What Can You Learn from Netflix?

There is some great content here!  This is not to be presented, but read.

And thought about.

Look at how this information is communicated.

Performance on this in the private sector is often poor.

Performance in public and third sectors is usually worse, in my experience, because the disconnect between espoused values and reality is often wider.

In very small businesses it is not a big issue.

But as things scale up, as middle managers and team leaders start to appear this type of issue can become ‘make or break’.

Everyone is clear on what works at Netflix.  Employees, customers and shareholders.

  • How do you communicate about culture?
  • Do words and actions match up in your organisation?
  • What can you do to improve things?

The Secret to Better Time Management

Time management has been on my mind for a while now. Recently I re-read Druckers’ Effective Executive - the second chapter of which, ‘Know they Time’, is devoted to time management. I recommend it highly!

For the vast majority of managers that I work with making significant improvements in their time management is quick and easy.

It simply requires them to:

  • Work out their top priority for the coming week/month
  • Block out at least 2 x 90 minute slots each week when they are going to work – without interruption – on moving that priority forward.

It takes no more than that – get time for your priorities on your schedule!

This is important because so many managers just hope to fit progress on key priorities around a morass of standing meetings, e-mail and fire-fighting. Weeks slip by without any focus on progressing the priority. Yet once it is scheduled – and the time protected – BINGO! – the priority gets time and progress is made.

And while I am at it – unless work is really THE most important thing in your life – take great care about giving up week-ends and evenings to do it.

Working longer hours is rarely the key to getting more done.

It usually results in getting less done and only serves to slow down the rate of work; why have a sense of urgency to get the job done if you can always stay just another half an hour?

If you find that you must work evenings or week-ends then always make sure that you have a firm end-time for the work fixed – and stick to it. Make an appointment with what you love outside of work (family, hobby whatever) immediately after your work commitment and keep it.

My diary is littered with 5pm appointments with Danny.  Danny is my dog.  By having that 5pm ‘appointment’ fixed in my calendar I can get my work done and get away for a bit of me time.

Setting ‘hard stops’ like this will force you to use your time effectively.

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Finding time for the important but non-urgent stuff

One of the useful tools that Steven Covey gave us was his concept of Four Quadrants in relation to time management.

Covey suggested that too many of us spend too much time in quadrant 1 (urgent and important stuff) and quadrant 3 (urgent but not important).

Activity in these 2 quadrants comes to dominate working life, with the important but non-urgent stuff of quadrant 2 being relegated to off-sites and other special occasions.  And while activity in quadrants 1 and 3 keep us busy they do little to make things better.  They just help us to cope with the status quo.

One of the benefits of 121s is the opportunity that they build in to focus on a regular basis on quadrant 2 type work.  And as Covey pointed out, this is the key to excellence.

By building time for Quadrant 2 work into a regular schedule we can start to change the culture of the organisation.

Urgent - Important Matrix

Urgent – Important Matrix

What the heck is ROIR?

Return on Investment in Relationships of course!

Tom Peters encourages managers to obsess on R.O.I.R – the Return on Investment in Relationships.

Usually what has to be invested is not cash – but time. And the challenge is to invest that time effectively.

For me, without doubt, the most effective tool for ROIR with employees is the 121. These are structured, documented 30 minute meetings held with each member of staff, every week. They provide the most effective ROIR with employees that I know.

ROIR through 121s comes in many forms:

  1. increased staff retention
  2. improved productivity
  3. recognition and acknowledgement of progress
  4. appreciation of those who are performing well
  5. identification of under performance and early resolution
  6. promotion of behaviours that reinforce strategic goals and values
  7. increased pace of coaching to develop potential and performance
  8. deeper professional relationships
  9. increased trust
  10. increased influence
  11. increased responsiveness
  12. better support of team members in their work
  13. conduit for ideas from the front line to be heard and acted upon
  14. management support for every member of the team – every week
  15. improved communication and focus on what matters
  16. progress made and recognised on a weekly basis
  17. increased sense of urgency in the team
  18. encourage individuals to think through their contribution to team or organisational objectives
  19. increased initiative and enterprise
  20. planning remains flexible and dynamic
  21. documentation makes performance reviews simpler and less contentious
  22. barriers to high performance are removed
  23. factors contributing to poor performance are identified and resolved
  24. formal opportunities for delegation are created
  25. more feedback – both given and received
  26. increased employee engagement
  27. improved knowledge management and knowledge sharing
  28. better talent management and development
  29. increased creativity
  30. more innovation
  31. more responsibility taken voluntarily by more people
  32. reduced absenteeism
  33. more diversity as 121s recognise that ‘one size fits one’

Perhaps some of these are things that you as a manager need to work on. If you are already using 121s then think how you can use them more effectively for the things that matter most to you and your business.  You can find out more about 121s here.

If you are not already using 121s then you have a tremendous opportunity to improve your management practice.

Additions to the list are very welcome!

9 Ways to Be A Better Manager

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1  Value Your Role as a Manager

I meet so many apologetic managers.  Managers who really wish they weren’t. Managers who see entering management as a step towards the dark side.  The truth is that as a manager you can have a profound effect on how your staff experience their work, and how your clients experience your staff and your organisation.  Embrace this responsibility with creativity, imagination, courage and a systematic approach and you can deliver positive results all around.  See management as a necessary evil, and that is just what it will become….

2  Communicate clear performance expectations

Get REALLY clear about what you expect from the people you manage and then find ways to communicate those expectations clearly and consistently.  This is likely to include the results that you expect them to achieve in their work, but it is also likely to include some criteria for HOW the work is to be done.  For most of us it is not JUST about results, but also how those results are achieved.  I might argue that most managers spend too much time obsessing about results and not enough time creating the process, systems and cultures that allow the results to be produced.

3  Provide regular performance feedback

By ‘regular performance feedback’ I don’t mean an annual appraisal.  I mean daily, preferably more than daily, feedback that is based on what people are actually doing at work.  Appraising performance in real time, all the time. You see someone modelling values and behaviours that matter to your organisation, and you give them performance feedback.  You see someone modelling values and behaviours that undermine what your organisation is trying to achieve, and you give them good performance feedback.  Giving good performance feedback need not be a big exercise involving lots of emotion.  It should take just a few seconds of your time, and is perhaps the most powerful thing that great managers can do to improve performance.

4  Consider all relevant information when appraising performance

Annual appraisals are great.  Annual appraisals supported by quarterly mini-appraisals are even better.  Quarterly mini-appraisals supported by documented, weekly 121s better yet!  But how can you get the voice of the customer to inform the appraisal process?  What about the voices of other colleagues?  Develop a culture and systems that ensure that you have considered all the relevant information when you are appraising performance.

5  Observe staff at work

You can’t just manage people by monitoring performance data. At least, you can’t manage them well.  You might be able to prevent them slipping beneath minimum acceptable standards, but you certainly won’t be able to help them do their best work. Take the time to watch staff at work. Especially watch their interactions with colleagues and customers.  Observe the details, the mannerisms, the language patterns.  Understand how they do what they do, and help them to reflect and improve – mostly by giving them timely feedback on performance, but also by coaching them where appropriate.

6  Help staff develop self-improvement plans

You should not only expect people to ‘do their job‘ but to get better at doing their job too.  Self development is primarily their job, not yours.  Of course you stand by ready roll up your sleeves and help – but primarily the expectation is that they will be the architects of their own success.

7  Recognise and reward high performance

More often than not when I see where managers spend their time, effort and attention, it on the underwhelmers.  The staff that come in late, leave early and do as little as they can get away with while they are at work.  Now, of course underperformance has to be managed.  And managed effectively, robustly and quickly.  However you should be rewarding and attending to those that performing well.  Thanking them praising them, developing and encouraging them in whatever way you can.  Time spend recognising and rewarding high performance is likely to reward you with more high performance.  Leave it unrecognised and it is likely to whither over time….

8  Provide help, training, and guidance

This isn’t about the annual performance development plan.  This about building a culture of ‘just in time’ help, training and guidance. It is about providing role models and ensuring that everyone is looking to learn from their experience. It is about giving people the skill of self managed learning and an expectation they use them to improve performance

9  Build a working relationship

This should really be number 1 on the list, because without a working relationship you can’t manage people.  Take time to understand people and their motivations and aspirations.  Be curious about them. Don’t judge them too quickly and work out your role in helping them to do the very best work that they are capable of.  Build a 2 way relationship; where they respond to your management and leadership and you respond to their wants and needs too.  Recognise where relationships aren’t working and commit to either making them work or ending them.  Don’t let non working relationships drag on.

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Why is Giving Feedback so Hard?

I recently had a meeting with a manager that I had worked with and he asked me about a challenge he was facing in putting feedback into practice.

We had worked on helping him to use both affirming and adjusting feedback.

  • Affirming feedback is given when an employee exhibits a good behaviour at work and the manager wants to show that it has been noticed, recognised and appreciated in order to increase the likelihood that the behaviour will be used again.
  • Adjusting feedback is used when the work behaviour or product is not up to organisational standards and the manager wants the employee to consider ‘what they could differently next time’.  They are looking to reduce the likelihood of the behaviour re-occurring.

Providing more affirming feedback than adjusting feedback will build a culture that is open to feedback and builds relationships that means adjusting feedback, when given, is more likely to be accepted constructively and acted upon.

This manager was fine on spotting opportunities to give adjusting feedback but was finding it much harder to find opportunities to give affirming feedback.  He was rightly worried that if he did not keep a healthy balance then his feedback would become ineffective, and he would be seen to be seen as overly critical and negative, driving the organisational culture and the moral of staff in the wrong direction

There are several reasons why some managers struggle with affirming feedback:

Many, perhaps most, managers are ‘tuned’ to look for, and sort out, problems. Good performance is taken for granted (indeed barely noticed) while any performance issues are recognised and corrected. This ‘management by exception‘ can be effective and efficient in the short term. However in the long term it leads to an unhealthy focus on performance problems and a culture where employees feel under-valued and taken for granted.  Discipline yourself to recognise, value and feedback on good work – reject the philosophy of management by exception.

Managers who are very task oriented and dominant tend to undervalue the power of affirming feedback in building relationships.  Discipline yourself to recognise and celebrate employee success with affirming feedback. You may not feel that this is helping with the task at hand – but it will help, if done well, to build a better relationship.  And this will have a direct impact on achievement in the longer term.

Some managers find it hard to recognise the kind of behaviours that should trigger affirming feedback because they have lost touch with the values, vision and mission of the organisation and their role in supporting them in practice.   If the organisation ‘values’ innovation and risk taking then it is vital that managers give affirming feedback when employee behaviours support these values.   Using affirming feedback to recognise employees who are supporting mission, vision and values and letting them know that their work is recognised and valued is important in building a performance culture and ensuring that those desired behaviours are repeated and spread.  This style of ‘appreciative management’  is incredibly effective in engendering a positive culture of performance and ensuring that organisational mission, vision and values are brought to live in day to day work. Look out for behaviours that bring mission, vision or values to life and provide affirming feedback. 

Some managers have become detached from the people management aspects of their role.  They manage task lists and performance metrics – but they don’t invest the time in seeing what their employees and team members actually do.   Tom Peters popularised the term ‘Managing by Wandering About’ – or MBWA.  If you are struggling to find examples of employee behaviour to provide the foundation for affirming feedback perhaps a little more time out of the office and working with the team might help.

There are no rigid rules on this – but most managers give way too little feedback.  Many give none at all outside of the formal performance review process.   For each report that you have you should be aiming to give on average at least 4 pieces of feedback each and every day.  Affirming feedback should outnumber adjusting feedback  in a ratio of 3 or 4:1.  If you can develop the volume of feedback that you give to this sort of level I guarantee that team performance will develop rapidly.

If you would like to use feedback to improve morale, culture and performance in your workplace then please do get in touch.

Building Relationships That Work at Work…

Lets face it. Not all of your relationships at work are working. At least, not as well as they should be.

Working relationships are essential to manage effectively.  Without them we can neither listen nor be heard.  Our influence is minimal.  Without a working relationship management becomes almost impossible.  We resort quickly to the capability and discipline procedures and watch our working relationships go from bad to worse.

But what do we mean by a working relationship?

Even great working relationships sometimes come under strain, and I am not talking about the occasional rough patch.  I am talking about the consistent failure to really connect, to bring out the best in each other.  Those relationships at work that feel difficult and are characterised by mediocrity, poor communication and personal antipathy.  It is important to recognise that these types of relationships are common, and they cost us a lot psychologically and in productivity!  We have a choice about we handle these non-working relationships.  We can put up with them and do our best in the circumstance to get the best outcomes that we can.  Or we can acknowledge that the relationship isn’t right and do what we can to change it.  To improve it.  To make it a working relationship.  One where both parties are open to feedback and willing to act on it to improve things.

What you choose to do about non-working relationships will depend on who they are with.  Non-working relationship with bosses, peers and reports all have different implications and challenges and need to be thought about carefully.  But there are some common characteristics to be considered.

It’s a personality thing…

This is perhaps the commonest reason I am offered for why relationships aren’t working, and it is rarely helpful.  It provides a usually superficial, meaningless, pseudo explanation for why we are not able to work effectively.  It does little to help the situation unless we understand the personalities involved a little and change the interactions between them to reach a more productive state.  Labelling the problem as a ‘personality clash’ usually just resigns us to acceptance.  Understanding personality is no trivial task, but I believe that there are some simple tools that can help us to diagnose the origins of a personality clash and offer us some possibilities to improve things.  Many of us have heard of, if not been profiled with,  the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI.  4 dimensions, 16 types, dominant and auxiliary functions, MBTI is a very useful tool – but can get a tad complicated for use in every day management practice.  So I prefer a simpler model based on similar Jungian psychology called DISC. 2 dimensions, 4 types and that’s pretty much it. It has worked well for me over the years, and is relatively easy to teach, learn and apply in real life situations – without having to call an occupational psychologist!  But there are lots of personality models out there and most offer useful frameworks for thinking about how we can work better together.  Choose one (or more), learn it, and use it to think about what might actually behind that personality clash that you use to explain non-working relationships.  I will be teaching and using the DISC model in the forthcoming workshops on How To Be A Better Manager.

It’s a behaviour thing…

Usually behind non-working relationships are a set of behaviours that are just not hitting the mark. It is the things people say and do that make it hard, or easy, for us to work well with them and vice versa.  These behaviours hold a real clue to turning non-working into working relationships.  If we can just get adjust our behaviours to get them working for each other.  But many managers don’t deal in behaviours, preferring instead the currency of labels, such as ‘unprofessional’, ‘hard working’ or ‘poor attitude’ for example.  Once these labels have been applied, and become the way we see our colleagues, they almost pre-ordain the nature of our working relationships.  It is hard to have a good working relationship with someone who we have already labeled as ‘unprofessional’.

So where do these labels come from?  What evidence are they based on?  Often managers struggle to answer these questions with any specifics and have to learn how to track back from a label to the specific behaviours that have ‘created’ it.  Let’s take for example the label ‘bad attitude’.  What kind of behaviours might lead that label to be created? Well, here are some common ones: arriving late for work, leaving early, missing meetings, keeping quiet in meetings, being over bearing in meetings,  responding with negative comments about ideas and proposals, checking mobiles during meetings, not making eye contact, talking loudly on the phone, tapping, clicking, sneering, shrugging, frowning…and the list goes on…

These behaviours that drive the labels are managerial gold dust.  If we can observe them, describe them and their impacts, and feed them back in a way that is fast, safe and actionable then we can start to encourage more of the behaviours that create value and less of the behaviours that destroy it.

It’s a time thing…

Building good working relationships takes time courage.  Time for high quality communication.  Talking and listening about goals, hopes, frustrations and fears.  Time to build trust and respect.  Time to explore what’s working and what’s not and to demonstrate a real commitment to building a relationship that works.  I am a big advocate of regular 121s.  Up to half an hour every week just to talk, listen, plan, provide feedback and support.  As long as you have a sensible span of control, say up to 15 direct reports, these 121s if managed well will save you a lot of time.  I will be teaching The Basics of Effective 121s in a workshop later in the year.

It’s a courage thing…

Above all to building working relationships takes courage. You have to be prepared to face up to the issue and be prepared to both work on your own behaviour and exert your influence over the behaviour of others.

Working on Relationships Top Tips

  1. Get to grips with at least one model of personality that you can use to think about the relationship dynamics that might be at play
  2. Choose to work on the non-working relationships – give them time and look for positives (be careful though, don’t let the squeaky wheels get all the grease)
  3. Focus on behaviours – what are you doing and what are they doing that leads to the problem? Use feedback – both giving and getting it – to influence behaviours.
  4. Give yourself time to build the relationship – it might not happen overnight

 

 

 

On Becoming an Outstanding Manager

To become an outstanding manager is not as hard as you might expect because, to be frank, the competition is not up to much!

Many people are given managerial roles because of their technical competence in the role they will be managing.  So excellent nurses become managers of nurses.  High performing sales people become sales managers.  Good bar staff become bar managers.  Sometimes such a strategy works, but more often it does not, because managing people doing a job is a very different proposition from doing the job.

So, if it is not very hard to be an outstanding manager, what does it take?

Courage

Managers have to have the courage to say things that they might find difficult or unfamiliar.  To praise when it is deserved and to challenge when it is required.  Managers have to say and do things that can feel awkward. They need to be brave enough to start some difficult conversations and skilful enough to end them well too!

Confidence

Managers need to have the confidence to get the job done. They have to believe that they are equipped to deal with the situations that they face, both psychologically and technically.  They have to believe in themselves as a manager, and be confident in their position.

Competence

Although managers have to deal effectively with a bewildering range of situations, I believe that there is a relatively small set of core skills or tools that need to be learned to deal with most of them.  These include:

  1. Building working relationships
  2. Giving and getting feedback that works
  3. Coaching and developing people
  4. Delegating, and
  5. Managing priorities

These are the managerial ‘Big 5′.  If you can learn to do these 5 things well, and use them frequently and consistently with everyone that you manage, then you will be an outstanding manager.  Many books have been written on each of these ‘Big 5′ and you can spend a lifetime learning about each of them. However for each of them competence can be acquired quite quickly by learning a few basics and then practicing them consistently.  Once managers have acquired a basic proficiency in the ‘Big 5′ then in my experience they soon acquire the confidence and courage that they need.

Get Better

Outstanding managers have a way of ensuring that they get better at their job.  They manage their own learning and are continually developing their management practice.  While it may take just a few months to become an outstanding manager it can take a professional life time to become the best manager that you can be!

Managing in The Matrix

There was perhaps a time when the vast majority of managers would just have to worry about managing their team, their ‘direct reports’.  For most of us this is no longer true with lots of time being spent managing:

  • horizontally with peers inside and outside the organisation
  • managing up, frequently in matrix organisations, to more than one boss on more than one project
  • customers, suppliers, regulators/inspectors and others touched by our work

Once again in such complex organisational settings the ‘Big 5′ are our friends and using them consistently and systematically will ensure that we are seen to be an outstanding manager.

 

 

 

Can Compassion be Learned?

I spend a fair bit of my time working with managers  and leaders in the NHS and the challenge of delivering compassionate and efficient healthcare is never far from the table. A lot of time and energy can be spent discussing whether compassion can be taught or whether it is an inherent attribute that has to be recruited for and then nurtured.  I am not sure that such discussions are necessarily helpful and prefer to take a very pragmatic and simple approach to working with managers who wish to develop more compassionate care.

The starting point for me is to simplify the debate on what we mean by ‘compassion’ in order to allow practical action to be taken.  In my pragmatic world ‘compassionate’ is just a label that we attach to some episodes of care and not to others.  Indeed some care we might label ‘hard hearted’, ‘mean’ or ‘uncaring’ .  In this pragmatic world these are not innate human qualities but labels that we apply to episodes of care  because of certain characteristics of that caring episode that we notice and use to form a judgement leading to the label.

If we can isolate these characteristics or behaviours then we can use the standard managerial tools of feedback and praise to make sure we get more of the compassionate behaviours that we want and fewer of the hard hearted, uncaring and mean behaviours that we don’t.

Am I enabling managers to teach compassion with this approach? Or am I simply teaching them to use good management practice to get the kind of care delivered that they want?

Well to be honest I am not sure that I am too worried about that debate.  And I am not sure that patients are that worried either.

My next one day workshop on Compassionate Management in the NHS takes place at Salford University School of Nursing and Midwifery on 18th October 2013.

 

NB Although this post talks about developing compassion in care settings the same approach works for any quality that you are trying to develop in any workplace.  So whether you are looking for  ‘professionalism’, ‘precision’, ‘effective cross selling’, ‘creativity’ or ‘innovation’ the same process of going from labels to the behaviours that drive those labels and then the effective use of feedback to encourage the right behaviours will work for you.