Management and Leadership CPD

I was recently asked a question as part of a tendering process about how I manage my own CPD in relation to Management and Leadership.  What surprised me about my answer was how dependent my cpd now is on both Blog and Podcast subscriptions.

Membership of the Northern Leadership Academy provides me with some very good leadership CPD.  I recently attended the NLA Leadership Open Space Event and a one day workshop on Action Learning for Leadership.

Cipd membership and a very full reading programme and authoring the PMN blog also keeps the cpd going.

I am currently taking part in a Project with the University of York looking at Diversity Proofing Management and Leadership Training.

I also subscribe to:

  • Harvard Business Ideas Cast – Harvard Business School – The Harvard Business IdeaCast, from the publishers of, Harvard Business Review and Harvard Business Press, features breakthrough ideas and commentary from the leading thinkers in business and management.
  • Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders – The DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar (ETL) is a weekly seminar series on entrepreneurship, co-sponsored by BASES (a student entrepreneurship group), Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and the Department of Management Science and Engineering.
  • Management – Management podcast: interviews showcasing the latest thinking from business school professors and other experts – London Business School
  • Naked Strategy – Naked Strategy is a monthly x-ray for business leaders. Presented by Laurence Haughton and Max McKeown, the show shines the spotlight on the strategic issues that lurk behind the business news headlines.
  • Peter Days World of Business – Insights into the business world with Peter Day – featuring content from his Radio 4 In Business programme, and also Global Business from the BBC World Service.
  • SmallBizPod – SmallBizPod is the weekly podcast dedicated to small business, start-ups and entrepreneurs. News, views, interviews and practical advice.

5 most important lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur

When Guy Kawasaki writes a post under the title:

‘5 most important lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur’

you just have to check it out.

I especially like ‘Make a little progress every day’ in which Guy goes back on his once held believe that a big marketing splash could launch a business ‘to infinity and beyond’. Instead he now favours lots of little steps forward taken over the long haul.

This parallels what I try to teach aspiring entrepreneurs about making progress by understanding their goals, understanding the current reality and then focusing on the immediate next steps, which are sometimes almost trivial things, that they cannot fail to do. Keep doing this often enough for long enough and the progress is amazing.

It provides a massive contrast to more formal business planning processes that often result in intimidating and insurmountable ‘To Do’ lists that make the whole enterprise game appear to be nigh on impossible.

Too much management in the NHS?

Back to work after the bank holiday and another morning waking up to Radio 4’s Today Programme. This morning it was medical doctor (retired I believe) who caught my ears claiming the the problem with the NHS today was too much management. And I have a certain sympathy for his point of view. Peter Drucker once said,

“Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.”

and there does seem to be a fair bit of this in the NHS.

But how do we square this with the Healthcare commission report that found that fewer than 1 in 5 of staff in my local PCT or Acute Trust had received a performance review in the last 12 months that they found helpful? Personal development plans are poor and ineffective and staff engagement is weak.

The answer is obvious.

The problem is not too much management, but too much of the wrong kind of management. The kind that is obsessed about measuring ‘performance’ and then hectoring (in some cases bullying) staff to produce more – rather than engaging and developing staff in the challenge of providing ever improving healthcare.

What is required is not more of the ‘scientific’ management of the performance management consultants but more person centred management that helps staff to reconnect with their reasons for joining the NHS and helping to find satisfaction and fulfillment in a job well done.

(If you are interested in this topic then you must check out the post that Tom Peters has just written.)

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.

Focus on Processes – NOT Medals

It has been fascinating to listen to some of the Olympic athletes talking about the secrets of their success. Many of them report using mantras to trigger actions that have contributed significantly to their success. I am sure that some of these mantras might also produce results in your organisation.

Examples include:

  • ‘keeping it in the boat’
  • ‘focus on the processes and not the medals’ and
  • ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’

‘Keeping it in the boat’ relates very much to recognising those things that we can control that are likely to lead to great results. Focussing on what we can make happen and not worrying too much about what others are doing.’

‘Focus on the processes and not the medals’ is a mantra for at least some of the cyclists – especially the pursuiters. Forget about the medals and the glory – just focus on executing well those things that you know make for great performance.

‘The aggregation of marginal gains’ is another cycling mantra and refers to the significant difference that many small, practical changes can make to performance. While individually each of these changes seems to trivial to make a real difference the net effect leads to a significant improvement.

In some organisaitons you get the feeling that the domninant – if unstated – mantras are:

  • ‘Leave well enough alone’ or
  • ‘No-one ever got the sack for being mediocre’.

Please do share your favourite mantras – Olympic or otherwise.

We might even find a small prize for the best!

Why A Progressive Managers’ Network?

“Most managers become managers because they have mastered the hard skills needed for a specific job. Unfortunately, most haven’t mastered the soft skills of interpersonal relations.”

Creating More Effective Managers Through Interpersonal Skills Training – TRACOM Group

If not here then where, if not now then when?

People are inherently creative and passionate problem solvers.

If they are not creative and passionate problem solvers at work then they will be creative and passionate problem solvers somewhere else.

If they are not being passionate and creative problem solvers now they will look for an opportunity where they can be creative and passionate problem solvers soon.

There are people who have given up on the possibility of being creative and passionate problem solvers. They have learned that their attempts to make things better are unwanted or unsuccessful. They have given up trying to make progress and have settled for maintaining the status quo.

  • Do you manage people who fit this description?
  • What part has your management style and ’organisational culture’ in fostering this kind of passive behaviour?

More Bill Strickland – Make the Impossible Possible

I am just re-reading this book before I lend it out – and it is blowing me away even more the second time through!

If you want to get a flavour of what Bill Strickland is about try these videos. There is only about 15 minutes worth in total.  And then please let me know what you think.


Bill talks about Frank Ross


Frank Lloyd Wright and the Power of Environment

‘People are a function of their environment. You put people in a world class building and they behave like world class citizens. You put them in a prison and they behave like prisoners.’


The Culinary Programme at Manchester Bidwell


Dizzy Gillespie and all that jazz


Skoll, E-bay and Scaling Up


Bill talks about His Mission


An organisation where:

  • people on the frontline make operational decisions that help to better serve customers
  • pressure to perform comes from peers and a sense of shared purpose rather than from a boss
  • teams, not managers, decide who to recruit
  • everyone knows what everyone else earns – and what they do to earn it
  • where ‘top’ pay is limited to 20 times average salary (the norm in private sector if 400 times!)
  • employees think of it as a community on a mission to make a difference in the world, rather than a employer
  • mission matter as much as the bottom line – and BOTH matter a lot
  • every employee feels that they are running their own small business and takes day to day decisions accordingly

What could you do to make your organisation more like this?

Would the effort be rewarded?

Building the Entrepreneurial Team

Successful entrepreneurs build successful teams. They build successful management teams and they also build personal partnerships with great coaches, mentors and technical advisors who help them to make the most of their own potential and to develop their business ideas.

Building the Entrepreneurial Team

Great entrepreneurs recognise that they need to play to their strengths and recruit others who can do the things that they can’t do well themselves.

Yet very few enterprise/business support services recognise this fact. Many (unwittingly) even go as far as stopping their clients from even considering it! Very few actively challenge entrepreneurs to consider the importance of building the right team with complimentary strengths covering the three key domains of enterprise:

  1. Product/service – the ability to provide a great product or service at the right price
  2. Marketing/sales – the ability to create interest in the product or service and to consistently convert that interest into sales
  3. Financial management and controls – the ability to keep the books and pay taxes as well as to provide accurate and timely financial forecasts and to secure finance at the right time at the right price.

Instead we work with individuals and then lament the fact that they don’t seem to be equally proficient in all three domains of enterprise.

We should help the entrepreneur to recognise their strengths and then to seriously consider the need to build a team to cover the enterprise domains that they are not strong in.

This may need us to confront entrepreneurs with their own limitations, which takes a strong relationship and a lot of honesty and courage. We also need to offer them ways to build their team quickly at low or no cost. This is a much more effective intervention than simply identifying their weaknesses and then packing them off to a training session on something that they are just not ‘cut out’ for. Unfortunately this IS the stock response for most enterprise service providers. While this may help to keep the training providers in business it usually does very little for the would be entrepreneur.

Business Planning as a Solo Sport

Many enterprise service providers also work as if business planning is a solo sport.

Lone entrepreneurs are encouraged to start working on their business plans almost immediately. We can argue till the cows come home about the value of business plans that are written on the basis of hypothesis and guesswork. And even the best researched business plans contain a large element of both. What I believe is above contention is that a high quality business plan can not be developed by any one individual. As Jim Collins suggests we should:

  • first build the team (get the right people on the bus) and only then
  • encourage the team to develop the business plan (work out where the bus is going to go and how it is going to get there).

This is because business planning requires different personality types and skill sets to provide high quality planning that is integrated across the three enterprise domains. I don’t believe that anyone has the passion and skill in all three domains to be able to write a well balanced business plan on their own.

And even if they could, their chances of implementing it all effectively are close to zero.

So one of the most effective interventions that we can do for entrepreneurs is to help them recognise that their first priority is building a strong management team.

This does not necessarily mean employing people. Nor does it mean giving away equity in the business (although sometimes this is EXACTLY the right thing to do).

It may be possible to find people who will contribute their talent and skills to the business on a voluntary basis. It is certainly possible to find people who will sell your product on a commission only basis.  If this proves difficult you really do need to ask yourself whether there is a market for what you do, at the quality and price that you do it!

In addition to building the team to work in the business I also think that entrepreneurs should consider getting further support signed up.   They should find mentors, coaches and technical advisors.

Choosing and Using a Mentor

The mentor should be someone that the entrepreneur chooses who has had experience in similar fields to the one that they are pursuing who is kind enough to pass on some of their wisdom, knowledge and experience. A mentor is not involved in the day to day development of the entrepreneurs idea or their business but instead focusses on helping them with their long term professional development and goals. They can also act as an excellent source of introductions and referals providing the entrepreneur with much needed credibility.

Choosing and using a mentor is not an easy or straightforward process. It requires planning, care and commitment to find the right mentor and make the relationship work. Yet I see business support services offering to provide clients with a mentor that seems to take little account of either personal chemistry or business need. Often the mentors are also looking to build their own experience through mentoring or want to mentor as part of their own professional development or corporate social responsibility programme. While these motivations may be great they do sometimes get in the way of the entrepreneur actively seeking the right mentor for them.

Frequently the resulting relationship breaks down with little value being created for either party.

Choosing and Using a Business Coach

A great business coach need not have ‘been there and done that’ in quite the same way as a mentor. Their focus is less on ‘passing on wisdom’ and ‘personal experience’ than around providing a relationship that the entrepreneur and their team can use to get honest feedback and support in structuring their goals and plans.

While the entrepreneur may only meet with their mentor once or twice a year it is likely that they will work with their coach on a monthly, weekly or even a daily basis, reviewing progress, developing goals and forging plans. The aim of the coach is to help the entrepreneur (and hopefully the whole of the entrepreneurial team) to make the most of their potential in building the new enterprise. The enteprise coach helps the client to make the most of their potential, focussing on them rather than on their business.

Technical Advice

The final part of the team that the would be entrepreneur needs to build is access to the right technical advice at the right time and price. This could be help with business planning, accessing finance or technical aspects of business development in any of the three domains of enterprise:

  • product/service,
  • marketing and sales or
  • financial management and control.

Many business advisers confuse their roles in coaching the entrepreneur and providing them with technical advice and guidance.  Eventually the desire to provide immediate help and support means that they end up giving lots of technical advice and guidance and do very little coaching.  They get sucked into helping the client to develop their business and forget about their role in coaching the entrepreneur.

So while the entrepreneur is surrounded by people offering them free technical advice and guidance they often find it very difficult to find access to high quality, person centred enterprise coaching.