This year has shown that in tough times some approaches are more effective than others, some sales leaders really do shown a navigable path through to improved performance, whilst other less able managers add no value at all through their visible anxiety and single dimensional approach.
What we have learned from our travels in the UK this year:
- When you have had your Starbucks type refuelling stop and are getting up to leave always look back at the table and chair you were sitting in. Often something will be left behind. This also works well in taxis.
- In hotel rooms always check the room radio alarm isn’t set; some peoples’ idea of fun is to set it for a ridiculously early time before they vacate the room.
- McDonalds free Wi-Fi is great – it works in the car parks as well.
- The luggage racks on Virgin Pendalinos are very comfortable in sit in – don’t ask how this became to be known.
- The toilets on these trains are very scary with their easy access doors. It’s not happened (yet), but the idea that the door, which is the whole wall, could slide open if you press the wrong button creates unnecessary frisson.
- Flying with Flybe is not the most pleasant experience. Reliability very poor. Eight flights this year all delayed, or through poor service process, more stressful than they should be.
- The reasons people give when they are late for meetings make Reggie Perrin’s excuses seem very boring.
- Sat Nav does not compensate for people with no sense of geography. People have ended up in some very strange places.
- City Inn and Village hotels are now giving Malmaison a run for their money in the mid market sector. Hotel Du Vin very good. At the budget end, Premier Inn and TravelLodge very variable. At the top end, The Grove at Watford consistently good.
- The M1 carriageway widening around Nottingham creates the most boring 14 miles of driving, and often causes bad hold ups as well. Also, being sandwiched by three lorries all doing exactly 50mph in driving rain is not boring but it’s not much fun either.
Stop Press: The A46 M40 junction improvements are almost complete, the new flyover is now open!
Some older books, some new ones; all are worth the price of a cheap meal out, much more sustaining, and all are non-fattening:
- The Complete works of Malcolm Gladwell – his stuff makes you think, makes you smile and makes you think again. There are three books “The Tipping Point”, “Blink!” and “Outliers” plus a recently published book of essays “What The Dog Saw”. He has sometimes been criticised for stating the obvious and making a lot from a little, but his way of thinking and the examples he gives are refreshingly different from the norm.
- Three books by Jim Collins. His seminal work “Built To Last”, the follow up “Good To Great” which contains his Level 5 leadership model and his latest book “How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In”. This book has recently been used by the new chairman of Toyota to warn his organisation that unless they change they will slowly die. This is currently the biggest car company in the world. Very provocative.
- The business biography of the year is probably “The Snowball: Warren Buffet’s Business of Life”. This is the world’s most successful investor who lent Goldman Sachs several billion dollars at a preferred interest rate of 10% in the depths of the credit crunch and has just completed the purchase of a major US railroad company, in effect betting on the continued need to move vast amounts of finished goods and commodities around America in a reasonably environmentally sustainable way.
- The guru of all management writing is Peter Drucker and he should be mandatory reading. A great intro can be found in “Essential Drucker (Classic Drucker Collection)” and his autobiography “Adventurers Of A Bystander” will give all the background to him you need.
All the books can be found at Amazon or through good book shops. Happy and thought provoking reading!
What do the MPs expenses row and the Banking Crisis have in common? A set of rules being followed without a framework of values to inform peoples’ behaviour.
It’s striking how similar the two issues were. People saying they’ve done nothing illegal, done nothing wrong, simply following the rules. What is scary about this is how little contrition has been shown. The MPs still feeling hard done by and the Bankers going back to their old ways, paying themselves the huge bonuses as soon as they can.
When you see values informing behaviour it stands out. Three weeks ago Wigan Athletic lost 9-1 to Tottenham. This was a pretty humiliating defeat. The players (not the manager) volunteered to pay all their travelling supporters costs for travelling to the game. They were under no obligation to do so, they didn’t hide behind rules, they simply did the right thing. The following weekend they won, showing huge resilience and team spirit. This bounce back is not unconnected to their values driven behaviour.
Anderson Consulting were the biggest audit firm in the world, they were destroyed by the Enron scandal because they took the money rather than be true to their historic values of probity and integrity.
Organisations without values need lots of rules. And people in that environment without the coalescing force of values then set out to game the system (see MPs again). You will see compliance not commitment to change, box ticking not real engagement around reporting, people doing the minimum (always inside the rules), but always reluctant to mobilise their discretionary effort.
With clearly communicated values, consistently demonstrated by management you create a purpose driven culture, informed by bought into standards that are non-negotiable. This creates something to work and live up to, and reduces the need for extensive and onerous rules. Never forget, for somebody who wants to remain disengaged there is never enough rules, they will always find a way round them.
Predaptive successfully works with organisations to develop values driven cultures. If you would like to talk more about helping your organisation to do the same, please contact us.
- Using the economy as a reason to get rid of people rather than engaging with them around the real reason why they are not suitable.
- Saying there is no bonus for people whilst giving out huge redundancy payments to people you haven’t the courage to performance manage.
- When a VR programme is underway saying to some applicants you are too good to ‘let go’; the money is going to be used to sort out the people we want out. See previous point.
- Interviewing potential recruits and not telling them they have been unsuccessful.
- Managers who talk about vision and values and then do the opposite.
- Treating induction as a one day tour of the office and issuing the log on password. It’s no surprise this organisation has a very high first year churn rate.
- Not setting the annual bonus plans until the first quarter numbers are in.
- Allowing a salary review date to slip, with no communication around why.
- Using the difficult economy as a reason to underpay new recruits, or in one circumstance not pay them at all.
With the holidays almost upon us, Christmas parties are in full swing and soon we’ll be looking forward to the year ahead. It’s a great time to explore the ‘Proust Questionnaire’. This structured set of questions have drawn revealing and insightful answers from people from the salons of fin de siècle France through to the celebrity revelations in Vanity Fair today.
You can try the questionnaire for yourself online, or for an interesting conversation starter with colleagues, try the print version. It could make an intriguing conversation booster for tamer Christmas parties, but remember, it’s not a competency based interviewing structure for recruitment.
This year has, for most organisations, been one of the toughest on record. For some, still being in business in December 2009 is a significant achievement. We thought it would be interesting to try to consolidate the challenges, circumstances and learnings some of our clients have experienced this year and group them into a set of themes:
- Organisations that got hold of two key financial levers very early on are coming out of the downturn stronger; (a) Quickly reducing their cost base to reflect income levels and (b) Nailing their cash management.
- It was critical to get close to customers who were going to spend money in 2010. These were rarer but they were (are) in the market-place. Those that took a cold hard look at their pipeline and focused their energies accordingly did very well.
- Kept key people on-side. When making redundancies the people who you keep are often ignored, they can suffer from survivor guilt, restlessness and low morale. Organisations that made efforts to demonstrate how much they valued this group have reaped the benefit of sustained engagement.
- Visible leadership. Low morale is a function of poor management. In times of difficulty it’s leaders that people are looking for. This means creating a realistic but positive mood, being more visible, increasing communications, being open about difficulties, keeping people informed about the businesses health, and perhaps most importantly, being a role model for the changes being asked of everybody.
- Maintaining a strategy. Yes, tactical survival is all that matters when you’re really struggling, but the future still needs to be thought about. Management teams that kept part of their thinking directed on the medium term can now think about growth with a serviceable plan.
- Not expecting the recovery to be demand led. Organisations that are waiting to see demand come back will improve their business levels in 2010 over 2009, but only in relatively small amounts. The organisations that are already doing better are ones where they are seeking to take share, take a more compelling offer to market, or in some other way shake up their market place. Double digit growth will only be delivered by pro-active organisations.
These six themes have reoccurred throughout 2009. How did you measure up?
In a recent course on Leadership a wide range of inspirational leaders were suggested by participants. Ranging from the well-known ‘greats’; Sir Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King to the more controversial; Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Sir Richard Branson and Bill Gates. What do these inspiring figures have in common other than their ability to inspire others?
Which great leaders inspired you? Were they from the world of sport; Muhammed Ali, Pele, Stirling Moss? Or great explorers; Raleigh, Hillary, Shakleton? Or from the scientific world; Newton, Darwin, Einstein? What, if any, qualities or characteristics do all great leaders have in common?
Great leaders certainly inspire a lot of analysis and evaluation. There are numerous leadership theories around and shelves of books on the subject all trying to pin down those elusive qualities that make some individuals stand out from the rest. In reality, can these qualities be specified and, further more, can they be learnt by others?
These previously mentioned leaders are clearly very aspirational, larger than life characters. What about a more realistic view of what demonstrates leadership behaviour at the real world business level? When implementing leadership development work we always seek to understand why some people show greater leadership behaviour than others. We have found these exemplars have a particular approach to their work that is informed by a certain mind-set. We have distilled some of what these leadership focused people do into a 10 point checklist below, see how many you pro-actively do currently:
- Keep a record of your accomplishments
- Maintain an up-to-date CV, aligned to career goals
- Have a credible walk away position from your current role/employer which you will action if you don’t believe you are achieving your career aims
- Look to update your network and manage your contacts
- Work to be the ‘obvious choice’ candidate for any new opportunities
- Identify and coach your successor for greater future success
- Work hard at getting along with people and having a reputation for being helpful, resourceful and supportive
- Work at deepening your point of view about how your market sector and functional specialism are developing, and the likely changes they will be going through – you try to develop a personal vision
- Take responsibility for your career and your current position
- Work to further your professional training and development