How to stop managers ruining talent!

Case Study for people management: encourage talent, don’t strangle it

(the lessons in this post are evermore relevant to organisations in the current recruitment for talent – consider people you currently employ for your vacancies)

I met up with Jeff at an industry seminar.  After the usual pleasantries, I asked him how his job was going.  A cloud passed across his brow. “Not so great at the moment”, he said, “I’ve got a new director and I’m really not enjoying work any more.  I’m considering my options”.

My friend looked very glum at this point and we went for a coffee where he spilled out his heartache.

Now, I’ve known Jeff for a good few years.  He had an enviable reputation  for being highly skilled in his field, loyal, widely experienced.  I knew that he was not someone who is easily upset.  So I was concerned to hear his story and I will share it with you as a cautionary tale.

(I wish could say that this was an unusual situation but, sadly, I am coming across it frequently in different guises when I coach managers).

Jeff’s story

You would probably describe Jeff as being in the middle of his career.  Technically hot and well qualified, he had spent some years as an independent business consultant. That was before he got his ideal job in a senior position with a small manufacturing company. They produced expensive luxury goods and Jeff worked hard, expecting a bright future.

He ran a small department successfully for a number of years and was looking forward to gaining a position on the board.  However, the global recession went into full swing at that time and the company went into liquidation. So, my friend and his colleagues suffered redundancy and needed new jobs.

Jeff worked in several temporary jobs until he landed a job at his current company.  Whilst he knew that it wasn’t at the level of his previous permanent role, he saw it as an opportunity to join a company that was growing and securing world-wide contracts.

The CEO decided that he would strengthen the board and brought in an external person to head up Operations. This  included Jeff’s growing department.  Deciding not to advertise the position, the CEO engaged local head-hunters.  They eagerly introduced the CV of an external candidate  who showed extensive board level experience in international companies.  On paper it looked that she would excel at handling the new international growth.  Jeff had little international experience, however, he hoped to learn this from his new boss, whilst continuing to grow and nurture his UK operation.

Trouble ahead

Reality kicked in within a couple of months as Jeff found himself under more and more pressure.  He was no longer included in strategic meetings where he had previously contributed ideas. Neither was he instrumental in planning.  Instead, he received instructions from his new boss as a series of random tasks.

Constantly micro-managed, he had to undertake re-work frequently because his boss changed emphasis erratically. These tasks were often given to him late in the day being described as “urgent, urgent, urgent”.  He seldom saw his boss at other times.

Increasingly,  the new boss took over major areas of Jeff’s UK operations as part of “stream-lining”.  Frequently, his attempts to offer suggestions and request for involvement in project work were turned down.  He endured comments from his manager that his suggestions were “Not really in your pay grade”  or “haven’t got time to discuss it right now”. Insult was added to injury when his boss took over a project that he had painstakingly progressed.  He found out later that she had presented the results as being her own, with “a little help from her team”.

Not surprisingly, Jeff was feeling stressed. He had lost his confidence and felt not a little insulted by the lack of respect for his capability.  However, he acknowledged that his boss might still be finding her feet.  Perhaps she was uncertain about whom she could trust?  He admitted that he didn’t have the expertise to handle the international work.  However, his requests for training and development in that area had fallen on deaf ears.

What to do?

I asked him what outcome he wanted and what he planned to do?

He said that he would leave “tomorrow” if he could, but the salary and benefits package was very good.  He worried about “having to start again” in a new company.  Clearly, he was still haunted by his previous experience of unemployment and anxious about being able to provide for his family.

We talked some more and looked at the choices that he had.  By the end of our meeting, he felt strong enough to look at his situation face on and start making decisions.  We agreed to meet for some more sessions.  He wanted to review his CV, discover his true career aspirations and not least his perceived barriers and opportunities. Additionally, he wanted to look at ways of boosting his confidence levels.

He decided that he would make an appointment with his new manager to share his feelings and see if there was any route to salvaging his career with his current employer.  He would also talk to some recruitment agencies to gauge the marketplace for his skillset.  I suspected though that the damage was done and he had lost faith in the CEO and his new manager and would walk out the door as soon as it was feasible.

What lessons are there in this true cautionary tale?

First let’s look at the new manager’s situation.  Why had she “strangled the talent” in one of her team? Was she even aware of the effect that she had?  Was she a “good fit” for the company culture? See if you agree with my list below.

Had the CEO done sufficient homework into her background? Had he really thought about developing the talent that already existed in the firm and considered succession planning?  Was this an isolated case or were there other people about to jump ship, taking their experience and special company knowledge with them?  As the company grew, had the CEO thought about the impact on his workforce? We’ll explore the CEO’s actions under another case study as I want to discuss the actions and attitudes of Jeff’s new manager.

You may already be familiar with this quote (and it’s painfully true):

“People leave managers, not companies”

― Marcus BuckinghamFirst, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently (available on Amazon as Kindle, Hardback, Paperback and Audio)  http://amzn.to/2fC35Dw

I’ve listed 13 pain-points this new boss could improve:

  1. Understand the capability of your team (respect)
  2. Allow skilled people to do their job without interference (trust)
  3. Understand current departmental and company culture
  4. Plan and properly delegate tasks/projects
  5. Share as much information with your team as possible (inclusion)
  6. Involve your team in decision-making
  7. Welcome suggestions and consider implementation
  8. Adopt a collegiate style with team; understand the human dimension
  9. Publicly acknowledge work done by your team; never take the credit for other people’s work (integrity issue)
  10. Discuss and plan for career aspirations
  11. Develop people for current and future work demands
  12. Be visible and approachable
  13. Be humble enough to ask for help from your team

Do you have any other solutions?

I hope that you found this interesting and I would love to hear your comments.

Have you experienced a similar situation?  What solutions do you suggest?

© Christine de Caux 2021      All rights reserved

Grow your success: what stops you?

Is this what stops you from achieving success?

We can probably identify many fears that stop us progressing in our business: maybe you worry about finances – spending too much or too little; competition from established brands; not having sufficient time or resources for production, and so on…

But a particular fear that very many people have is the fear of success

Wh-a-a-t?

Of course you are striving away, juggling your life to get clients, sacrificing many things to get your business moving on the right tracks, work, work, work.  And then you get a breakthrough, a lead for you to follow up.  Oddly, you don’t do it because it doesn’t quite fit with your business model, it’s the wrong time, you want to finish off a project first or maybe you think that they won’t be interested after you have spoken to them!

Is this at all familiar?  Perhaps you sabotage yourself in other ways by taking a back seat or not fully explaining your product when you are introduced to people at networking groups.

Well, believe it or not, this isn’t uncommon. 

What effect does this have on me?

Have a little think about what you might have done in the past where you have missed out on potential business.  What was the real cause?  What could you have done differently and, importantly, why didn’t you?

There are a number of root causes for this strange phenomenon and it is the twin to fear of failure and is also based on false beliefs about yourself.

We sabotage ourselves because:

  • We don’t want to expose ourselves to potential humiliation if it doesn’t work out – I will feel a fool
  • We may feel guilty that we are succeeding – I think there are so many other people who are more deserving
  • We fear that we won’t be able to handle success – I might lose it all, better not to have it in the first place
  • We fear that we will change in some way and lose our friends or only attract people who are false and sycophantic – I might be alone
  • We fear that being successful will mean that we are shoved into the limelight – I will feel embarrassed as the centre of attraction
  • We fear losing control – I might lose my identity

How can you stop this self-sabotage?

So what are the symptoms and how can you remedy this malady?

You will need to be very honest with yourself.  This is not an exercise in being self critical or beating yourself up. Stand back and do some self analysis: just as you would analyse areas  in your business, only this time the focus is on your behaviour, beliefs  and emotions.

  1. Set some time aside and be totally honest with yourself.  This isn’t about seeking out negative aspects but to celebrate those things that you do well and where you have succeeded in the past.
  2. Make a list of your deepest dreams.  Sometimes we don’t give our true desires enough “oxygen” to help them to thrive.  By seeing them on paper helps them to take on an identity and grow.
  3. Keep on writing about why you deserve success, how what you do and dream of doing in the future will help others.  Create this into a short mantra, a sentence or phrase and place it in a spot where you can see it every day.  Say it out loud every day and your brain will become familiar with it and it will become normal, a reality.
  4. During this exercise, you are likely to feel uncomfortable at times.  Think about why, what is bubbling away under the surface?  Write down how you feel and any reason that you can attach to those feelings.  You are now identifying your fears and confronting them.

Other indications that you fear succeeding are suggested when you:

  • Have difficulty finishing projects – just never quite satisfied with it
  • You are highly self-critical, or habitually self-effacing
  • You plunge into an area of work regardless of whether it will bring you what you desire
  • You continually self-sacrifice always bending to other people’s needs ahead of your own

You are likely to be feeling inadequate or certainly unhappy with a situation and could well think that you should just give up, that success was never meant for you.  It might be that you didn’t apply for your dream job or let a closing date pass by without taking any action and compensate yourself by thinking; well it wasn’t for you anyway.  Such self-defeat and self-deception form a spiral as we lose our self respect, burying our disappointment .

But supposing that breakthrough is just around the corner, that a friend is recommending you to a potential client right now or that someone has been searching for just the service or product that you can provide for them.  How would you feel if you had just missed such an opportunity?  Thwarted? Disappointed? Or even relieved?  Maybe all of this and more?

Why?

Consider why you feel this way.  Do you always use some avoidance tactic or only sometimes?  When did you start to feel this way?

It doesn’t have to be this way!!

Now think about the habits that you have developed that prevent yourself from succeeding personally.  You may discover some barriers that you are erecting or habits developed to avoid certain situations.

What is your inner dialogue?  Perhaps you have become so used to self-talk that originally helped to protect you in a difficult situation but is no longer useful.  It is useful to remember that you can choose how you react and you can try out different approaches.  Take small steps to do something regardless of feeling uncomfortable. 

Be brave, what do you have to lose in the face of what you could gain.  Think: I can do this; it is my turn for success!  Why not me!  Think of all the things that will go well and what it will mean to you.

Keep at it and make lots of small wins.  If you find that you drop back into old habits, shunning opportunity, start with a new goal and see it through.

One last simple but very effective technique if you are a solopreneur. We often start out selling our product/service as an extension of ourselves. We think our business depends on it.  To a certain extent your skills are what make your business viable.  But you can step away from it being all about you, and develop a mindset of working for your business rather than the business being you.  Many people are then able to feel sufficiently distanced that they can describe products linked to the values of your business rather than be put in the personal spotlight.

As always, practice makes perfect and you will have some days when you could have done better.  So concentrate on those times when you do succeed (no matter how small) and give yourself a metaphorical pat on the back.  

YOU DESERVE IT.

New to Management – it can be scary

Here’s the scene: you have just been promoted to a managerial position. Congratulations!

Does it seem scary?

But as you take over your new job with responsibilities for your team, do you feel fully prepared? Is excitement draining away to be replaced by apprehension? Perhaps that old demon on your shoulder is telling you that you won’t be able to do this. And the managerial course that you took, what does that mean for you now; how can you use your knowledge from that? How does it translate into real life?

Welcome to the world of people management, inexact and ever challenging.

There is no doubt that you will learn as you go along but getting things wrong offers the harsh experience of “dog’s law” and heartache.

But there are many managers like you who worry about managing people, balancing the needs of individuals with the company’s expectations whilst you are treading water. Why is it that many managers find it difficult to manage people? After all that should be the focus of their role.

Time to take control

Firstly take comfort in your “right to manage”. This doesn’t mean that you become dictatorial or over bearing. However, it does mean that your organisation has vested in you certain autonomy, a confidence in your ability. It is now down to you to work out how to create and enhance your working relationships, inspiring your team to perform well and attain the company aims. The good news is that whilst there are certainly a few people who seem to have an innate ability to lead and manage, it is something that can be learned.

However, it takes time and you will need to understand yourself, how you come across to others and understand that other people have emotional baggage. They may not see the world in the same way that you do. In fact it is pretty certain that you won’t be able to see eye to eye with everyone all the time.

Build good relationships – it takes time!

Good relationships are based on trust and a mutual sense of belonging. This does take time to nurture and is a delicate thing, easily destroyed. If you steam-roll your way through managing people, treating them as an extension of machinery or systems, you will build resistance and resentment instead of commitment and cooperation. It is very likely that you will lose good people.
By understanding that another person’s view on the world is shaped by their own experience, culture and beliefs you will see that the world can appear totally different from their perspective than from yours. And neither view is more right or wrong: they are both possibilities.

Listening – it’s a key skill

Listen to your team and dispense with any assumptions that occur to you about your team. You will then begin to understand what makes your people tick and find the best way to communicate with each individual. Spend time getting to know each other, respect different opinions and you will build a sense of mutual support and understanding.

Undeniably, your workplace is a social community where people interact and work collaboratively. This is so even when people work remotely and contact others electronically. They will form a “tribe” and seek to belong. In fact, people who are in contact through email or VOIP or social platforms can have more interaction with their colleagues than those who work in parallel work stations. Your team’s sense of belonging and view of you will impact on their commitment to their work and indeed the organisation.

Emotional connection links to communication

Does this mean that you will be walking on egg-shells, tentative in how you approach your team? Not a bit of it. Your evident enthusiasm and optimism mixed with transparency will grow two-way trust and respect. Be aware of how you are perceived. Remember that all eyes are on you and any slip in your integrity will be seen by and affect all.

People can be unpredictable and their emotional state is important. Resentment can build up, hurt leading to anger and obstruction over misunderstood intentions. How you communicate is as important as the message itself. Think of how you will ensure their understanding and don’t assume that everyone will grasp the full meaning and implication of your message: you will need to use different methods and check comprehension.

Your management skills must recognise adverse emotions in your team. Your frequent interactions and genuine interest in each individual will create a stable work environment, free from conflict. Enthusiasm is strangely infectious but so is damaging rumour and conjecture within a communication vacuum. Be ever on your guard against expressing negativism as this can sabotage your good efforts in building motivation.

Fairness and equity

It is important that you do not treat everyone in the same manner but that you treat everyone fairly and consistently. I hope you can see the difference. You will treat people in the way that each person appreciates, as an individual and with respect for them as a person. For example, some people like to work quietly.  However, some people need the company of others if they re not to feel isolated. Get to understand the different ways in which people want to work. Treat people with respect, transparency and honesty, seeking to include everybody.

Remember that everyone is capable of doing good work and generating ideas. Even the quietest person has their story to tell. Time spent recognising and improving your emotional intelligence will improve your people management capability immensely. This is an ongoing quest that will empower and enrich you personally throughout your career.

Grow to be a Fantastic Manager!

© all rights reserved: Christine de Caux 

Leader Juggler

Did you realise that as a leader you will become a juggler?

Leadership and Management models exist to help us to make sense of what is going on. The trouble starts when we try to match our everyday experience with the “ideal” of a model. And your real learning starts as you find that no two situations are the same and you are responsible for many tasks and groups of people.

So, what Leadership model could help? John Adair’s model of Action Centred Leadership is still valid today. A well loved favourite to help the leader, it explains what is happening and how to act. The original crisp three-sphere diagram will help you to start. Then multiple tasks turn you into a juggler as you try to keep all the balls in the air. And, of course, these are becoming heavier and of different sizes!

Life as a leader is indeed complex

Your overriding concern, however, is to translate your organisation’s strategy and direction into action and generate performance through people.

Of course you aren’t alone in this. There will be other people with responsibilities in specialist areas and some of what they do with overlap with you. Indeed it is quite likely that the people in your team/s will have a stake in other teams. Ah, another ball to juggle, this one is about compromise, negotiation as you become part of the executive team.

But let’s get back to Adair’s interconnecting spheres

This model is a good place to start and will serve you well. Of course the diagram is short hand for more detailed explanation and I would recommend that you spend some time getting to grips with Adair’s reasoning.

Leadership Model
Adair three centred leadership model

Adair bases the Leader’s role as balancing the needs of the three elements: Task, Individual and Team. These overlap but concentrating on one aspect will mean having to play catch-up with the others. Life isn’t always neat.

Once you are fully clear on the task, you will then supply its needs. So create your plan, identify and arrange sufficient resources, (human and material). Defining its quality and standards you will include a risk assessment, assess financial needs and identify the skills needed to carry it out.

Where the spheres overlap, the elements work together from a leader’s point of view. As leader in the centre, you will inspire and manage each sector’s needs to achieve your results.

New Leader, New Team

If you don’t already have a team, you will be selecting people with the right attributes. However, it is quite likely that you will be working with people who are already available to you, perhaps an established departmental team. In either case, you will need to assess ability and skills and continually develop them.

Don’t underestimate the level of emotional development that you will encourage. You will be using your own influential skills to motivate individuals and bring them together to form your team. This people relationship has emotional roots as you inspire, coach and support each person and build synergy in the team.

Ensuring effective communication at all levels. includes the personal goals of your individuals in your evaluation of the task. You will all have gained valuable experience, especially you as a leader. Assess what went well, what would you do differently next time?  You should recognise both individual contribution and team work of a job well done. When you reward individuals, ensure against being divisive.

You will gain a working knowledge of people’s skills and behaviours, and skills. This gives you a head-start for future projects, ready to catch the next ball that is thrown at you.

Suggested reading

A prolific business writer, Adair has produced many helpful books. If you are a new leader, try this one:



(please note that I only recommend items that I have confidence in. If you choose to use this link to make your purchase, I may receive a small commission from the vendor. However, this does not incur any extra expense for you)