PMN at Hamara Healthy Living Centre

Images from Hamara

The Progressive Managers’ Network is coming to South Leeds, in partnership with the Hamara Healthy Living Centre.

Would you like to learn a management tool that is guaranteed to:

  • Save you time
  • Increase levels of trust in your team
  • Improve communication
  • Make you a noticeably better manager
  • Get more done – more quickly
  • Accelerate the professional development of your team, and
  • Reduce the pain of performance reviews?

The launch event, Brilliant 121s, which will be free of charge is to be held on April 29th with other dates planned as follows:

28th May – Giving and Getting Great Feedback NB -date changed from 27th

24th June – Practical Coaching for Progressive Managers

15th July – Effective Delegation

At the event you will get a free gift to help improve your management worth more than £25.

Places are strictly limited so please book your place online here. Or call me for more information on 0113 2167782.

The first event is free of charge.

Subsequent events will be charges at £120 per session. We will be offering a limited number of reduced price places at just £20 per session. Please get in touch and make your case to secure a reduced cost place.

If you know of a manager who might be interested please forward them a link to this page.

The point of the excercise?

The point of the exercise is to do work you care about with people that matter.

Managers who can help employees find the ‘space’ to do work that they care about with people that matter will soon find themselves recognised as an outstanding leader of a high performing team.

  • Do you know what your team members care about – really?
  • Do they get to work on those things?
  • What are the success stories that show that your organisation and its people (still) matter?
  • What can you do to make your company ‘matter’ more?

Wonderful Advice for the Would Be Entrepreneur

Wally Bock is one of Americas top management coaches.  To celebrate National Entrepreneurship week in the US and his 25th anniversary in business he has been reflecting on what advice he would give to people thinking of starting a business now.

His advice includes the following:

  1. If you’re thinking about starting a business today, listen. It will always be hard. It will never be the right time. You will never know enough. And you are certain to have at least one big, bad surprise along the way.
  2. Hook up with people who can fill in your gaps and give you good advice. Learn the basics of business.
  3. I suggest that you acquire a rudimentary knowledge of bookkeeping. It will help you understand, in your bones, that to make Profit go up, either Expenses have to go down or Revenue has got to go up.
  4. Cash flow is king. You can make a profit and still be in trouble if your cash flow is bad.
  5. No marketing, no money. It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is. It won’t sell itself.
  6. You have to be willing to be accountable for everything. For some people that creates awesome stress. Others use it as a source of energy.

It all sounds pretty spot on to me – and not a word about a business plan!  I would especially endorse the recommendation about hooking up with people who can fill your gaps.  Recognise your strengths and play to them.  Recruit others who love to do the stuff that you hate.

The best entrepreneurs, who start the most successful businesses, are builders of great teams.

You can read his full article here.

Problems With Partnerships

Fellow Leeds blogger Todd Hannula has shared some of his concerns about ‘partnership’ over at his Social Catalyst blog which prompted me to comment.  I think this matters because so often I see partnerships of competent, mature and capable organisations that  in ‘partnership’ become the corporate equivalent of  a three year old having a temper tantrum in a sweet shop.

I work with a chief executive who has a plaque in his (home) office that says ‘Partnership: the temporary suspension of mutual loathing in pursuit of funding’.  How true in many cases!
One of the challenges is that partnership is a ‘weasel word’ with many definitions:

  1. a relationship of two or more entities conducting business for mutual benefit
  2. a legal contract entered into by two or more persons in which each agrees to furnish a part of the capital and labour for a business enterprise, and by which each shares a fixed proportion of profits and losses.
  3. The persons bound by such a contract.
  4. A relationship between individuals or groups that is characterised by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specified goal: Neighbourhood groups formed a partnership to fight crime.

Then there are different types and levels of partnership:

  • Self Interested Partnerships – only put in place in pursuit of funding
  • Mutual Partnership – in pursuit of a single relatively narrow agenda that benefits both parties
  • Strategic Partnership – characterised by a wider and longer term context and relationship
  • Shared Destiny Partnership – close to a merger situation where both partners share a single vision and go a long way towards the integration of cultures and systems. All partners face extinction as a consequence of failure.

One of the challenges in making any partnership work is to recognise it for what it is, be up front about it and manage the partnership accordingly.   Don’t pretend that a self interested partnership is in fact deeply strategic.  And never try to build a strategic partnership based on what you can win in the short term.

Make sure that all partners know exactly what type of partnership they are pursuing as differing expectations can be very damaging.

Support for Entrepreneurs

There really is no shortage of support for people who want to have a go at starting their own business.   Just take a look at this website that offers 99 free sources of on-line support for would be entrepreneurs.  And while the web is packed full of advice and guidance the real world marketplace is pretty crowded too with advisers, mentors, coaches and trainers all queuing up to offer advice and support.

But how much of this stuff is really useful?  For most entrepreneurs the barriers are not intellectual or technical (although often these are presented as excuses for not making things happen ) they are really about self confidence, self belief and a strong conviction that a better reality can really be brought into life.

So a couple of words of advice on choosing and using people and resources to help you with your entrepreneurial dreams:

Make sure that they really are interested in helping you do what is best for you – including walking away from entrepreneurship as it is certainly not right for everybody.

Make sure that they are not under the influence of external goals and targets to encourage people into entrepreneurship.  If they are employed by a project that has to encourage entrepreneurship to get funding then make sure that they put your best interests before the outputs of the project.

And finally:

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

But what if I am employed to encourage people into enterprise and entrepreneurship?

Always practice from a client centred (rather than a policy centred) perspective.  ie make sure that you use your knowledge and skills to help your client to do what is best for them given a range of options available to them – entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, employment, work experience, skills training etc.

It is almost certain that in fact the project that you work on is designed to develop an ‘enterprise culture’ and the best way to do this is to help entrepreneurs to go into entrepreneurship having fully considered all other options.  Sure a number will decide that there are other ways to achieve what matters most to them – and many of the people you work with will put their enterprise dream ‘on hold’.  Once you start helping people to make really informed decisions based on their own self interest and an objective analysis of the pros and cons of enterprise not only will the start-up rates improve but so too will the survival rates for small business.  And this is the metric that really matters in building an enterprise culture.

Urgency and Influence: The Role of the Manager in Uncertain Times

The news is full of ‘sub-prime crises’ and ‘credit crunches’.  Whether we are on the edge of a real recession, or just talking ourselves into one, I am not sure – but either way it is sensible to prepare for rougher times ahead.

Heading for the Storm

At these times good managers know how to develop a sense of urgency in the organisation to make sure it is ‘battened down’ when the storm hits. They set deadlines, chase progress and generally tighten up on both effectiveness and efficiency. By making sure that everyone is engaged in ‘doing something’ they manage to keep morale high and opportunities to wallow in self-pity to a minimum. They develop contingency plans, including drastic measures such as redundancies should they be necessary.
The very best managers maintained this sense of urgency when the waters were calm and progress was good.  They truly were making hay while the sun shone.  The focus of the urgency in such times should be more strategic:

  • building high performing teams and cultures – capable of creating more value at lower cost than the competition – through recruitment, development and retention
  • scanning the environment to see where the next storms are brewing and plotting the best course available
  • building customer loyalty and commitment so that the customer base is retained when things get rough

The average and the great manager are also separated, in my book, at least by the way that they handle the whole concept of influence and control. The average manager looks on tough times as ‘just one of those things’ that ‘we will get through somehow’. They become almost passive, certainly defensive, victims of the economic downturn, just trying to keep the wheels in motion until ‘things pick up’.The very best managers have a story to tell and a plan to put in place that will give the organisation every chance of coming through unscathed.  They actively manage the situation and ensure that everyone is engaged in looking for ways to drive up value and reduce costs.  Managers who have been using 121s effectively for a while will find they really come into their own as they can help to dispel rumours and keep everyone focused on the required objectives.

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.

Great Quote from Fromm

Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is. The most important product of his effort is his own personality.

Erich Fromm (1900 – 1980) Psychoanalyst
If we can look past the masculine language I think this quote from Erich Fromm is wonderful.   I think everyone should have a flirt with enteprise nad entrepreneurship to sdee if it provides them with a vehicle for becoming what he/she potentially is.  However I am also sure that for many the flirtation will end up with rejection – and rightly so.
My concern is that for those providing services to support ‘entrepreneurial flirtation’ the cost of rejections is high as those paying for services what to see flirtation come to fruition in business start-ups and success. People walking away from entrepreneurship – even if it is the right thing for them to do – will seldom be rewarded by the funders.

Certificating PMN

I have recently been asked by a couple of PMN members whether I can issue certification of attendance on PMN training programmes for them to include in the CPD records.

This is certainly something I could do. Let me know whether you think it is a good idea. Also what information would you want the certificates to contain to make them most useful to you.

Would it be enough for me to e-mail a pdf of a certificate – or would ‘the real thing’ be more worthwhile?

The single most costly and common error a manager can make?

Anger - disposition or context?

The ‘fundamental attribution error’ is, in my experience, the single most common and expensive mistake a manager can make.

The fundamental attribution error is our tendency to over-emphasize ‘dispositional’, or ‘personality-based’, explanations for behaviours observed in others while, simultaneously under-emphasizing ‘situational’ explanations. In other words, we tend to assume that someones actions depend on what “kind” of person they are rather than on the contextual forces influencing the person.

So when someone loses their rag in a meeting it is because they are an angry person who can’t control their behaviour and is unprofessional.  When someone cuts us up on the motorway it is because they are a bad driver.  If someone pushes in front of us at Tesco’s it is because they are rude.

This error frequently creeps into our management.  Especially when people are not performing as we would like.  It is convenient to tell ourselves that their behaviour is because of who they are as a person – rather than because of the context in which they are behaving.  This is because we are powerless to change ‘who they are as a person’ so as a manger we need do nothing – we just accept it.  If we start to consider how the context in which they are operating drives the behaviour then we might have to take a bit more responsibility in making changes.  And quite often we find out that the behaviour that we are getting is at its very root caused by the very context that we are paid to manage!

It requires us to resist the temptation to resort to the quick label (they are just lazy/bad/angry/bossy/arrogant/unprofessional).  These labels let us off the hook but leaves the situation unchanged and the behaviour likely to recur.

Instead we should ask ourselves why a rational, sensible and good person would behave that way.  We need to learn to think ‘How Fascinating!’.  We are then forced to consider how context may have driven the behaviour, and what we might be able to do as a manager to change the context.

So for example perhaps the colleague who lost their rag in the meeting is not just Mr Angry – but is really frustrated at being talked over all the time.   In this case we might be able to facilitate the meeting a little more robustly, ensure that everyone gets their voice heard and the angry behaviour is likely to disappear.

By considering these contextual factors we do create ourselves more work (this IS the work of management and should not be shied away from) but we also give ourselves a genuine chance of making things better.  The kinds of contextual factors that cause ‘bad’ behaviours include:

  • lack of skills, judgement or experience (bad driving for example)
  • the behaviours of others (angry outbursts from someone who feels they are continually being interrupted)
  • lack of incentive/disincentive (the bad behaviour is unrecognised and therefore repeated)
  • unchallenged group norms (our meetings always start late)

So learn to recognise and challenge the fundamental attribution error at work.  I guarantee it will make you a much better manager.