Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Who are your key stakeholders?


You’d probably take a moment to think of your most valued customers, your senior management teams or the client that you’re currently trying to convince to come on-board.  And of course, you’d be right. 

However, our true key stakeholders are the people that perform within your organisation on a daily basis without whom you’d have nothing.

It’s all too easy to take people for granted.  Especially those with whom we have no daily direct contact with.  After all, they should be happy to have a job in the first place right?

Wrong!

If you take your workforce for granted then you’ll lose them.  Just like in any tired relationship which becomes mundane and routine.  There’s no spark, no meaningful level of interest, no passion.  You’ll soon be sleeping in separate rooms leading separate lives and begin to view each other as more of a hindrance than a help.  Without action, the relationship fizzles out to nothing other than the embers that were once the source of energy that fed the fire and kept the relationship alive.   But it might be dying and you may not have noticed.

We’re all busy.  We’re busy running the business, the departments, the workflows and schedules.  We’re busy securing deals or making new things to sell or promote.  We’re busy attending meetings that waste hours and only ever produce minutes; minutes that no one reads because they’re all too busy.  Busy being busy!

I’m no time-management specialist.  In truth, I was once embarrassingly late for a time management course!  But we should all make time for our people; for those that are working hard on our behalf.  It doesn’t have to be a long drawn-out process.
 
One of the most effective people I once had the valuable opportunity to shadow was a Colonel in the French Air Force.  I followed him around each morning as he personally met every member of his team and shook their hand.  He knew all of them on a personal level.  He knew where they lived, if they were married, the names of their children and the football teams that they supported.  And their reaction to him was the same.  They were visibly lifted at the start of their day.  The atmosphere was warm and reciprocal.  You just knew that their bond with their Boss was on a far deeper level than the usual leader/follower relationship.  And you knew that they’d all go that extra mile for him if he ever had to ask them to.  It was an enlightening experience and one that has stuck with me – despite me being a mere bystander very much on the periphery at the time.  I spoke with him before I left the Air Base.  I told him that was hugely impressed by the way he operated.  He told me that he had once been in the command of an officer that used to act the same way; and that it had left him with an impression of how to act whenever he reached a level in the military where he would command large groups of people.  He said that he only had a few weeks left to serve in the Air Force and that he was retiring.  This revelation impressed me further as it told me that there was no hidden agenda in his MO. 

There was nothing that any of his people could do for him now that he was leaving yet he still afforded each one of them the time to ask how they were and was genuinely interested in their wellbeing.

“I’m far too busy to walk around shaking hands with everyone that works for me” you might say.  If that’s the case, then why not select a few key influencers who may learn from your example and start doing the same?  It’s well known that good behaviour can breed good behaviour.

We can all make time for important clients, meetings and calls.  We’re all very busy being very busy.  But if the outcome from one of your meetings requires your people to work extra hard for you; then they’re more likely to accept the situation if they know you’re on-side.

Never be too busy to engage on a regular and meaningful basis with your true key stakeholders.

Wishing you the very best in all that you do,

Keith

Monday, 23 May 2011

Discuss...Do you do BAU???

BAU – or ‘business as usual’ is an expression that I hate.

I see it used as a cop-out.  It’s nothing more than a lazy statement that tells everyone that your intention is just to do ‘the same old, same old’.

Unless your BAU is to strive forward each day with the enthusiasm of a starving dog scoffing 
stolen food, then all you’re really saying is “I’m not going to be doing anything different.” 

So tell me this Mr or Ms Complacent...Why should I continue to bother to employ you? Why should I continue to pay you good money to sit on your rump doing ‘BAU’?

I want people working hard in my team; working hard in the belief that they really are making a difference.  I want people who are seizing the moment and every possible opportunity to make things better.  To sell, produce and market our products so that we’ll all reap and share the dividends in the style of medieval kings and queens at a sumptuous banquet.  I don’t want passengers.  I want participants. I want people that have bought-in to my vision and agree with my strategy for growth and ambition.  I want to be the market leader.  I want my people to want me to be the market leader.  I want to rob opportunities from others and watch them wither and die as I leave them in my wake of profit, profit and more profit.  I want to be known throughout the world.  In fact, I want to DOMINATE the world!  You must be always thinking up ways of increasing my profile.  When you wake up, shower, drive to work, drive home, eat your dinner, when reading your kids their bedtime stories and in your dreams.

So you see, your weak and pathetic BAU just doesn’t cut it.  Not with me.  Not on my watch. You have no excuses.  Not one! NEVER!

Unless of course, I missed something?   

Maybe I didn’t tell you that this is what I wanted.  That it’s what I expected from you.  That this is the contract between us.  It’s your job.  You won’t find it written down so don’t bother looking, but I was sure that I had made myself clear? 

Clear?

Clearly not!

All employers want this from their workforce.  Most don’t get it.  Possibly because they may have hired the wrong people.  Possibly because the conditions aren’t right and the resources aren’t there.  Possibly because the workforce is de-motivated and isn’t being engaged.  Possibly a mixture of all of these things? 

How do you get people to buy-in to your vision? 

Simple! 

You have to sell it to them the same way that you want them to sell it to your prospects.  They must be enticed.  They must get a seat at the banquet table so that they can see, touch and eat the rewards.  Failure to reward leads to complacency at best and total de-motivation to the point of inertia at worst.  Nobody works for free.  Not for very long anyway.  In the same way that a dog will eventually refuse to chase after a stick if it’s not praised for doing so; people will lose ambition if they think that they’re just being slogged for your benefit.

Not many people get anywhere in business without the help of others.  

So why don’t we look after those who work for us if we really want to dominate the world?

I’d be grateful for your opinion.

Wishing you the best in all that you do,

Keith

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Discuss... Does experience of bad leadership predispose you to becoming a good leader?

I’m sure we’ve all had some experience of poor leadership, ranging from the not-so-good to the downright shocking.   

In my early career, I saw many people abuse their positions of authority to the extent that some so-called leaders resorted to physically assaulting their team members.  Fortunately, this was a long time ago and employment law would now land the perpetrators swiftly in the courtrooms.  However, I like to think that the impact that such behaviours have led me to think to myself, “I will never be like that”.

Similarly, throughout my life up until the complete breakdown of our relationship, I have learned some harsh lessons from my father of how not to behave.  My early work and family experiences have led me to conclude that you have choices.  It would have been an easier option to adopt the styles of those that had been placed in positions of authority over me and use the defence of ignorance to protect me from blame, or, I could learn from their mistakes and vow never to repeat them nor establish them as patterns of my own behaviour.   

In truth, it’s my belief that those experiences have made me a better person because I can empathise with people who are subjected to poor leadership both at home and at work.  I still make mistakes and bad decisions; but don’t we all?  But the fact that I can admit to my shortfalls makes me a better leader because along with empathy I can demonstrate humility.  Both are key components in effective leadership and emotional intelligence.

Now doesn’t this all appear to be a bit self-congratulatory? I guess it does to some extent but that’s really not the point.  The point is this question and the answer to it:

Does experience of bad leadership predispose you to becoming a good leader?

If the answer is in the affirmative, then what does that tell us about people fortunate enough to have had a happy and supportive childhood who have only ever experienced good leadership? 

The answer lays in role-modeling. 

But for the person who has no positive role-model I argue that it’s probably easier to make the choice as they will have encountered first-hand the results of poor leadership.  This throws up another question:

Does this mean that those with positive experiences may lack to ability to empathise?

For me, the jury’s out on this one.

What do you think?

Wishing you the best in all that you do,

Keith

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Beating the Brats..How to recognize when the person you’re trying to communicate with is stuck in ‘child-mode’...

It’s frustrating isn’t it?  Even more so when that ‘child’ is someone in a position of authority from whom you may be seeking authorization on an important project or mature and insightful input in an urgent matter.  We’ve all been there I’m sure.  I’m also confident that we’re all guilty of similar behavior ourselves from time to time.

Experts in Transactional Analysis tell us that there are 4 types of child-like behaviour. 

They are: Adapted child (positive or negative) and Natural (or Free) child (positive and negative).

I’ve re-branded them in a simplistic fashion so that they’re easier to recognise when you next come across them.

Adapted child (positive) is reasonably complicit, but only because they refuse to take responsibility for their own destiny.   They are resource-hungry individuals who will swallow up your time and energy like a stray dog let loose in a cake shop.  You will have encountered this type of behaviour in people whose immediate requirement is for you to hold their hand in order to get them through their day.  The ability to make decisions without your input is non-existent.  Oh yes, they may seem quite cute and innocent at first but you’ll soon start to consider good hiding places when you see them approaching and even wonder how they ever managed to dress themselves and make it into work.  I often refer to this type of person as, Hopeless Brat’.  

Adapted child (negative) is a much worse individual.  You’ll be glad to spend your days with their opposite number as soon as you meet them.  Single-minded and sulky individuals who when things don’t go their way will stamp their feet and behave like a child caught in the infantile syndrome knows as the ‘terrible twos’.  They’d scream the place down if they could get away with it and will often do things just to spite people and situations.  If you’re old enough to remember the Richmal Crompton’s ‘Just William’ novels then you’ll recognise the similarities between this person and the Crompton’s lisping fictional character Violet Elizebeth Bott; who’s typical response when being denied her own way was, I'll thcream and thcream 'till I'm thick". Therefore unsurprisingly, the tag that this individual is awarded is, Spoiled Brat’.

Now let’s look at the other mode of ‘child’, starting with natural (or free) child (positive).  Natural child (positive) is motivated by praise and prefers to work in an environment that allows them free-reign to do what they want.   That said, the product of their efforts is often immature and usually worthless.  Typically, they fail to understand where the boundaries are and often don’t just cross the line but metaphorically pole-vault it by acting inappropriately at the most inappropriate of times.  They’ll say that they’re just injecting some humour into the situation when in effect, they’re embarrassing themselves and everyone unfortunate enough to be connected to them.  For the sake of easy recall, I’ll call this character ‘Silly Brat’.

On the other hand, natural child (negative) sits at the wildly irresponsible side of the spectrum.   They will usually blame others for their misgivings and offer weak excuses such as lack of training, lack of support, and lack of competence in others for their own shortfalls.  Purposefully devious, they tote a large blame-thrower and they’re not afraid to use it, often telling stories that are untrue in order to seek a blameless existence.  Timelines are meaningless and they are usually late with pretty much every aspect of their being.  They hold scant regard for systems and processes and view them merely as barriers that have been put in-place purely to prevent them from operating.  They fail to take on-board the potential seriousness of a situation believing that they’ll continue to be owed a living and that they’re irreproachable.   We’ll call this person ‘Delusional Brat’.

So there my friends is our brat-quartet.  The trick of course is to guide them out of this mindset and behaviour to bring them back into Adult-mode; if only to negotiate your business and get some definitive level of cooperation.  It’s not always easy, I’m sure you’ll agree.  But the worst mistake you can make is to mirror their behaviour which invariably results in a form of brat-tennis as you both attempt to score points to win the brat-battle.  One law of Transactional Analysis is that reciprocal behaviour builds a cyclical series of exchanges where no party ‘wins’ and no progress is ever made. 

So, remain calm when you are next confronted with a brat.  Consider their motivators and play to their needs so that you can win them over to your level of conversation and thinking. Above all, try to recognize brat behaviour in yourself and beat it down with an enthusiastic smack as soon as it starts to rear its ‘bratish’ little head.

Wishing you luck in all that you do,

Keith

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Some Leaders say the dumbest things

Following the reported death of Osama Bin Laden, I was astounded to read on the BBC News website that Ed Miliband, the leader of the UK Labour Party (the second most powerful political party in the UK) had said: "The world is a safer place as a result of the death of Osama Bin Laden because he is no longer there to command or encourage terrorism."

That must be the single most stupid thing I’ve heard from someone who now leads the party that secured over 8-million votes in last year’s general election.  Miliband was promoted as Leader of the party following Gordon Brown’s resignation almost immediately after he lost his Prime Ministerial position.  (Remember Gordon?  In case you’re struggling, he was the Prime Minister that was once described as being emotionally unintelligent by his predecessor Tony Blair).

Now, despite the above rant; I’m not really a political animal.  Not in the governmental sense anyway.  In the governmental sense I’m fairly apolitical because like most people, I find the duplicitous behavior of many government ministers across the political divides to be unctuous at best.   Frankly, it turns me off politics almost altogether.  However,  I do vehemently oppose to people in authority, especially those who represent over 8-million other citizens; purposefully spouting wrong, misleading and wholly dangerous information. 

Leaders can’t be right all of the time, but they really must take accountability for saying stupid things.  Without being so arrogant to second-guess what the demise of Osama may bring.  It really doesn’t take an expert in Global Terrorism to predict that the chances of retribution are highly likely.  The world is not a safer place Mr Miliband – far, far, from it.  Ed Miliband is either incredibly na├»ve, incredibly stupid or behaving immorally (a combination of both), to suggest that it is. 

So why did he say it? 

Was it said not to panic people and thereby lull them into a false sense of security? 

No, I don’t think it was.  That may have been a reason if he was the Prime Minister but he isn’t so that nullifies that theory.  

So, did he say it because he actually believes it?  If that really is the case then it tells me that this guy shouldn’t be trusted to run a bath, let alone a mainstream influential political party – or worse, the United Kingdom.  

Maybe he said it because he was the last on the list to be interviewed and wanted to say something, just anything, and did so without applying any due forethought prior to opening his mouth?

Whatever his reasons, I will now always question his credibility as a potential leader of the country or of any serious organization. 

And that’s the key point of this message. 

What you may unwittingly say as a leader can cause untold damage to your credibility.  Granted, this is really basic stuff, but so often people who should know better can easily fall into the trap; be it through complacency, arrogance or simply not knowing enough about a subject to make a well informed statement. 

If you’ve got nothing to say then surely it’s better not to say anything. 

Or if you’re an influential political leader of the opposition, hire someone to coach you through the importance of effective communication and image.

Wishing you well in all that you do,


Keith