It's all in the scaffolding
Management is complex job because we have tasks to perform, results to deliver, plus we have to juggle all our skills to get our people firing on all cylinders. The truly successful managers are the ones who have a set of processes in place to make that happen; “scaffolding” that allows them to easily and seamlessly do all those management things like big picture planning, delegating, motivating and so on.
And just because you are in a small business doesn't mean you don't need scaffolding; you just need less of it. And remember you can build some and then take part down. Try it out and if it's not right change the shape.
A handful of simple mechanisms or actions impact on the effectiveness of any organisation because they literally enable and encourage managers to use all the basic leadership skills.
The top 5 pieces of scaffolding
1. Context: Set a clear vision for where this company should be heading, in your mind, and then communicate to employees. A clear purpose - what are we here for? And finally what sort of behaviours will get us there? This all sets the context and the tone. Think -Do we want to be an Aldi or a Waitrose or a niche food retailer? High end , fast turnover, experts? Grow like topsy or steady as she goes?
Your people need to know this so that they can be the people you want them to be. They need to understand the ambition or the level of service that your business must give to succeed so knowing the direction and position in the market gives them clarity.
And you can make sure you recruit the right people in the first place; square pegs in round holes are never a good idea. Which leads us on to number 2.
2. The Job Description: Usually a long winded document full of vacuous statements and woolly verbs, something to write in a hurry on recruitment and then put in a filing cabinet never to see the light of day again, until 10 years down the line when you realise that Flossie has just turned the job into the one she wants it to be, and not the one you had in mind when she started.
If you write a good, concise job description that actually specifies outcomes for the job role you have then got the basis for a robust interview (looking for evidence to meet those outcomes) and also a live document to manage and assess performance against. (email me for a great template)
3. A communication framework: We all tend to believe that very small teams don't need meetings or formal communications but this is valid only to certain extent. If you can all fit in one minibus to go to the pub most useful stuff will get communicated somehow. But actually people need regular messages and in different formats for different reasons. For example if you only communicate informally about tasks and social then you may be missing the opportunity to talk about the big picture; the context, the vision, the overall behaviours required.
So to get the right communication framework you will need the right mix of meetings, one to ones, and big picture days. It actually worth sitting down and doing a comms plan - just a chart - which topics will we talk about in which format?
4. Performance Reviews are next: Everyone one of us deserves to have our boss's undivided attention at least once a year; a chance to reflect on our performance, our aspirations, maybe even get some good quality praise. Chances are you good at the thank yous and well dones but are you any good at specifying exactly what they did right? (email me for free booklet or have a look at our elearning module). Performance management is not complicated, you just have to be doing it all the time, and start from the beginning.
Which takes me to the fifth dimension...
5. The 5 Top Tips On Successful People Management
(Too many fives? Stick with it for now...) It's just that you need to start with the scaffolding but you could ruin it all if you don't do the people management piece right. So success, and an easier life, comes from the two circles intertwined.
1. Clarity: People need to know exactly what is expected of them; not to be told what to do or necessarily how to do it, but what the results should be (the outcomes). They could have a better way of doing things then even you, so take care to be clear on the results you want, and help them work out how to achieve that if they need help, but ultimately agree outcomes.
Which is why a good job description is a useful tool. And also the skill of how to delegate; agree outcomes not a to do list.
With clarity comes transparency. I was told as a young manager that I needed to feel that I was managing in a goldfish bowl so the justification for every decision was obvious, clear, which does mean sometimes you have to explain your thinking. Just think about what people say about politicians; clarity and transparency are not words usually associated with some of them.
2. Integrity: People can see right through manipulation and waffle. You need to be seen as trustworthy and it's the little things that you do that build up to the whole integrity image. For example, never talk about one person in the team to someone else, never expose confidences, never make promises you can't keep, treat people with respect. And do it consistently...oh and be consistent.
3. Feedback: The big one so let's cut to the chase here. Feedback is the wrong word. Always start with a question; never, ever, go straight in to feedback.
So use the wide frame approach instead e.g. "I thought we had decided the report would be with me by Friday; was there a problem?" This recognises a problem but allows the employee the opportunity to put their case first. You listen, maybe ask another question and decide what next. If they have obviously learned from their mistake you don't need to be hard on them at all. If this actually someone else's mistake you won't have egg on your face.
People will take feedback if they feel that the feedback process is fair. By asking them first you are showing the highest level of fairness.
4. Immediate feedback - or as soon as. Don't leave it a month, or a year. And do it for poor and good performance. Yes immediate, specific praise is essential. Which leads us to the final tip:
5. Catch them doing something right - not mine, it originates with Tom Peters. Don't spend all your time telling people off. In fact if you have to do that something is very wrong, and usually it will be your fault.
Some feedback on this from our clients:
“I like the concept that scaffolding need not be permanent, which is a new way of looking at an old problem, particularly for us.”
Steve Boast, OD Manager, HM Prison Service
“You gave me an excellent idea, which has now been implemented in our organisation.”
Jacqueline McGuire, Employee Development Manager, Cambridge Assessment
Leadership Scaffolding was originally commissioned by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and published by Chandos.
ISBN 1-84334-205-7 £35
Available on Amazon
Our exciting new e-learning website is launched with 10 people management courses in the programme and online group coaching to support managers. Watch out for the free trial link coming soon. We want you to try it out.
Something new and different in the e-learning world.
This is Mutley, as in Dastardly and Mutley, who is not at all interested in our new venture. I suggest taking the free course here on "Managing People During Change" to try us out and view all the courses here on our new platform.
(It may appear that he has lockdown hair but actually its just they way he has always looked.)
Summary from Raconteur.net May 2020
“Motivating a remote workforce and finding new ways to innovate and thrive is proving difficult during lockdown”. “Remote managers’ biggest concern is employee productivity”.
Adopting an OKR, or objectives and key results-based, approach is one way of doing this. This was first developed by Intel boss Andy Grove in the 1980s and then adopted 20 years later by Google, in start up mode; it then spread rapidly throughout Silicon Valley and is now used by Amazon and Airbnb, Walmart and ING bank.
It has two components;
The CEO sets business objectives for the year ahead and how it will be measured although in these times monthly goals might be better.
Senior leaders do likewise and evaluate quarterly.
Individual employees work towards operational OKRs; at this time maybe daily.
It is vital that people see how they contribute to the overall goals; clarity and focus, OKRs are an anchor in tricky times.
Roof shots versus Moon shots
OKRs should include achievable objectives but also stretch targets that may not be achieved. Only having achievable targets does not account for the innovative or creative risks that would push a company forward (like Google). With OKRs your performance does not have to be perfect because you are free to learn in the process and take different approaches.
Yes the CEO has to set clear milestones but innovative strategies often come from the bottom up.
This is a strategic shift towards a culture based on innovation with calculated risks; the OKR culture rewards learning over strict, rote performance. Grow and pivot. Realign goals quickly in line with the market.
Employees need to be ambitious, autonomous self-starters. But if they are not we can still shift the culture.
Working from home is not difficult, and there are many tips flying around social media out there for employees, but we thought it might be useful for managers to just check that you have a good structure in place to ensure that a) your team feel included and motivated and b) as a manager you have put in place enough structure for you to feel in control.
The 7 critical success factors are the same that managers of effective remote teams have used and that we have been training for years so nothing trendy, just known to work.
1. Clear direction and leadership
Make sure everyone knows the goals and priorities for coming months; have individual conversations to ask team members to define their own goals. Use published visual milestones. Make sure they have the right resources. You could even create a team charter for the duration by asking the team what they think should be included e.g. no judging of personal decisions (except maybe stock piling toilet rolls!)
2. Set up a communication plan
Draw up a chart with the subjects, the method (whole team Skype/one to one telephone call/email or word document report) , the timings (weekly/fortnightly/end of the month etc) and publish. Take ideas from the team first. People may be used to the casual comms in an office environment and initially not see the need for a more formal plan but will ultimately welcome a bit of structure.
Like all plans this can change. Pilot it for a couple of weeks and adapt. Just talking about how to communicate will make people aware.
3. Set up a use of technology plan
This is the same approach as above. Which media will you use to communicate on which type of issue?
4. Outline the decision making process
Who can make which decisions? Everyone needs to know their own level of initiative that you are expecting. What has to be agreed by the whole team? Which decisions can individuals make and how should they then communicate the decisions. When must you be consulted?
This could be the time when you can really start to empower people.
5. Outline the conflict resolution strategy
It pays to think in advance about what types of conflicts might occur, possible solutions and your strategy.
6. Communicate effectively
Be simple, be vivid, be natural, be concise.
7. Build constructive relationships
Encourage social interactions and personal communications. Watch out for cliques and keep your eye on the independent workers. The introverts will be enthusiastic about homeworking but may suffer and the extroverts will soon hate being alone. Organise a tea and biscuits meeting. Send them fruit or cake. There is a great website at www.sophiesafternoonteas.com where you can order traybakes to be delivered; eat some now and freeze the rest.
High performance leadership is the key to success. Managing remote teams is just the same as normal office based teams, you just have to be more disciplined and planned about the structures you put in place, and stick to them.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a slide deck to send out to managers or organise a Zoom masterclass. We are happy to help.
According to the ILM's latest research (New Decade, New Directions) one of the top 3 goals for managers in 2020 is to get better at leading and managing.
We are certainly doing our best here at elconsulting to support any organisation or manager who wants to get better or more confident at leading. The last 6 months have been busy:
Coaching directors and key employees in some very different organisations, but all with a personal goal in mind. Just one quote:
"I just wanted to thank you again for sharing your wisdom, providing support and advice earlier this year.
Reflecting is a really powerful tool, which has not only allowed me to learn more about myself (I’m now using my perceptive skills more!), but also more broadly too, and as a result ....I have implemented 4 actions."
Leadership Development programmes for Bitwala (in Berlin), Photocentric, Cambridge Mechatronics, and Webtec. Each programme was tailored to the stage of business growth and therefore the demands on managers and spread out over a period of months to ensure learning could be put into action.
Call Judith on 07766 753930 to discuss your business needs for coaching and training.
According to a recent Institute of Leadership and Management report "getting better at leading and managing" was one of the top 3 goals for managers in 2020. (New Decade, New Directions.)
Download this free resource (no email required!) to share with managers on how to develop a coaching style.
Remember that the manager should aim to do 20% of the talking and the employee 80%. We all prefer to be listened to and not lectured at. So it's most effective if you can use some JGQs (jolly good questions).
What do you like best/least about your job?
Not for a regular one to one but mid year or annually. Rather than asking "so whats gone well?" or "what are your strengths"? What we like best is generally what we are good at, and what we like least is often where we are weaker. The "best" question gets all the strengths on the table and an opportunity to give praise where its due. The "least" question then starts a discussion on areas for development that you could help with. e.g. "How could I help you with that?" "What could you do about it?" This would be a more constructive approach than just delivering negative feedback.
Is your job getting easier or more difficult?
This is for someone who is quite plainly struggling. It allows them to say what's on their mind and starts the discussion.
What do you see are the priorities of the job?
For someone who seems to have a different view on priorities to you. This is a good opener to potentially agree on a couple and you can suggest a couple more, or question one that is just not right. I would then park the priorities and move on to whats gone well before returning to them again later when you want to establish some new priorities, or correct a misunderstanding.
What do you find is the best way to get things done?
For someone who is rubbing people up the wrong way. This is the opener that will start to establish a better way of working with others?
When you do x how do you think that makes people feel?
We can be single minded in our approach, perhaps the way we have always behaved, and have never given though to the impact on others. This question starts that thinking and opens up a new avenue of actions.
Have a look at our video on how to coach to change behaviour at www.eltalking.com