Wednesday, 30 October 2019

What Kind of Culture Are We Creating?

Our job as leaders is to achieve results through the efforts of others.  To do this, we need our people all sharing the same vision and working toward the same end.

The way we lead sets the tone for our organisation; what kind of “culture” do we want to create?  One that encourages people to keep their ideas to themselves for fear of repercussion, or one that invites them to share their ideas and views without fear of ridicule, reprisal or regret?

I’ve seen organisations where the atmosphere could be described as “creative”, “enabling” or other encouraging words as well as those where one has the feeling that, if they could, employees would be heading out of the door as fast as possible.  In one, I was told “Senior Management don’t like to hear bad news”!  In another, employees seemed to “run scared” of an HR department that, on the face of it, was accountable to no one.

An atmosphere of fear, distrust or feeling beholden is no good for long-term productivity.   
As leaders we’re usually under pressure to deliver better results with fewer resources in less time than before.  It’s natural to focus entirely on the goal; if we don’t, we and our team may not have a job next year.  Reporting problems can wait.  However, issues will finally surface in the form of reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and turnover.

What can we as leaders actually do in the face of having to “produce results, come what may”?  We need to start with building an atmosphere in which people feel free to speak up and not be penalised for doing so.  

We build on this by sharing our ideas and asking for input – despite the initial short-term costs to our egos.  

The next step is team members’ trust – that others will do their part and will back each other up when needed, rather than throwing each other under the proverbial bus to save themselves.

Recognition of a job well done, results being achieved or of going beyond the call of duty can work wonders. Recognition of something done well needs to be immediate and public.  Recognition for poor behaviour is best done immediately and in private.

Wins – large and small, should be celebrated as often as possible to build and maintain that “positive” atmosphere.  

Finally, a reward mechanism needs to be in place to show that the right behaviour and results will produce returns to everyone.  Holding one person up as “better” than others may not actually encourage them to do more unless they feel they’re also in with a credible chance.

As leaders we create cultures both consciously and sub-consciously – we need to make sure it’s the right culture that produces happy staff and customers whilst keeping productivity and innovation up.


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My website  provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

  

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Saturday, 26 October 2019

One of our most important jobs as leaders is to develop the next generation of leaders.  We should be able to leave a job or company and know that things will run just as well (if not better) without us as they did when we were in the job. 

I find myself constantly giving answers to questions I’m asked.  This, you would think, is a great habit, but it isn’t.  The classic trap that I (and other leaders) fall into is that we want to “keep things moving” (or to get people out of the office) by giving answers.  

To develop our team, we need to help them to think the way we would in the same situation.  The whole point should be that, if they can do this, they can manage when we’re away from the office for whatever reason (or at the very least hold back only about what is really beyond their authority or experience).  My job is to make sure they grow in knowledge and confidence in their own judgement and ability to get things done.  What we need to do instead is respond by asking them one of several namely:
  • “What do company procedures/policies say?”
  • “What do you think?” 
  • “What do you think we should do?”
The purpose of these (or whatever variation suits in the circumstances) is to get them to start applying their knowledge of procedures, policies or their own sense of what “might” work.  Once we’ve had an answer to the first question (bear in mind that it may take them some time to think it over), we proceed to the next step:
  • “What else”?
The object of this is to make sure they consider alternatives (assuming the organisation allows this!) that might (or might not) be in “the manual”.  Some organisations (particularly highly regulated ones), only allow staff to go “by the book”.  Even so, the next stage will help on this.    Once they’ve done this, we can move on to the next important stage, which is to get them thinking through consequenceson two levels, specifically:
  • “What would be the benefits?”
  • “What would be the downside?”
In other words, we want them to learn that taking action is no good without understanding what will happen and whether this may store up more trouble for our organisation in the short, medium or long term.   All this assumes that we have the time available for what could be a long conversation.  Sometimes this won’t be the case (especially during a crisis).  However, if we invest the time up front, it will pay off later in terms of confident, productive team members, happy customers and time saved. 

Some organisations, as mentioned before, allow staff a degree of flexibility in running their day-to-day work.  Others, for any number of reasons, don’t or can’t.  What is true though is that as we rise up the promotion ladder, we will need to develop the ability to think and make decisions for ourselves. 

Some staff will respond better to this than others.  Those who show real ability will be the true leaders of the next generation.  Those who can’t (or won’t) will find their career “plateaus” after a point in time. 

Our job as their leader now is to coach them to give them the best chance we can to rise as high as they can in future.  

I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My website  provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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Friday, 11 October 2019

10 Years Learning

If I do a job in 30 minutes, it’s because I spent 10 years learning how to do that job in 30 minutes.  You owe me for the years, not the minutes.

Knowledge is an intangible product, yet we need it to run our businesses and lives.

We think little of paying doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers or other “professionals” for the results of their knowledge.  This is because we get some benefit from their activities: better health, advice on behaving properly, tax returns, machines that work, for example.  

We hesitate, however, to pay advisers or consultants.  Just as with doctors and the other professionals above, these people will often have spent years acquiring knowledge that can be applied.  Like a good car mechanic, they may provide a “simple fix” in terms of what’s needed, but it’s the knowledge acquired over all those years that allows them to provide that “simple fix”.  

I heard an amusing story about a factory whose machinery broke down, meaning that the factory couldn’t operate and earn money.  No one at the factory could fix the machinery, so in the end they called in someone who, after examining every inch of the machinery, turned a screw and restored production.

When asked for his bill, he presented one for $5,001.00.  One being asked for a breakdown of this seemingly “excessive” charge, he responded as follows:

Turning screw:
$       1.00
Knowing which screw to turn:
$5,000.00  
Total:
$5,001.00

We need to remember that, if someone solves a problem that we can’t due to our lack of expertise, then we pay for the expertise that they’ve taken years to acquire.  If we don’t want to pay, then we need to acquire that knowledge ourselves and put in the time and effort involved.


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My website  provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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