Do we have the right people?

Do we have the right people?

No, and you never will so better learn
to make the people right!

‘Do we have the right people?’ the director asked the newly appointed head of a department. From a political point of view, the best thing to answer this question would probably be ‘no, I am afraid that some people do not have the skills, attitude or competencies that we need’. This kind of answer will give the manager two options going forward. If something is not working according to plan, it becomes easier for the manager to blame the people that do not qualify; if somebody in the team is ‘difficult’ then the manager can refer to the conversation on ‘having the right people’ and ask for a replacement.

In my view, however, as a newly appointed manager, you will never ‘get’ the right kind of people but you rather have to make the people ‘right’ for the job. That does not imply that you have to deal for always with the employees that you will find in your new managerial job, regardless of their performance. What it means is that the key duty of a manager is to see how to get the best out of employees in the jobs they have or find tasks/responsibilities where they fit best. If this still does not work out, you have to separate ways. The question remains how to make people ‘right’ for the job and why put in so much effort?

The belief that opens doors

First of all, let’s have a look at the question on why to put in so much effort. The common belief is that some people just seem to be ‘difficult’, they do not seem to ‘fit in the team’, or they are ‘just sitting in a corner until the day passes by’. This could all be true but there are two questions here that need to be answered first before jumping to the conclusion that these are ‘not the right people’:

Always like this?
The first question is whether these people have always been like this? The performance of employees is influenced by the leadership style of the manager and the level of care and interest they have perceived so far. If there was no appreciation for the employee’s ideas and contribution in the past, people tend to switch off and stop showing their best. If there have been too many different managers with too many different expectations, people also tend to be confused and wait for direct orders to be on the safe side of doing the right thing.

Other capabilities?
The second question is how different these people are when they explore their hobbies or other activities beyond work? By engaging more with these people, the manager may be surprised by what kind of activities these people have and the responsibilities they carry during their free time. This could be a managerial role at a club or a hobby that requires extreme discipline and endurance. I have seen many cases is however obvious that the same skills and attitude are not explored in the working environment

In summary, the question is whether you do not have ‘the right people’ or whether these people gave up in their working life and found different places where they could grow and be appreciated? It is the duty of a manager to find the answers to these two questions and if there is a history (why people started behaving as they do) and capability (whereas they add much more value in their private lives) then my personal belief is that the manager can ‘make’ these people right for the job.

How to make people ‘right’ for their jobs

After proper engagement with the employee finding out some historic root-causes for switching off, and understanding their current capabilities, a mutual agreement should be reached on changing behaviour. Changing behaviour may sound difficult but has in essence only four very practical options.

  1. More: You can do more of what you have been doing; for example increase the frequency from once a week to every day.
  2. Better: You can do better then what you have done so far; for example, better preparation of engagement or better capturing what has been agreed.
  3. Different: Changing approach can be very refreshing. So try something different; for example, inviting employees to chair a meeting or meet in a completely different location.
  4. Less: You will never find time for new behaviour so you have to create time by doing something less (or stop); for example spend less time on presenting papers that could have been read.

If the manager has a clear understanding what historic management behaviour made the employee ‘switch off’, some change of behaviour by the current management can be agreed to show the employee that things are not the same any longer as what happened in the past. What could the manager do more, better, different or less to bring back trust and confidence? In return, the manager can challenge the employee to also change behaviour and bring some of those capabilities that are still explored in their private lives, back to work. What can the employee do more, better, different or less to add value to the organization?

Conclusion

Having the ‘right people’ is difficult these days because there is a war for talent and because the requirements for jobs are changing rapidly in the digital world. It is therefore increasingly important that managers master the skill of ‘making’ people right for the job. The kind of employee engagement that is required, will not only pay off by improving the job-fit but employees will also feel more encouraged and stimulated to show their best if they experience the support and interest from their manager to get the best out of them.

Understanding the history and capabilities of existing employees will probably require less effort then various rounds of interviews with external candidates. You may not always get the right people, not even after going through the exercise as described above. You will however still get more value from these employees and if they may still not qualify in the end, then at least they will be more willing to accept alternative solutions based on a proper attempt to get the best out of them. It is worth the try so what can YOU do more, better, different or less starting tomorrow?

Do you want to learn how to make the people ‘right’?

Management Master Mind is a platform that facilitates the exchange of today’s’ leadership opportunities/challenges and shares practical solutions. For the self-starters, there is a very structured and practical guideline as captured in the book on Behavioral Leadership. For those that like to get more examples of challenges and success stories, there is a blog for all five focus ambitions. Finally, there will be workshops, consulting and coaching for those that prefer more in-depth engagement and exchange.

The book on Behavioral Leadership

A step-by-step interactive approach to create success through employee and customer engagement covering all ambitions.

The blog on challenges and success-stories

A variety of easy-to-read articles that give more practical insights on the five ambitions that drive success.

Get in touch for more engagement and exchange

You are invited to share your personal challenge or opportunity and see how more exchange support can be organized.

Who needs Change management nowadays? You need digital disruption management! But where to start?

Who needs Change management nowadays?

You need digital disruption management!
But where to start?

The world is changing and the internet is disrupting our lives and our businesses. Some businesses perceive these developments as a threat or a risk and as a result, they act defensive or remain passive. Some businesses perceive these developments as opportunities and start exploring areas for improvement.

In this blog, I will try to give some views on these developments but also give some guidance on how to unpack the challenges and opportunities to start exploring the migration path to become a digital organization.

The Internet is not magic

First of all, I want to make clear that although the internet is very convenient, it is also not magic. Google Maps is based on the same date as traditional maps, just with more features and functionalities and better accessibility. Booking.com is the digital version of the travel-catalogue but with more convenience in searching and booking. It is smart how these companies have explored the opportunities of digital but it is no magic and it did also not happen overnight. Of course, this kind of development has resulted in threats for certain business lines because nobody needs a map, encyclopaedia or catalogue any-longer these days. So there is indeed an impact on the printing business but most other activities like creating a map or hosting hotel guests, remain largely the same, just smarter and with more features.

The challenge is to explore

The first question that a business could ask themselves is whether they want to be in the lead or they want to follow. My view is that you should try to be in the lead but not get distracted by hypes or complexity beyond capability. This last comment relates to the hype around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain that are likely to have an impact on many businesses but whereas investments and the associated risks are such that you can probably better wait until some universal tools have been developed that fit in your business model. In other words, follow the trend and understand the impact but instead of taking part in development, just see what ready-to-use tools will become available that you could use. For less complex developments or exploring ready-to-use tools (apps, software as service, etc.), it is recommended to see how this could add value to your business and embed as quick as possible.

The winner takes it all

Those companies that are fast in understanding the added value of digital developments and thereafter are also good in rapid deployment are building a competitive advantage that can hardly be bridged by other companies. Because of the cost-saving they made or added-value they created, they received additional cash-flow to get even further ahead of the curve. Amazon became big because they saw opportunities, they embedded quickly and used the cash flow for further exploration of digital opportunities. As a result, they were not profitable for a long time but the competitive advantage that they have achieved by now is such that they have the power to create a monopoly (if they want to but they have to be careful not to irritate regulators and the public opinion).

How to get there

Understanding the opportunities of the internet starts with

  1. Understanding your existing processes,
  2. Analysing your existing challenges,
  3. Observing the changing customer behaviour.

1. Understanding your existing processes

For your existing processes, you could check what the sources, usage and output of data are and whether any of these three could also be automated. This also includes monitoring devices and analysis. Most of the monitoring can be done remote or by sensors; most decision making that is rule-based can be automated. Designing and monitoring construction of a bridge is rule-based once you have an idea of the shape and usage so starting a design from scratch for every new bridge is such a waste if you could create templates and models where your customer can play with to see how your solution can help them.

2. Analysing your existing challenges

For your existing challenges, you have to be critical of the value added that is achieved by the effort you make. Most disruptors have found weak spots in existing business models and were able to come up with simple solutions that may not cater for all circumstances but with their simplicity and lower cost-base, they may be able to eat most of ‘your’ cake. Every step in the process should be explored whether it belongs to your core competency and is differentiating your company or whether it is a commodity or just a tool that can be outsourced to the cheapest provider.

3. Observing the changing customer behaviour

The last check that you could do is on the changing customer behaviour. Customers want to do less effort so you have to increase convenience, transparency and flexibility whatever your business line. You should be aware of how much customers know about your market and your suppliers as they are also globally connected. Therefore if you are somewhere an intermediary, you better make sure that you can explain what your added value is or you may have to change your role as your business is under threat.

Actions to be taken

After reading the above tips and tricks, you may get some ideas on where the action is required; however, the only thing you may still not know is what to action and how. The What-question can be easily answered by creating a brainstorming group of customers and/or employees, explaining your concern and asking them for solutions, having digital success stories in mind. You will probably get some ideas on what you could do and thereafter you should start doing some small-scale testing how these solutions could work in your organization.

Start always small as that allows for quicker feedback after which you decide to
a) do More as it worked and you see more potential;
b) Do Better as it did not work as expected but the reason could be that preparation and execution were poor;
c) Do Different as you do prefer to change rather than put more effort in the same solution;
Quick action, quick evaluation and quick improvements will always result in quick improvements as long as you know what you want to achieve as an innovator in a changing digital world!

Agile, lean, scrum, and other new techniques are being used in IT projects and there is a need to use similar principles also in other departments or organisations. No lengthy rigid strategic planning but the short-term implementation of changes for ongoing evaluation and improvement. Learning by doing but in a structured fashion such that the organisation becomes more flexible to adapt to a changing environment.

  • Need for Change Management? You mean how to Change Management!
  • The next level of Change management? Change enablement, allowing employees to change!
  • Lean, scrum, agile only for IT projects? Nonsense, the principals are universal!

Managing Disruption and Change

Management Master Mind is a platform that facilitates the exchange of today’s’ leadership opportunities/challenges and shares practical solutions. For the self-starters, there is a very structured and practical guideline as captured in the book on Behavioral Leadership. For those that like to get more examples of challenges and success stories, there is a blog for all five focus ambitions. Finally, there will be workshops, consulting and coaching for those that prefer more in-depth engagement and exchange.

The book on Behavioral Leadership

A step-by-step interactive approach to create success through employee and customer engagement covering all ambitions.

The blog on challenges and success-stories

A variety of easy-to-read articles that give more practical insights on the five ambitions that drive success.

Get in touch for more engagement and exchange

You are invited to share your personal challenge or opportunity and see how more exchange support can be organized.

Make meetings more effective (part 2)

Make meetings more effective
(part 2)

Why should you attend so many meetings when
they are so boring and ineffective..?

Two weeks ago, I started to explain that using e-mail for a proper discussion, decision making or call to action, is most of the time not very effective and traditional meetings are in most cases more suitable to make progress. At the same time, I have also seen that meetings are often conducted ineffectively and I already shared two out of four common mistakes during meetings that can easily be recognized and quickly resolved.

The previous blog discussed the root-cause of failed meetings due to a lack of short-term focus or limited understanding of the expected outcome:

a) What is the time horizon of the meeting; one day or tomorrow?
b) If you don’t know what you are looking for, you will never find it…

This time I will explain how to get a meeting focussed on accountability and results:
c) Anybody could do it but nobody did it as the action is outside the room.
d) ‘Could you please have a look at it?’, and then he looked and saw nothing.

We all agree that somebody else, outside the room, should do it

The biggest opportunity of a meeting is leveraging on input from all stakeholders. Otherwise why else should somebody be invited or attend anyway? At the same, getting input from many angles can become very confusing and time-consuming. Due to an overload of ideas and suggestions, participants get no response nor follow up. After listening to the contribution, the meeting just moves on for another ‘opinion’ and again no action is taken as the input is merely perceived as ‘for information’…

This can be very frustrating for the participants as it almost feels like nobody cares for their opinion. The chair of the meeting should therefore either explain why input may not be relevant or ask other participants to respond. Just creating a big pile of opinions will never result in any action. The only exception could be if all opinions are more or less pointing in the same direction and participants seem to agree on the direction. This happens in general in cases where the solution and action are outside the meeting. In other words, we all agree that somebody else -who is not attending the meeting- should do something…

If this seems to be a common opinion then the chair has to intervene and explain that the only thing that can be changed and actioned during the meeting, is the change and action that can be agreed with somebody present in the room (or call). Even if action is expected from somebody outside the room, there is still need for an initiative taken from a meeting participant. If we all agree that somebody else should do something, the question remains who is going to initiate that action and give feedback on the outcome in the next meeting?

 

Could you have a look will always frustrate all stakeholders

By now you should be able to overcome most pitfalls as described in the previous blog and above. You have learned to make sure that there is a focus on what matters most today; you are able to make it clear what issue to address without hiding behind high-level words and generic statements, and it has become clear that action should always be taken by somebody in the room. So what could still go wrong?
The last pitfall has to do with the wording of the assignment to action the outcome/ conclusion of the meeting. A lot of time has been spent on collecting input, having discussions and after all seem to agree that something has to be done, the chairman comes to a conclusion. One of the participants of the meeting is assigned as action-owner whereas the required action is: ‘…could you have a look at it?’ It is highly likely that the next meeting, the action owner comes back after ‘having a look’ but for example, the financial analysis is missing. The week thereafter feedback is given on the financial side but now the technical component is missing…

‘Could you have a look at it’ or similar vague assignments, will never bring results. The chairman should never assume that action owners know what to do. What document is expected, what kind of recommendation or resolution is expected and based and on what kind of analysis. The consequence of vague assignments is delayed decision making which is frustrating for all participants. Being more clear upfront on what is expected and how the outcome of the assignment will be used will create speed and momentum and engaged participants.

 

Changing patterns is hard but crucial

Recurring meetings are rapidly showing this kind of patterns of behaviour and breaking such patterns will be hard. If you allow participants to be 5 minutes late for two consecutive meetings, the rule already becomes that you can be 5 minutes late and some people will thereafter try to find out what happens after being 10 minutes late. If you ask participants during the meeting to ‘take us through your document’, the message is that nobody has to read and prepare up front. After two meetings, this message has been understood by all participants and nobody has a clue what will be discussed so questions that are being raised during the meeting are mostly shooting from the hip or questions that have been clarified in the circulated document that was not read by anybody.

 

Conclusion

It is important to be clear about the rules of the meeting and stick to some principals. Participants will get bored if there is no pace and no focus whereas decision making gets blurred and delayed and therefore frustrate the people that worked hard to prepare a good proposal. By recognizing and solving the most common root-causes of meetings, the meeting will create energy, teamwork, and accountability. This type of meeting will have a good attendance as participants recognize the added value as the outcome is worth the time spend.

Mastering Implementation and Execution?

Management Master Mind is a platform that facilitates the exchange of today’s’ leadership opportunities/challenges and shares practical solutions. For the self-starters, there is a very structured and practical guideline as captured in the book on Behavioral Leadership. For those that like to get more examples of challenges and success stories, there is a blog for all five focus ambitions. Finally, there will be workshops, consulting and coaching for those that prefer more in-depth engagement and exchange.

The book on Behavioral Leadership

A step-by-step interactive approach to create success through employee and customer engagement covering all ambitions.

The blog on challenges and success-stories

A variety of easy-to-read articles that give more practical insights on the five ambitions that drive success.

Get in touch for more engagement and exchange

You are invited to share your personal challenge or opportunity and see how more exchange support can be organized.

Make meetings more effective (part 1)

Make meetings more effective
(part 1)

Why should you attend so many meetings
when they are so boring and ineffective..?

I like meetings and I organize lots of them but nowadays people seem to prefer seeking feedback and decision making by e-mail, rather than having a meeting. Seeking guidance and commitment by sending an e-mail to a number of people is, however, also often not very effective. Some recipients respond by starting an e-mail debate creating a huge trail of questions and answers. `Some recipients don’t want to respond because they assume that by not-responding, somebody else will take ownership and they can even pretend not to be aware. My experience is that in order to create a proper discussion, good progress and clear accountability, a real old-fashioned (or Skype) meeting is often still required.

Meeting pitfalls

The challenge is how to conduct an effective meeting that immediately adds value for the time spent or in other words organize such interaction among the participants that the outcome of the meeting is worth the effort. In this blog, I have identified four common mistakes that can make meetings rather ineffective. They are described in such a way that you can easily recognize their occurrence. Thereafter I will explain how to respond when you hear certain statements and start making meetings more fun and effective. This blog is split into two parts so you will get the first two root-causes of ineffective meetings in this part and the second part with two more root-causes will follow in two weeks.

Part 1:
a) What is the time horizon of the meeting; one day or tomorrow?
b) If you don’t know what you are looking for, you will never find it…

Part 2:
c) Anybody could do it but nobody did it as the action is outside the room.
d) Could you please have a look at it, and then he looked at it and saw nothing.

 

Past-change is impossible, future-change is hard but you can start tomorrow

Many meetings are ineffective because they have no focus on the short term, therefore they are not action/ result oriented and the outcome is that there will be no action or result (…rocket-science…). For a proper discussion, it is important, to understand what the long-term (strategic) direction is and what has been learned from the past but only to the extent that this is relevant for decision making during that same meeting. (‘..your contribution is valid but please specify what part is relevant for decision making today…?’)

Also spending a lot of time discussing what somebody ‘should have done’ or ‘could have done’ will not change anything. Activities that probably only start in months to come and that are not even certain should be quickly parked (prio 3; don’t drop it but not now). The focus (time spent) should be on what actions/ commitment can be agreed upon for the next two weeks (as prio 1). If some actions still have a dependency/uncertainty than these can be parked (as prio 2) where the action-owner is supposed to come up with commitment in two weeks after sorting out the dependency/ uncertainty issue.
It is good to know the big picture but even big pictures were painted with small steps so agreeing on weekly small steps, is likely to create faster results. If you’re not going fast enough, you may have to slow down!

 

Are you aware that change (almost always) requires action

Another root-cause that makes meeting very ineffective is when participants believe that they suspect that the problem is embedded in the organizational culture. For example ‘There is lack of trust….’, ‘We are not communicating enough….’, ‘There is insufficient focus……’ are comments where a lot of people may agree but still nothing happens. Even if only a minority agrees, these topics still seem to be so crucial that nobody dares to really ignore them.

Although these topics can be discussed for hours and hours, the solution on how to address the challenges raised is extremely simple. Assuming that we cannot change the past, the only question that needs to be asked in response to what action would be appreciated: ‘… What do you believe you can do -starting tomorrow- to improve trust, communicate better, focus more, etc….?’. Or: ‘…What do you suggest I can do….?’. No need to blame the past that it was not good or not effective as the past cannot be changed so you just have to find out what are small steps for improvement to restore trust, communication or focus.
Please be aware that moving to fast and suggesting small steps for improvement, makes some people believe that you do not respect the cultural challenges people had or the complexity of the problem. People should get some room to speak out without blaming (that triggers defensive responses) which is constructive (positive, forward-looking) feedback aiming for small steps of improvement.

Conclusion

Chairing meetings is a balancing act between collecting input and creating empowerment by letting participants speak-up, but at the same time discussions should be kept short and there should be a push for actions and decisions. A chair probably has to repeat the same sentence again and again after every long monologue of one of the participants; …so what are we going to do now?…..so what are WE going to do now?…………so what are we going to DO NOW?? ..and the meeting can move on to the next topic….

Part 2 will follow in two weeks

Mastering Implementation and Execution?

Management Master Mind is a platform that facilitates the exchange of today’s’ leadership opportunities/challenges and shares practical solutions. For the self-starters, there is a very structured and practical guideline as captured in the book on Behavioral Leadership. For those that like to get more examples of challenges and success stories, there is a blog for all five focus ambitions. Finally, there will be workshops, consulting and coaching for those that prefer more in-depth engagement and exchange.

The book on Behavioral Leadership

A step-by-step interactive approach to create success through employee and customer engagement covering all ambitions.

The blog on challenges and success-stories

A variety of easy-to-read articles that give more practical insights on the five ambitions that drive success.

Get in touch for more engagement and exchange

You are invited to share your personal challenge or opportunity and see how more exchange support can be organized.

Embedded service excellence or stand-alone?

Embedded service excellence
or stand-alone?

Do you expect customer service excellence only from your customer-facing staff?
Then it is very likely that your customer and your organization will suffer…..!

During the annual budget process that I attended, HR was asked to come up with some financial details and a breakdown of their training proposal. It was good to see that the HR director already prepared herself by asking all departments for their training need analysis. This overview was shared with the budget committee so we could clearly see how the requested budget would be spent.

These departmental requests were pretty obvious as the finance department wanted to have finance-training and the technical departments asked for technical-trainings. Only the sales and service departments -that had customer-facing activities- asked for training in service excellence.

Although the overall impression may be that the training proposal made a lot of sense, this approach of asking departments for their preference also could have some pitfalls that should be addressed.

Balancing between employee and organization interest

Departments already tend to work in silo’s and by further expanding their own expertise, these islands may even drift further apart. There is, of course, a need to understand the latest developments and requirements for their own field of expertise but in many cases, experts already read expert-magazines and talk expert language with their expert colleagues because they share the same expert interest.

Being best-in-class in terms of expert knowledge is an important ingredient for success but only by exploring this knowledge during interaction with other departments, the real benefit, and added value will be achieved for the organization. In other words, as long as the expert department has no clue what the needs and ambitions of other departments are, the investment in expert training will only be an investment in individuals instead of an investment in both individual and organization.

Service consistency by internal and external engagements

You may recognize the experience that I had many times whereas the service level of my contact person (waiter, account manager, bus driver, etc.) was pretty good but I could sense that they were struggling to offer better service due to their internal organizational challenges. They did not have the right tools and lacked the required internal support and sometimes even expressed their frustration: ‘…Those guys in head-office don’t seem to care and they definitely have no clue… ‘

is little engagement between customer-facing departments and internal departments. It is therefore important that there should not only be a common service-excellence training throughout the organization but also a well-structured process for internal engagement. Like front-office should try to understand and act on the needs of the internal customers, a similar engagement should be organized on a regular basis to make internal departments understand the needs of the customer-facing departments.

Benefits for service and development

There will be a number of benefits for the organization once the process and training for embedding service excellence are in place and supported by the entire leadership team.

  • Front-line employees will feel more confident, more proud as they are better supported once they experience that internal departments care about their challenges.
  • In the past, internal departments had to investigate a drop in sales or an increase of returns, after getting the monthly reports but now they already could know and act on improvement based on frequent engagement with front office staff, even before numbers start to show a declining trend.
  • Product development and second line support will get direct feedback from the user experience by getting front-office input, therefore being able to become more pro-active in terms of improving products or develop new solutions.

Embedding customer service throughout an organization is crucial for achieving service excellence. Internal departments are also part of the service chain and the weakest link in the chain…. Embedding customer service is however not only important to protect the business but also to grow the business as a better understanding and faster responding to customer need’s is a strong competitive advantage.

Embedding Service Excellence in your organisation

Management Master Mind is a platform that facilitates the exchange of today’s’ leadership opportunities/challenges and shares practical solutions. For the self-starters, there is a very structured and practical guideline as captured in the book on Behavioral Leadership. For those that like to get more examples of challenges and success stories, there is a blog for all five focus ambitions. Finally, there will be workshops, consulting and coaching for those that prefer more in-depth engagement and exchange.

The book on Behavioral Leadership

A step-by-step interactive approach to create success through employee and customer engagement covering all ambitions.

The blog on challenges and success-stories

A variety of easy-to-read articles that give more practical insights on the five ambitions that drive success.

Get in touch for more engagement and exchange

You are invited to share your personal challenge or opportunity and see how more exchange support can be organized.