Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Part Of The Solution, Or Part Of The Problem?

There are two types of people in this world: those who are Part Of The Solution (I’ll call them POTS), and those who are Part Of the Problem (I’ll call these POPS). Which are you? More to the point, how do others see you? Who do you work with?

You can tell POTS right away. They tend to:

• Have a “can do attitude”;
• Be proactive – anticipate problems and take action;
• Can always be relied on to be around;
• Offer to help in solving problems;
• Come up with solutions without being asked;
• Be the first to volunteer;
• Encourage others;
• Don’t mind working extra to “get it finished” (although this has its limits!);
• Think “outside the box” and generate multiple or different solutions;
• Take accountability for sorting things out.

The POPS are the direct opposite, in other words they:

• See the downside in everything;
• “Goof off”;
• Never volunteer to help;
• Think within rigidly prescribed limits and rarely come up with innovative solutions;
• Leave solutions to others (and find fault with them all when they do);
• Either don’t see the problem coming or leave it to someone else to worry about;
• Find fault with everyone except themselves;
• Don’t make any extra effort unless incentivised/threatened;
• Leave it to someone else to sort out or “pass the buck”.

POPS can be a severe drain on a business, resulting in lower morale, productivity and profitability. If not dealt with or sufficiently bad, your POTS may leave to get out of the poisonous atmosphere that they cause (remember, this is “part of the solution” for a POTS).

Signs that you may have one or more POPS include:

• Increasing/high number of customer/supplier complaints;
• Slow response times;
• Cumbersome/out-dated processes;
• Finding excuses not to do something;
• Poor team morale;
• Resentment towards one or more team members;
• A steady trickle of resignations from or requests to transfer out of a team.

I have worked in teams with people who were POTS and had a visible effect on morale. The Team Leader had to work extra hard to maintain morale, recruit replacements for those who had left/were leaving, get the best out of the team and justify their performance to his/her own manager. All this could have been solved with a well-targeted approach.

So what do you do? The answer is: address the problem (in other words be a POTS yourself). If you’re the team leader, speak to the POPS and find out what’s causing the behaviour. Is it personal circumstances, resentment of other team members, lack of belief in the job, feeling unappreciated, feeling that they’ve been “passed over” or should be paid more? It can be any number of reasons and it may take time to find out. At NO stage should you indicate that you think “they” are the problem, as this will cause them to close up.

Once you’ve worked out where the problem is, ask the POPS how this makes them feel and how it may have impacted their behaviour. If they start listing behaviours that you have noticed, then you’re half way to a solution. Agree to work with them to assist where you can. You can’t guarantee promotions or salary rises, but you CAN put together a Development Plan which may increase their chances. If the issue is not salary/promotion, you still need a plan.

If you’re part of a team where there is a POPS, you can still react in a similar manner, but you will have to be more sensitive when it comes to action plans. You may find that YOU are the cause of the problem and so will need to understand why and modify your own behaviour.

In the end, the only solution may be for someone to leave the team. If it’s the POPS, well and good. If it’s a POTS, then the problem remains…

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Monday, 14 March 2011

What Message Are you Sending?

Have a look at the pictures attached to this article. They are the first things that passengers see at one of the South West Trains (SWT) stations that I use. What message do they give you?

There is no doubt a reason for these posters appearing, which is that in the past (and indeed perhaps still in the present) passengers have travelled without purchasing tickets, or have abused staff in the past, or act in a disorderly manner. What happened to them?

These acts aren’t solely committed on the premises of SWT. They can happen on your local high street, at a pub, a theatre or any public place. However, I’m only aware of seeing these posters at train stations and at some shops warning that shoplifters will be prosecuted (and even then, these are less “obvious”). Why are train passengers or shoppers worse than anyone else?

Why does at least one train company, in a more affluent area of the UK, feel that it has to provide warnings that no other private or public body has to provide?

For many, they may indicate defensiveness, aggression and a view that those who pay to travel on SWT are dishonest, abusive and disorderly. They may provoke feelings of hostility and defensiveness amongst “ordinary decent passengers” (who, for them most part, probably ignore them) and will certainly not stop real criminals or hooligans from behaving in an unacceptable manner.

The SWT staff that I have encountered are pleasant, friendly people with a sense of humour all trying to do a job which, at times, must be hard. No doubt they will encounter abuse, or anti-social behaviour. For SWT management to try to infer that somehow paying passengers may not vent their feelings over poor or sloppy service seems a chronic lapse in service and tantamount to institutional bullying.

Assuming that SWT can prosecute customers for being “rude” (disorderly and destructive are another issue), then this must apply to any other institution and therefore they as well as SWT are entitled to display similar signage. Only thing is, they don’t.

If SWT have the right to prosecute (or indeed threaten) passengers, do passengers have a similar right if they encounter rude/abusive or disorderly conduct from SWT employees?

The message seems to be that, like children, passengers need to be warned beforehand and cannot be treated as responsible adults. Rather sad, really.

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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Re-Arranging The Deck Chairs?

This makes for interesting reading. It outlines how the new regulatory structure for the UK Financial Services Industry will quite literally "stack up". The information is drawn from the Financial Times and a "Dear CEO Letter" from Hector Sants (currently Chief Executive of the UK FSA).

At the top, we have the "Financial Policy Committee" consisting of regulators, central bankers and "external experts" (my quotation marks) which takes responsibility for:

●Systemic risk (macroprudential regulation)
●Watching for and deflating credit bubbles
●Monitoring shadow banking

Who appoints the FPC's "external experts" is not clear.

Next will come the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) - a subsidiary of the Bank of England - which will oversee safety and soundness of banks and insurers. This is one of the areas in which the FSA was heavily criticised for failure. Here's hoping...

We also have the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This was previously to be known as the Consumer Protection and Markets Authority (CPMA) mentioned in the "Dear CEO" letter above. The FCA takes on:

●Consumer protection
●Market supervision and regulation
●Business conduct of banks and financial services
●Civil and criminal enforcement of market abuse rules
●Responsibility as UK listings authority
●Prudential regulation of firms that don't fall under the PRA!

Costs over the next two years for setting this up are estimated at £12.3million to be paid for by the institutions that are regulated, and we know who that will be passed on to...

What are missing so far are the Bank of England and the Treasury who will needs be involved (I assume on the FPC?) as part of the overall macro-prudential and financial system. From a triumvirate, we're moving to a regulatory oligarchy, with attendant confusion and therefore systemic risk. As an exampe, what is the difference between monitoring "safety and soundness of banks" (PRA) and "market supervision and regulation" (FCA)?

A case of "too many cooks"?

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