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

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)

5 Great Business Books Offering Insight for Success

Here are some great business books for you to read: enlightening, entertaining and thought provoking!  Interestingly, some people tell me that they don’t have time to read books.  Really, they just don’t see the value in spending the time.

Well, I recommend you to try these and then think if the time has been well spent.  I bet you will come away with some great insight and hopefully you will implement at least some of the suggested behaviours and actions that will make a difference.  Try them!

TIP (By the way you don’t have to read every word on every page.  If you are short of time, try reading the list of chapters then the first and last sections of each chapter and you will already have gained some knowledge of the subject.  Clearly, you will need to go back and read more fully those sections that are of particular interest to you.  It is surprisingly effective).

TIP (Many of these books are available on Kindle and you may be able to read them at a much reduced cost e.g. if the edition is available on Kindle Unlimited)

***

Tools of the Titan: Timothy Ferriss

Tim writes about performance and change in a  “dip in and dip out” sort of style.

“You don’t succeed because you have no weaknesses, you succeed because you find your unique strengths and focus on developing bits around them”.  I absolutely agree with this quote.

His interviews with other people and insights offer motivational and sometimes problem solving focus on self-improvement.  A fascinating book that you will want to return to.

***

The Undoing Project: Michael Lewis

So you think decision-making is about systems and logic? Well maybe and maybe not.  Michael Lewis looks at this concept through the story of two psychologists whose work discovered behavioural economics.  Their touching friendship takes you through concepts in understanding this fascinating area.

Be prepared to be both entertained and enlightened.  This story will stay with you.

***

The Coaching Habit: Michael Bungay

Most managers understand the value of coaching their employees for performance but it isn’t always something that comes naturally.  This book describes an approach to coaching that is simple but effective, a method that becomes second nature at work and indeed in everyday life.  The author’s insight enables you to manage and support your employees, creating useful habits that create impact. Curb the temptation to offer advice when active listening is the correct course.

Thought provoking and clear, this book offers transferable skills for every manager.

 ***

The One Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results: Gary Keller

Some title to live up to, this book is the antidote to the ever increasing pressures of everyday life.  Our preoccupation with “busy-ness” actually leads to less productivity, stress and the feeling of being left behind.

The One Thing offers an alternative way to achieve success in all areas of life, not just work.  More productivity, better lifestyle, more family time: sounds too good to be true?  Well read this book and decide for yourself.  I would be surprised if you don’t find it helpful.

“What’s the ONE thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

Find out how to focus on what you should do.  Focus on this thing well instead of eternal plate spinning!

***

The Chimp Paradox

This has been a really popular book and although some of the concepts are not new, it is well written.  This is a fascinating read about how our minds are shaped, how our emotions and negative self-talk act against our best interests.  See if you can identify with this.

A self-help book that is easy to understand, it explains how you can see when your “chimp” is controlling you and when to use your “human brain” to push back.

This book is very helpful for introspection. It is a great help in understanding our interactions with other people, recognising when our emotions become out of control and how to take steps to change.

© copyright: Christine de Caux 2018


I have given links to Amazon UK where these titles are readily available in several formats. They can be purchased from other outlets of course.  

Blog post from Fantastic-Managers site may contain certain affiliate links for which I may receive a small commission.  However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are mine and not influenced by the developing company.  Please see Disclosure Statement on website.

Who wants to be a bad Boss?

Comparison list for best manager behaviours: the good boss

Do you have fond memories about a particularly good boss you knew in the past?  Or perhaps you dread the thought of being like that awful boss that you once had.  I bet you couldn’t wait to leave them behind.

Guess what:

being a bad boss is a barrier to productivity!

So, here are four major types of bad boss that you will not want to emulate:

  1. Micro-manager– nit picking, in your face.
  2. Tyrant – loud, bullying.
  3. Overly laissez-faire – offers no guidance and leaves people to sink or swim.
  4. me, Me, ME – grabs employees’ work and ideas by taking full credit for themselves.

Of course, none of these could be you surely?

Well, I am willing to bet that you want to be a great boss, able to succeed through your team.

Inspiring tips to succeed as a manager

Accordingly, when you are a good boss, you enthuse your employees.  Furthermore you will encourage volunteers to take on projects.  Try these great but simple tips to guide your employees to achieve excellent performance.

  • NOTICE, APPRECIATE and RESPOND to your employees.
  • Treat all FAIRLY and with RESPECT.
  • Be FLEXIBLE to meet changing needs of the business and team.
  • Understand your own VALUES and live up to them CONSISTENTLY.
  • Take RESPONSIBILITY for your team and yourself.
  • MOTIVATE by setting clear goals, monitor performance.
  • COACH your team to deliver results.

Remember that people don’t leave organisations but they leave their boss*.  When your employees perform well, your own reputation as their manager is enhanced.  Most definitely good enough reason to ensure that your manager-techniques are top notch!

*(Attributed to Marcus Buckingham in  “First Break All The Rules”.  http://amzn.to/2fmf0XT)

© Christine de Caux 2016      All rights reserved

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is the online home for CdeC Solutions, created by Christine de Caux, HR Consultant Coach

Mailing address: CdeC Solutions,The Apex,2 Sheriffs Orchard,Coventry CV1 3PP, UK
 
 

Essential Tips: from team player to new manager

Congratulations New Manager!

Here’s the scene: you have been promoted to be the new manager of your existing team.  Congratulations.  I raise my glass to you.

But what’s this?  You are starting to feel nervous about managing people: after all it is now a different relationship.  Even conversations at the coffee machine may be different.  Don’t kid yourself that your relationships will carry on as they did before.  And neither should they as you now have a particular responsibility for overall performance, ensuring everyone’s welfare and not least ensuring that

learning people skills for management
people skills for the new manager

everyone adheres to the rules.  You are now under the microscope by both your former colleagues and also by your senior manager.  Perhaps you will have to make unpopular decisions, potentially be “policeman” and progress chaser.  You may even be unlucky enough to have to make staff cuts among your former peers.

Your relationship has now changed forever and understanding how you can influence your team will rest on your management style.

If you find it very hard to adopt a style that doesn’t feel natural to you, knowing your options will help you to gain confidence. Be careful not to flip-flop between styles without understanding what you hope to achieve as inconsistency in approach can make you appear ingenuous and you could lose the respect of your team.

So what styles might you adopt?  Broadly you will choose from these:

  • Direct (authoritarian) – “do as I say”.  This style is very useful in times of emergency or when your team has little experience and when there is a need to follow exact procedures.
  • Recommend – “you might want to do this…”   A very hands-off style, it passes responsibility for decisions to the team.  This works well where your people possess a high technical ability.  Often used with professional groups, you will need to have a clear vision for the final product and be sufficiently motivated to see it through to the end.
  • Affect – “this will do someone some good”.  This will play towards someone’s emotional response and in a way is carrot and stick tactics.  Encourage your team by painting a picture of how they will bring positive results (happiness) for themselves and others.  Or it could be a vision of painful negative aspects if they don’t do it.  Sometimes known as moving towards or away from method, it is useful in a sales environment where the rewards are high for big sales. However, failure to perform results in low payment or termination from the organisation.
  • Advisory- “you need to do this because it will mean (some positive outcome)…”  This style is really an amalgamation of several styles.  The manager offers guidance to the team but allows them to make the final decisions on how to proceed.  Handled with care, this can offer a level of autonomy within specified standards and parameters.  However, handled badly, you could appear manipulative or shrugging off your own responsibilities.

Consider the type of situations you face

In actual practice you will probably use a varying combination of all these styles according to the situation and environment.  Be very careful of, though,that you are consistent in the style you use for similar situations.  If your team’s looking to you for guidance, clearly you will need to judge how prescriptive you will need to be.

  • Is this an occasion where you need to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in with everyone else? Be careful of micro-managing.
  • Will you offer extra resources and practical suggestions? If so, make sure you have a good understanding of requirements and necessary skills to perform the task.
  • Will you buoy up your team, telling them how much you rely on their ability?  Be careful that you treat each member of the team as an individual so that you are absolutely certain of their support and capability; discuss with them any perceived barriers and problems.  Be scrupulously fair and consistent.  Never abuse their trust or loyalty because once gone, you will never get it back.

Above all, remember to praise highly and thank each person properly for their efforts.  It is astonishing just how motivational the simple act of saying “thank you” is.  Never take the full credit for a job well done if in fact it was done by your team (You can however, take credit for building and developing a great team!)

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© Christine de Caux 2016   All rights reserved

Why not sign up to receive news and posts from Fantastic Managers and be the first to hear about additional material, complimentary mini courses and full expert courses.

www.Fantastic-Managers.com

is the online home for CdeC Solutions, created by Christine de Caux, HR Consultant Coach

Mailing address: CdeC Solutions, The Apex, 2 Sheriffs Orchard, Coventry, CV1 3PP, United Kingdom