Manager

, ,

When in Rome…

Managing people across cultural divides

We recently had the privilege of travelling to the beautiful Italian town of Cremona near Milan to deliver the people management aspect of a new business management qualification there.

Given how often we get asked whether challenges are the same across Europe / the World and how much cultural difference needs to be considered, we thought we would share our findings and reflections:

Even in a more direct, ‘say what you think’ culture, feedback is still a problem.  Feedback is not simply about telling someone what you think of them, it’s critical that the message is understood and the individual wants to change their behaviour.

Helping delegates consider what outcome they wanted and then use better questioning to find out what reaction someone was having to the feedback, made the difference here, just like it does in the UK and every other country we have worked in, including the US and Asia.  And that backs up our learning from our previous escapades here…

People Management is not for everyone and we would all do better to acknowledge this.  Just as financial management is not for everyone and we build coping mechanisms around that, how do we do the same for people management?

One delegate realised he could make better use of someone in his team who is far better at the honest conversations.  It may not be a perfect solution, but it’s a start.

Accountability for behaviour change is the greatest challenge.  This is a battle we fight on every programme – how to help delegates change their behaviour back in the workplace.

A hugely helpful move here has been to share stories from people who have been through the programme before, tried, failed, learned from experience and succeeded.

In Italy, we closed the programme with delegates showing a more realistic outlook on what they could do and what they couldn’t, working in tune with their reality.

Whilst it is comforting to know we are not alone with our learning challenges in the UK, this begs the question, why are these issues so prevalent?  The answer appears to be a lack of quality and quantity of focused on-the-job learning in these areas.

Take on any other new task: using new software, introducing a new process or system, taking on budget management for the first time, and there are guides to follow and people to ask.  When it comes to considering our suitability for people management and working out how to have difficult conversations, there tends to be less structure.

There are fewer “how-to guides” available and most line managers will not initiate a conversation with the individual in their team about their skills and confidence in people management.  Why should they?  Who did that for them?

This is an opportunity for all of us in learning, to help managers take on these conversations, so that new managers can be better prepared in their roles.

Read More
, ,

70 20 10 In Practice

70-20-10-TotemWhat does it really mean and what does that mean to me in L&D?

This model or set of principles seems to have been a little misunderstood.

The CCL shared the 70:20:10 model as a description of what happens in the workplace.  It was not in itself a guide for what we should be doing in L&D or a target for how we should spend our time and money.

The  research suggested that in reality, we learn 70% of everything we know on-the-job and 20% from asking others.  It makes sense – how do we do things around here?  Where’s the coffee machine?  How do we file our expenses?  What’s Joe like in IT?  How do we tend to manage customers who ask for too much?  What is our usual approach in this business of managing teams?

We learn by doing, asking around, observing how others do it and seeing what feedback we get on our performance and behaviour.

Totem Lollipops

A lot of the time we don’t even realise we are learning – it’s just all going in, giving us points of reference for when we’re in a similar situation.

Our manager and our peers are our L&D team – they are delivering learning for us all day every day.  So what does this mean for learning professionals?  Should we give up?  Of course not!

What is required is a different way of thinking about learning.  The age-old “I know more than you do on this topic, so you sit there and I’ll impart my knowledge” does not and will not cut it.

Sukh Pabial’s consistently insightful blogs have given some suggestions on this.  See this one for a list of interventions that could be helpful alternatives to the traditional classroom learning:

It seems to us there are two big questions to deal with with:

1) If the manager is delivering learning all day, every day – are they teaching people good stuff – or bad stuff?

2) What does that mean we need to do in L&D?

We can answer the first question using employee engagement data and looking at the performance of teams.  If speaking to a member of team fills us with enthusiasm and confidence then I’m sure the manager is teaching good stuff every day.  If the team sound disengaged and frustrated – and we hear complaints about that team across the business, I can’t imagine the right attitude and behaviours are being role modelled.

Totem Gummi Bears

If we’re happy that managers are developing the good stuff, why mess with it?  The role of L&D is then to offer further support to what is already happening on the job, through skills and knowledge development.

The challenge is usually that the majority of managers are not developing the good stuff.*  The role of L&D then has traditionally been to give people an alternative view: “Here’s some good stuff you could do.”

But this will most often be drowned out by the manager,* who is still offering on the job learning (whether intended or not) that lacks support for or directly contradicts the messages L&D are giving.

So perhaps the most straightforward role for L&D is to support managers – so that they can role model great performance and great character.  That might start right at the top, so that the role modelling of the good stuff filters through, or it might start at one level and move in both directions.

Either way, let’s find out what the managers think and how they consider things could be better.  Then let’s support them to develop the skills and habits required to deliver just that.

* We don’t want to shoot the manager – click here to find out more.

Read More
, ,

Don’t Shoot The Manager

gun-range-target 400x265In a recent article on the principles of 70:20:10 we could be accused of beating up a lot of managers. 

Commenting that the majority of managers are not developing the good stuff’ sounds rather harsh.  So where are we coming from – and is it really all the manager’s fault?

The short answer is we’re coming from the many years of experience that tell us that the majority of managers are not doing a great job.  Is that the manager’s fault?  Well who trained the manager?  Who gave them the support to develop great management skills?  Who recruited them into a management position?  For what reason?  Because they were good at sales / production / engineering / delivering?

The majority of managers are under performing in their people management duties – but this is not a criticism of those managers.  It is a recognition of where companies have failed these managers in organisational systems, processes and support networks.

Managers not managing well is a finding supported by Gallup’s research, suggesting that only 1 in 10 managers have what it takes to be great .  And the fact that employee engagement is very low across industries and countries is a reflection of poor management.  Speak to managers and many immediately raise their concerns and requests for guidance.  For example we will often hear statements or questions like:

  • I’m not sure how to have difficult conversations
  • Should I be friends with the team or separate myself?
  • How do I balance managing the team with the personal responsibilities I have to deliver work as well?
  • I’ve got loads of paperwork I’m supposed to cover with the team, but how do I have a really useful conversation?
  • How do I manage underperformers?
  • What can I do for the high performers and the high potentials?

So this article is our way of saying we don’t want to shoot the manager – we want to help.  If every manager – even those who don’t fall into the magic 1 in 10 Gallup claim are naturals – had more support, what more could we achieve?

Read More