The Power of the Listening (Progressive) Manager

We need to stop being helpful.

Trying to be helpful and giving advice are really just ways to control others.

Advice is a conversation stopper…we should substitute curiosity for advice.

Do not tell people how you handled the same concern in the past.  Do not immediately offer the text book solution to the problem – unless you want to kill creativity, enquiry and insight.

Do not ask questions that have advice hidden in them, such as “have you ever thought of talking to the customers directly?”

Often people will ask for advice. The ‘request for advice’ is how we surrender our independence. If we give in to this request we have affirmed their dependnece on us; their belief that they do not have the capacity to create the world from their own resources; and more importantly, we have supported their escape from their own freedom.

For more on this I would recomend almost anyhtingby Peter Block – but especially:

Community – The structure of belonging – Peter Block

“One of the basic elements of the relationship between oppressor and oppressed is prescription. Every prescription represents the imposition of one individual’s choice upon another, transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed to into one that conforms with the prescriber’s consciousness.”

Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Paulo Friere

“It was wonderful! Incredibly powerful – just to be listened to.”

Participant on an Introduction to Enterprise Coaching Programme.

Provision of Neighbourhood Enterprise Talent Scouts and Neighbourhood-based Business Advisors

Another invitation to tender appeared today.  This time a council looking for the provision of Neighbourhood Enterprise Talent Scouts and Neighbourhood-based Business Advisors to work closely together in stimulating enterprise.

Talent and Business.  Business and Talent.  Is this REALLY what it is all about?  Or is it about frustration, unfulfilled potential, anger and possibility?

One thing I do know; If you set up a system to find people with a ‘talent for business’ you will find the same people that every other agency has already found.

Set up a system to find and help  people who are angry, frustrated and wasting their potential and you will find people with the potential to do something remarkable.

However their trust is not easily won.  More than likely they gave up trying to work with the agencies a long time ago. Set yourself up as a talent scout and they will stay well clear (they have probably spent years being told they are ‘a waste of space who won’t amount to much’ and the last thing they need is another Simon Cowell type rejection).

Set yourself up as a business advisor and likewise they are likely to avoid you like the plague – images of men and women in suits talking a foreign language of equity and turnover, profit and unit costs.

Instead just provide a service  with an unremitting focus on helping people to make progress in their lives – in whatever form that takes.  Build relationships, win trust and get busy.  It won’t be long before you are working with some really interesting people on some really enterprising ideas.

Oh, and by the way, don’t try to collect reams and reams of MIS data for the funders.  Ask for an NI number or for them to fill in an equal opps monitoring survey and they are likely to drop you like a hot potato.

Without Valleys There Can Be No Mountains

I am not sure where I first collected this quote but the more I think about it the more I see its relevance to effective management.

To me it means that wherever there is a great strength there is also a great weakness.  You cannot have one without the other.  Ying and Yang. I think this relates to a Jungian concept that whatever light shows us our way forward will always cast a corresponding shadow.

If this is the case then it becomes impossible to minimise a weakness without compromising the strength with which it is paired.

It also means that whenever we see a weakness we should look for the corresponding strength.  This is important because so many managers become almost obsessed by fixing problems rather than by celebrating and maximising strengths.

So when you find yourself recognising a weakness in yourself or others – spend a few moments looking for the corresponding strength.

Reflecting for Effective Practice?

  1. What percentage of your clients come back to you for further support?
  2. What percentage do you just see once?
  3. What percentage of your clients go on to open a business?
  4. What percentage decide that enterprise is not for them?
  5. What percentage decide that they want to run their own business – but decide that they can’t make THIS business idea work.
  6. What percentage open a business – but don’t make it through the first/second/third year?
  7. How many different clients do you meet in a month/year?
  8. How many 121 sessions do you run in a month/year with clients?
  9. What is your average percentage occupancy? ie how much of your capacity is being used (by the people that you are meant to be supporting)?
  10. Are you really contributing to the development of an enterprise culture?
  11. What is your reputation with:
  • clients and their friends and families
  • funders
  • partners
  • other regeneration and community development professionals in the community?

Communication – whose job is it?

“I have worked here for 6 months now, and still no-one has told me about what other parts of this organisation do.”

This complaint was aired again at a recent organisational get together that I helped to facilitate.  It is a common complaint – very common.  In essence it says ‘you the management don’t give me the information I need to do my job well’.

But whose job is communication anyway?  Historically perhaps it has been the role of management to provide staff briefings, newsletters and other communication gizmos in an attempt to disseminate what they know.

These days though the emphasis has changed.  It is no longer about management pumping out generic, hopefully useful, pieces of information.  It is now on individuals and groups of employees in teams and departments to work out exactly what they need to know, and be able to do, in order to add more value.  It is then about them taking focused action to get what they need.  The role of management is to make sure that this can happen.

The first challenge in improving communication is often to be clear on exactly whose job it is.  And as a chalenge this should not be underestimated.  Especially if you employ staff who are used to working in much more traditional management hierarchies.

Changing the emphasis from ‘being told‘ to ‘finding out‘ will not only significantly improve communication – it is also likely to stimulate innovation, creativity and a range of other cultural changes.

Helping Does Not Help…

We need to stop being helpful.

Trying to be helpful and giving advice are really just ways to control others.

Advice is a conversation stopper…we should substitute curiosity for advice.

Do not tell people how you handled the same concern in the past.  Do not immediately offer the text book solution to the problem – unless you want to kill creativity, enquiry and insight.

Do not ask questions that have advice hidden in them, such as “have you ever thought of talking to the customers directly?”

Often people will ask for advice. The ‘request for advice’ is how we surrender our independence. If we give in to this request we have affirmed their dependnece on us; their belief that they do not have the capacity to create the world from their own resources; and more importantly, we have supported their escape from their own freedom.

For more on this I would recomend almost anyhtingby Peter Block – but especially:

Community – The structure of belonging – Peter Block

“One of the basic elements of the relationship between oppressor and oppressed is prescription. Every prescription represents the imposition of one individual’s choice upon another, transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed to into one that conforms with the prescriber’s consciousness.”

Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Paulo Friere

“It was wonderful! Incredibly powerful – just to be listened to.”

Participant on an Introduction to Enterprise Coaching Programme.

The Many Roles of the Manager

“People placed in management roles must become translators, delegators, motivators, trainers, mediators, planners, listeners, organizers, problem-solvers, example-setters, cheerleaders, budgeters, ambassadors, regulators, counselors, and more, all while remaining diligent workers.”

Dan Bobinski

So it is no wonder that so many new (or not so new) to management roles find the transition hard.

You can read more from Dan here.

Managing in a Poor Culture

What do yo do when you are managing in an organisation that has a poor culture?

This is the subject of a great post by Miki Saxon.

She makes the point that the starting place has to be a conscious decision that this is a place where you want to be and do great work – in spite of the culture.  The alternative is to indulge in a ‘martyr complex’ the kind of ‘poor me’ response that I often hear.  This  usually appears as a belief that ‘there is nothing I can do to provide a great service and excellence until those above me get their act sorted’.

This is a convenient belief and a powerful one.  But it does little to help us make progress.  It lets us off the hook, allows us to avoid responsibility and put the blame elsewhere.  Once enough of us are doing this – and our beliefs are re-enforcing each other –  it can start to feel like a truth.  However it is still just a belief and we can choose to drop it!

So if you take a conscious decision to keep working in a poor culture you must try to reject this belief and take all the repsonsibility that you can for making things better.

You can read the full post here.

Enterprise Evangelist or Enterprise Coach?

Enterprise Evangelist Enterprise Coach
Entrepreneurship is a good thing – you should try it. Entrepreneurship is neither good not bad.  For some people it is a wonderful life affirming experience.  For others an unmitigated disaster.
We can turn your ideas and dreams into reality. You can make progress in getting the kind of life that you want.  My sole purpose is to offer you the help and support that you need on your journey.
We need to increase the start up rate if we are to change the enterprise culture in this community. We need to help more people believe that they can take action to make things better -in whatever ways matter to them.
We encourage people to start business quickly.  That helps us to keep up with our contract outputs – and anyway you don’t really learn about business until you are in it – do you? We help clients start business slowly, if at all.  We make sure that they have done as much planning, research and training as possible before they start and got a strong management team in place to reduce the risks of failure.  If they have an alternative to starting a small business we encourage them to consider it – SERIOUSLY!  We understand just how hard small business can be.
We spend a lot of money on publicity and events to attract large numbers (we wish!) to use the service. We spend almost nothing on publicity.  Instead we focus on building a great reputation (we know how to do this) and then encourage word of mouth strategies, referrals and clients telling their stories to gradually build interest.
We usually start with a bang – but numbers quickly tail off – unless we keep the marketing spend up.  We refer clients into mainstream business support or other sources of support as soon as we can.  Our job is just to get them engaged. We start slowly and build exponentially as our reputation spreads.  Within 12 months we would expect top be seeing 200 people a year with about 10% of them going on to start a new business.  Because of our reputation we also get some existing business wanting to talk with us – but that is ok because we know how to help them too!
We do all we can to keep people engaged with our service.  We pay bus fares, pick them up in our cars, provide child care and food to make it easy. We do little to keep people using the service – other than help them build their confidence and self belief in what they can achieve when they work with us.
We don’t mention business failure rates.  If we start enough – surely some of them will survive? We monitor survival rates more closely than start up rates.  We understand that it is business failures that establish a fear of enterprise and do most to damage an enterprise culture.
We design and deliver our services and interventions to deliver policy goals for number of interventions and start-ups We design and deliver our services with the client needs at the centre of things.  Our service is free of charge, competent, compassionate and easy to access.
We believe that primarily our clients need help to develop their ideas from a technical point of view.  It is all about the business plan.  The sooner we can refer them onto a technical expert – such as a business adviser the better. We believe that the idea and the business plan is one small aspect of our work.  More important is helping the client to develop their skills and their passion and commitment towards making real progress in their lives.  Understanding psychology is just as important as understanding business.  We develop the people – so that if they want they can develop their business ideas.
I don’t need to build a strong relationship – I just need to find people and refer them to mainstream business advisers. It is the quality of my relationship with you that dictates how useful it is.