One that listens to, and is respectful of, local people, of their hopes and dreams – and helps them to pursue them in ways that make sense to them.

From Good to Great Manager – Part 3 – The Power of Appreciation

The third in our occasional series on making the transition from being a good manager to being a great one.

Great managers know who does what.

Good managers are able to get a team to pull together to produce the goods.

Great managers know exactly who contributed what to the team effort. They take time to acknowledge and appreciate each person’s contribution.

They also know who has piggy backed on the hard work of others.  They give feedback and praise based on their own analysis and understanding of the person’s contribution.  They make sure that the feedback is based on firm evidence.

They use feedback and praise lavishly and effectively.

They know that by increasing the amount of appreciation in the organisation they increase esteem, confidence and self belief – vital ingredients to building high performing teams.

What opportunities does the Power of Appreciation hold for helping you to make the transition from good to great?

The Benefits of Slow Learning

I was looking at a competitor’s Management Development Conference one day programme. The conference promises to ‘make you a better manager’ and ‘help you to get the most out of your team’. Much of the content looks excellent – not a million miles away from what I teach on the PMN – feedback, coaching, delegation, goal setting, management style etc.

However this conference teaches in a day what I teach over a series of four half day sessions spread out over several months. I think that very few managers would be able to absorb all of this content in one day and then to apply it successfully. It looks like it has been put together more for the convenience of the trainer than the learner.

Feedback from PMN members has shown the importance of not trying to learn too much too quickly when it comes to developing your performance as a manager. How much you learn is far less important than how much you can put to use at work.

Learning something, putting it into practice and becoming comfortable with it is important before trying to learn and implement the next thing. Leaving enough time between learning sessions to incorporate what you have learned into your practice makes a lot of sense.

Try to make too many changes too quickly and things can quickly go pear shaped.

Learning new skills as a manager is one area where the tortoise really will consistently beat the hare.