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MEASURING EXECUTIVE PERFORMANCE

February 25, 2015 - In Articles, Featured, Leadership and Management articles - No comments yet

Last month Andrew Hill, the Financial Times management editor wrote an article for the Saturday supplement FT Money, about how investors can judge executive performance.  It addressed some difficult issues for anyone who thinks that the leadership effectiveness of executive managers is a major influence of success.

A recent study on a ranking of the world’s best performing chief executives for the Harvard Business Review* used growth in total shareholder value return and market capitalisation to measure performance.  These are typical scoreboard numbers that are publically available and relevant at a particular time.  However, they give little insight into how the CEO or indeed the top team (if it is a team) influence the long term performance of the organisation.

Hill refers to another study, the ‘World Management Survey’ developed by the London School of Economics, Mckinsey and professors from Stanford and Harvard which identified some management practices that lead to increased productivity.  However, the study only focused on the manufacturing sector and included medium sized companies, many of which were privately owned. How the findings can be applied to large complex companies in a variety of sectors is not clear.

Investment managers, noted for having better access to information and even company executives, were reported as saying that judging executives is more of an art than a science.   Hill comments that outside investors may want to follow Warren Buffet’s advice “to buy stock in businesses that are so wonderful that an idiot can run them.  Because sooner or later, one will”.

The ‘Sage’ may have the point here, focus on the business and its organisation first, then the CEO, the executive group and management.  Also, for anything other than a small business, it’s worth remembering that we are considering a business organisation of many people producing output, especially when total shareholder return and market capitalisation are being judged.

Our favourite study about measuring performance, the one that we felt would encourage people to take leadership and management seriously, is ‘Built To Last’ by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras.  This study looked at thirty six large companies and used the measure of cumulative stock returns to evaluate relative performance.  Their interest, inter alia, was to understand more about 18 visionary companies and the leadership that enabled their success in relation to 18 comparison companies in similar sectors.  To engage attention of a range of readers, including investors and ‘numbers’ men, the authors used the stock return measure.

The study period was 1926 to 1990.  If in 1926 $1 was invested in a general market fund, $1 in a comparison company fund and $1 in a visionary company fund and all dividends reinvested then in 1990 the general market fund would be worth $415, the comparison company fund $955 and the visionary fund $6,356.  These results speak for themselves!  The study covers a range of organisational topics that need to be addressed to deliver exceptional performance and it is clear that the comparison companies were by no means a poor lot to have beaten the market for over 60 years.

The major difference between the comparison companies and the visionary companies was that the overall interest of the people running the visionary companies was to build a great company or business organisation.  Their approach to leadership was described by Collins and Porras as ‘clock builders’ whereas the approach to leadership by people in the comparison companies was as ‘time-tellers’.

In the visionary companies, building the vision, developing the core values and goals were done in a way so that everyone in the organisation was aware of their significance and importance and were able to make a contribution.  The vision and values were part and parcel of company culture which was developed over the long term.

There was openness about what was intended to be achieved that enabled people, within the organisation, to know how the organisation was performing, hence the term ‘clock-builder’.  A framework was developed that linked vision, values and the strategic goal setting process into a coherent whole.  This provided clarity of direction and ways of doing things that were open for all members of the business and engaged peoples’ commitment and effort.  In the comparison companies, the leaders did not establish such robust clarity so people had to ask the leader what the time was, leading to delay and relatively less engagement with the consequential impact on results.

 

*Harvard Business Review study by Morten Hansen, Professor University of California Berkeley and Insead and Herminia Ibarra and Urs Peyer both of Insead.

 


EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP: Now and for the Future

February 23, 2015 - In Articles, Featured, Leadership and Management articles - No comments yet

In July 2014 the Commission on the Future of Management and Leadership reported on its work about the current state of UK management and leadership and its recommendations for the future.  Founded by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Management and the Chartered Management Institute, the Commission described a variety of challenges (and opportunities) facing UK organisations with respect to leadership development, management effectiveness, the engagement of people and productivity.

From the analysis of the information provided to the Commission, ten ‘characteristics of a highly effective 21st century leader and manager’ were identified:

On the face of it, these seem important characteristics for all levels of manager.  On further reflection, they raise questions as to what they really mean, such as what ‘sense of purpose’ or specifically what ‘strong values’.  Also, how characteristics shape action depends on the views and attitudes that managers may have.

If a manager shared the assumptions of Douglas McGregor’s Theory X, that the average person dislikes work, avoids responsibility and has to be directed/controlled to get them to put in the requisite effort, then the actions that the 10 characteristics would drive will be very different from those delivered by a manager who adopts the assumptions of McGregor’s Theory Y.  Theory Y’s assumptions, among others, are that people like work for the sense of achievement and satisfaction that work can provide, and that people will exert self-direction and put in effort to achieve objectives to which they are committed.

Effectiveness depends on many things, sometimes things outside the leader’s control, like luck.  With this in mind, we focus here on three vital aspects of leadership: self-confidence, power and vision.

Self-confidence.  This is very important and needs to be a profound characteristic.  As Jack Welch said, a person ‘must be comfortable in their own skin’.  Self-confidence needs to include self-awareness in that the leader is aware of their impact on others.  The awareness of how one affects others can be developed by a willingness to receive feedback from colleagues at all levels in the organisation.  This requires sufficient self-confidence on behalf of the leader to take the risk of opening oneself to potential criticism.  The ‘ability to engage and communicate across all levels’ is a managerial skill which will help garner a wide range of feedback.

Self-confidence needs to be matched by authenticity, being genuine.  People respect openness and honesty and feeling that their leaders and managers are real.  The leader’s self-confidence is tested in building a successful organisation, by helping others do things for themselves.  Self confidence is crucially necessary to use our other selected aspects of leadership effectively; power and vision.

Power.  It is the use of power that markedly differentiates successful leaders from the not successful.  David McClelland identified three needs in relation to motivation: the need to achieve, the need for power and control and the need for friendship.  McClelland’s observations of managers in organisations identified that some managers’ use of power was ineffective.  This was because they used power to gain status and privileges and expected people to respond to their commands.  However, it was found that effective leaders used power to empower others to take responsibility for their own work and make a wider contribution to organisational effectiveness.

Vision.  The leader’s self-confidence and use of power need to be applied to developing the organisation’s purpose/vision.  In developing a clear vision, the leader’s ideas are important, potentially as a starting point for establishing purpose.  But the critical role is to lead and help the top group of executives develop a vision and ensure that everyone contributes to enrich the outcome.  The leader is also generating common ownership by involving the top executives in shaping the vision.

Essentially, the work should create an enduring long term vision for the organisation that will serve as a starting point for strategic planning and enable organisational effectiveness, the motivation, engagement and empowerment of people, unifying effort up and down and across the organisation, challenging the past and stimulating innovation.  The vision must also explain how the organisation will relate to its stakeholders:  employees, customers, suppliers, communities in which it operates and shareholders.

In this act of leadership, the leader uses power to direct the process towards a successful outcome, that of the organisation having an inspiring and enduring vision.  He/she is not using power to impose their personal opinion of exactly what the vision should be; this is the result of the senior executives’ participative work that includes obtaining contributions from their people

The Commission refers to the challenges facing UK management, we suggest they are opportunities, some relatively easily resolved through management education and training.  Leading positions need to be filled by people interested in fulfilling a leadership role as an enabler of exceptional performance.  Power should be used to facilitate the development of an effective organisation and culture.


Management and Leadership Today By Richard Nelson

September 29, 2014 - In Featured, Leadership and Management articles - No comments yet

Here we look at the some of the main findings of the current situation produced by The Commission on the Future of Management and Leadership in their Management 2020 report.  After examining a ‘vast range of evidence’, the report says ‘the underlying weakness in management and leadership is holding back our economic performance.’

On reading the report it is clear that economic performance is not the only thing being negatively affected by inadequate management and leadership.  Individuals’ sense of achievement and job satisfaction are significantly limited.  Also, the lack of engagement of many employees means the malaise goes beyond their immediate jobs and negatively shapes their view of the organisations in which they work.

This situation is not healthy and certainly not rewarding for stakeholders, including the communities in which such organisations are situated.  As customers we all know what it’s like to deal with unenthusiastic employees.  Also, shareholders are not maximising the return on their investments in businesses and all of us are receiving services from less than well-managed public institutions.  But in many ways the unrealised economic performance is indicative, like poor scores on the score board, of the overall situation.

Other findings speak for themselves:

People unfamiliar with good leadership and management practice may feel these data are very difficult to change.  Fortunately for the UK and its organisations all of these challenges can be met over time.  The knowledge, practice and experience are available to develop the leadership necessary to build world class organisational cultures that will endure and generate sustainable rewards.

The key is for executive leaders to recognise that investing their time in clarifying purpose and vision, shaping culture, aligning organisational structures and processes, developing managers and involving them in the work to realise the vision, is their job.


The ‘Management 2020’ Report – a review by Richard Nelson

September 29, 2014 - In Featured, Leadership and Management articles - No comments yet

An important, comprehensive, evidenced backed and excellent report, from the Commission on the Future of Management and Leadership, has been published detailing the needs for improving management and leadership in the UK.  The findings are surprisingly poor, even for those in the business of developing leaders in management, and leave no room for complacency.

Not without irony, the report notes ‘no one would let a doctor perform surgery without training’ and yet CMI’s Management 2020 Survey found that ‘71% of respondents reported that their organisation’s commitment to training staff before, or within three months of, being promoted into a management role was either non-existent or could be improved.’

With further irony, the Commission heard that many managers are risk-averse and unwilling to take the risks required to innovate, a situation exacerbated by the economic crisis.  But clearly executive leaders are prepared to risk appointing untrained people to managerial positions!

July 2014 saw the UK publication of the Commission’s Management 2020 report.  The Commission, founded by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Management and The Chartered Management Institute, asked three key questions:

The report is set against the background of the financial crisis of 2007/2008 and its long aftermath, still ongoing for many people in the UK, which in the words of the Commission ‘unleashed a cost-cutting agenda that only reinforced the short-termist outlook that got us into trouble in the first place’.

Although the UK has world-class organisations and some excellent managers, the evidence gathered by the Commission suggests that we are faced with ‘a ticking time bomb of myopic management’.  The importance of sustainable growth is neglected in preference for short term profits and managers are not encouraged to take risks or given time and space to be innovative.

The overall picture is enormously challenging on the one hand but potentially full of opportunity on the other.  Some of the statistics are dismal, for example UK productivity is 21% lower than the rest of the G7.  Recently, the economy passed its 2008 peak, employment keeps growing but more people are working and seemingly putting in more hours to achieve the same output, meaning productivity has fallen.  Also, measures of management are lower than those of many rivals and time wasted by poor management could be costing the economy as much as £19bn a year (Department for Business, Innovation & Skills July 2012).

Apart from productivity, other major challenges identified are:

These issues along with the productivity challenge cannot be addressed if the needs in relation to training and developing managers are not met.  People well trained in being managers and confident of their leadership development are essential for the work of improving UK organisations’ performance.

Only 23% of organisations rank as good or very good in terms of whether staff are trained in management and leadership before or within three months of taking on a management role.  Also, in spite of the effectiveness of mentoring and coaching in helping managers develop the practical application of their knowledge and skills, only 24% of organisations rated the use of these techniques as good or very good.

The realities of the current state of UK management and leadership are covered in relation to: economic indicators and international comparisons, management effectiveness, ethics, training and development, the development of leaders (apparently the old myth still holds good, in some quarters, that leaders are born!), poor engagement of people and rigid silos in organisations.

The recent generations and their expectations are explored to understand how best to deploy their talents.  The world of 2020 and the themes of technology, diversity, globalisation and demographics, sustainability and the future of skills are considered in order to understand the implications for leadership and management effectiveness.

Though the challenges are great the opportunity is greater still, the rewards potentially vast.  The knowledge and practice is out there, encouragingly it’s been around for decades, so no magic potion needed!

The Commission offers its ‘Management 2020 Framework:

These areas of good practice are explored in depth along with the traits of high performing individuals.

We regard this report as a major contribution to the development of UK institutions and businesses.  In further editions of The Column we will be covering more of the findings and recommendations suggested.


‘HOW WELL AM I DOING?’ – PERFORMANCE FEEDBACK

June 11, 2014 - In Featured, Managing Performance - No comments yet

It is difficult to think of anything more important to an employee than obtaining helpful feedback from their manager about their work and how they are doing their job.  There are things of equal importance: being paid a reasonable salary for the job, having a pleasant working environment and having appropriate resources/tools to fulfil the required tasks.  Interestingly, the highly motivated, achievement focused worker may prioritise getting constructive performance feedback over other expectations because they have a thirst for success and they want to improve.

So why is performance feedback so problematic?  Obviously this is not a new topic as anyone with an interest in management will know.  Some years ago, when delivering a new performance management process to a high-tech company, I asked two groups of managers attending separate training workshops what they thought about managing performance and providing feedback.  One group was asked what they thought of the various approaches they had been expected to use as managers and it is worth noting that their experiences had been mainly with companies that were household names.  Their responses were all to do with what chores setting objectives and conducting appraisal discussions were.  Added to this were the usual complaints about HR, forms and how time consuming it all was.

The other group was asked a similar question, but this time with an emphasis on what they thought about performance feedback they had experienced from managers to whom they had reported.  Their responses could not have been more different than their colleagues in the first group.  ‘The most important meeting that you have with your manager is when you have an appraisal and agree new objectives and many do not even prepare for it!’  ‘It’s when your manager represents your company to you and when it’s poorly executed it makes you feel negative about the place you work’, ‘I was hoping for a discussion in which I would learn something and perhaps even get recognised for some of the successes I had achieved’ and so on.  Knowing the organisation I have no doubt that if the groups had been reversed and they had received each others’ question the responses would have been similar.

The issue which these contrary responses illustrate is the very different perspective people have depending on whether it’s them that is receiving feedback.  As Peter Drucker said ’the role of the manager is to get results through the efforts of others’.  So why is providing performance feedback so difficult?

The research suggests that it’s all about managers not having the confidence to give direct feedback; looking people in the eyes and letting them know that they have done a good job or involving them in a conversation about alternative options for how they may do a task better.  Research also suggests that many managers do not have the appropriate training and practice to give performance feedback effectively.

These essentials about managers providing feedback can be overlooked and the real issue obscured by yet another new performance management ‘system’ (online or on paper) being introduced to an organisation.

An alternative strategy is to return to Drucker’s view of the manager’s role and reflect on the purpose of managers providing performance feedback.  Managers want to get good results from their people because that’s what they get paid to do.  If a manager can increase the results achieved by his/her people then an additional reward may be forthcoming and in the longer term, a promotion.  This suggests that incentives are available for managers who can improve results.

Importantly, successful interactions between managers and employees about work performance and how the individual can develop their abilities is one of the most powerful stimulants of employee engagement.  This means that managerial effectiveness in giving performance feedback not only assists achieve short-term results but also builds longer term employee commitment with additional benefits for the organisation.

Performance feedback needs to be in relation to a clear understanding, between manager and worker, of what is expected in terms of results.  Feedback can then be given in relation to such expectations.  The purpose of feedback is to reinforce effective behaviour or to give the person the opportunity to change behaviour which is having an adverse effect.  As giving feedback is about helping a person to learn, it must be given in a way that the person:

Key skills in giving feedback are:

There are many practical guidelines that can assist managers give feedback to help an employee improve performance and develop their abilities.

The main issue is that the skills and guidelines that provide managers with the confidence to give effective performance feedback need to be learnt by doing.  Practicing with real case examples is powerful and engaging for managers as they learn necessary skills, develop confidence and are better prepared to address performance matters.


MANAGERS: DELIVERING EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP

June 11, 2014 - In Featured, Leadership in Management - No comments yet

All organisations whether in the private or public sector employ people as managers.  Managers are responsible for the results generated by their people; the people who report to them.  In recent years there has been a great deal written and talked about leadership.  This is because leadership is the element of a manager’s job which is about the way he/she relates to their people to get the work done.  The way managers lead their people offers substantial opportunities for the delivery of performance improvements by both the manager and his/her staff.

It is important to remember that a manager’s job also involves managing non-human resources like budgets, facilities, materials and administering the organisation’s policies, some of which may be to do with their people.  Leadership is the part of a manager’s job to do with how they involve their people in achieving the results the organisation needs from them.

To deliver effective leadership, that works, it’s worth focusing on a few big things for the people who report directly to the manager.  Here we highlight:

Setting Direction   For each person for whom they are responsible, the manager needs to discuss and agree the overall direction of the person’s work and the performance expectations for task accomplishment.  Where there are things that are more important than others, discussing and agreeing the priority tasks is a critical communication.

How the manager goes about this interaction will distinguish it as leadership or not.  If the manager approaches their staff member in a positive way and engages them in discussion about the work to be undertaken, the results to be achieved and requests and listens to their contributions, then the staff member is more likely to become committed to achieving the right results.  Stimulating such commitment is widely regarded as effective leadership.

Developing Performance   Helping individuals to improve their ability to complete agreed tasks successfully and achieve good results is another important aspect of effective leadership.  To do this, managers need to observe, where possible, and monitor performance by all means at their disposal.  Talking to the person concerned is most important as this, done properly, will build confidence and trust and so enable any difficulties and ideas to be shared with the manager.  Obtaining feedback from others about the individual’s performance is important for the manager in understanding the impact the individual has in going about their work.

Focusing on providing balanced feedback about performance is important to build trust and start fostering engagement.  Discussing performance and encouraging the individual to come up with their own evaluation and resolutions to shortfalls helps develop confidence and competence.  Illuminating knowledge, skills and behaviours to be developed and how the individual may be supported to do this is an important area of leadership in managing people.             

Creating Common Purpose   For managers who have a number of people reporting who need to work together effectively to produce the required results, setting direction collectively is important.  This does not obviate the need to agree specific objectives and measures for individuals.  As in all leadership activities, a manager needs to ensure that they have a robust and clear understanding, with their own manager, about the results to be achieved by their people.

With such clarity about expected results, the manager can open discussions with all direct reports about the focus of work for the forthcoming period.  The key aim of these discussions is to involve everyone in contributing to create common purpose.  The discussions need to be undertaken with everyone involved together.  Common purpose is more powerful when everyone can see that their colleagues are engaged in achieving the group’s results.  This requires the manager to be successful in leading a group meeting where everyone can feel that they were able to participate successfully by making contributions and having any concerns addressed.

Leading the creation of such common purpose can provide the foundation for developing a team where the productivity of the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.  (For further information, please see our article ‘Build Organisational Capability through Team Effectiveness’

Facilitating Interaction with Other Groups   The effectiveness of the whole organisation is ultimately the responsibility of the CEO and the board.  The effective organisation maximises results in the competitive external environment.  With this in mind, all managers can contribute to organisational effectiveness if they ensure that their people interact positively, collaboratively and helpfully with the groups that they need to work with for various aspects of achieving results.  Some of these interactions may be critical, especially with groups that are situated before or after them in the value chain that delivers the product or service to the customer.  Others are functions, such as Finance and Human Resources who aim to support the smooth running of the organisation.

The manager who is successful in facilitating positive interactions with other groups is helping people to understand the connectedness and integrity of the organisation’s work.  Demonstrating this understanding contributes to strategic leadership and will be appreciated by enlightened senior management.

Leadership is often at its most effective when it is enabling and focused on assisting people perform at their best.  This needs the manager to deploy a general approach that involves their people in contributing ideas and talents and developing commitment to the higher purpose of the organisation.


Gain Productivity Through Managers’ Performance

April 3, 2014 - In Featured, Leadership and Management articles - No comments yet

The US and UK economies are showing some further signs of life, no significant hiccups since our February Column, but there are concerns about sustainability.  Cautious business investment, rising house prices and growing household debt could suggest a growth spurt based on poor fundamentals.  In the UK, the mystery of weak productivity is worrying some economists.

So what can organisations do to improve productivity and build capability that will be sustainable?  Getting managers to do more management is our suggestion.  Not old- fashioned chasing, hassling and breathing down people’s necks, but setting clear direction, developing common purpose and encouraging their people to work effectively and efficiently.  To improve productivity there needs to be more output for less input.  This requires everyone to know exactly what they should be doing to maximise their contribution, focusing on those tasks which will deliver the most and not being distracted by minor activities.  Also they need to be doing those tasks in the best possible way, quickly but with a firm eye on quality so there is no task repetition and no waste.

Executive managers can take the lead and encourage their senior and middle managers to engage their people in the drive to improve productivity.  To do this effectively and get the right response from managers, executives need to communicate the new drive for productivity in an inspiring way, promise their availability to provide support, when requested, and be prepared to give their senior and middle managers space and headroom to manage.

Managers at every level will need to apply leadership to improve productivity.  It is important to recognise this is an initiative for the whole organisation; to embed the sustainable capability to generate high productivity.  Practically, managers may find some help to achieve the necessary productivity gains useful.  Productivity Leadership Workshops, highly tailored to the needs of your organisation will bring managers up to speed in a consistent way, boost their confidence and make them want to improve their performance.

The Workshops can be designed to address relevant productivity improvement opportunities in the business and run in a facilitating and learning style rather than a lecturing and training style typical of standard programmes.  The Workshops can be structured around key topic content which can be delivered to stimulate ideas, refresh effective leadership, management behaviours and practice and build confidence.

Key topic content suggested is:

Productivity Leadership Workshops can make a huge difference for managers and their people as the Workshops enable them to stand back from day to day operations and develop new, more efficient ways of working for task completion.  This manager led approach to improving productivity can achieve more for less.


Build Organisational Capability Through Team Effectiveness

April 3, 2014 - In Featured, Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness - No comments yet

In business and public sector organisations in 2014, how well are the groupings of people reporting to a manager working?  Are organisations investing in developing teams?

In an organisation, teams are groups of people, normally reporting to a manager, who show synergy; where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  The individuals work together in a way that captures all their personal contributions and additional inputs from collaboration.  Teams are important because they produce more than a group and can demonstrate high performance.  High performing teams have these characteristics:

Groups of people reporting to a manager do not become a team by accident or by expecting that they will.  Team development occurs because there is a sense that performance and/or work satisfaction can be improved, usually initiated by the manager of the team, but not always.  Once a decision has been made to develop a group into a team, the approach to developing a team can be discussed under the following headings:

Where are we now?

Determining the current reality of a group to be developed into a team is critical if the things that the group members believe to be important are to be addressed in any subsequent development process.  Gathering information from group members about how they see the group, such as its strengths and weaknesses, will contribute to the agenda for development.  Undertaking a diagnosis also involves the whole potential team, including the leader/manager, in considering the group’s effectiveness and engages them in thinking about how it can be developed.  This helps prepare everyone for any subsequent process.

At Nelson Consulting we use our Team Effectiveness Questionnaire to review a group’s current reality (‘where we are now’) in relation to their desired position (‘where we want to be’).  The questionnaire is organised into five domains:

The questionnaire is designed so respondents can make two decisions about each item in each domain; one for current reality and one for desired position.  This design produces a gap analysis between current reality and desired position.  A key issues section is also included for each domain for respondents to include further comments if they wish.

The findings of the diagnosis can be prioritised by the gap analysis which reveals the items with the biggest gaps as important to resolve. These items can be informed and clarified by the key issues identified by the respondents.

To address the findings the group needs to come together for a discussion.  Preferably this should be held in an off-site location where the group can debate the findings from the diagnosis free from interruptions and day-to-day pressures.

Common Purpose

Common purpose is essential for a team.  To start identifying common purpose, the simple question to answer is ‘what are we here for?’  However, this is rarely a sufficient question for a group that desires to become a high performance team.  We recommend that the basics of developing a team vision are discussed and agreed.  This should include a summary of the team’s common purpose and how it will enable:

It should also indicate how the team’s stakeholder interests will be served; colleagues in other parts of the business, the wider group, customers, suppliers etc.

Debating and agreeing common purpose is a task type activity because it focuses the work of everyone in the team.  It is also a relationship building activity, provided everyone feels that they have had the opportunity to contribute and have had their say.

The Leader’s Role

Clearly, the leader’s role is very important and it is likely that he/she will have initiated the diagnosis to find out how best to develop the team’s effectiveness.  Managers determined to achieve high performance and aware of the value of investing in team effectiveness usually aim to do some development early on following a group’s formation.  During discussions about the development of the group and any findings from a diagnosis, the manager needs to ensure that he/she does not dominate the discussions and encourages everyone to contribute their views.  This is critical in relation to the development and agreement of common purpose because everyone must have a sufficient level of commitment to the group’s common purpose for it to commence development as a team.

It is important for the manager/leader to have some clear views about the team’s purpose and have potentially a personal vision for the team.  As leader, it will be expected by the other members of the group that he /she will have some definite views.  However, it is recommended that these views are presented as a starting point for the group’s debate and positioned as an outline of common purpose to which everyone can contribute.  A leader who has a strong personal vision is advised not to deliver it in its entirety at the outset of a discussion lest it suppresses debate and discussion.  Encouraging and gaining individual members’ contributions and including these into the overall common purpose is likely to engage individual commitment and shared ownership of the group’s purpose.

The leader needs to maintain an inclusive approach to focusing the group on the findings of the diagnosis.  Some of the topics identified by the diagnosis may be difficult for the group to discuss fully without patience and support being offered by the leader.  Indeed in the early stages of group formation it is not unusual for there to be a lack of clarity around certain issues, such as role boundaries, which can cause sensitivity.  Difficult subjects should not be avoided but explored and discussed.  This will set a standard of openness which can be built upon as more topics affecting the team and its effectiveness are addressed.

Individuals and Teams

Individuals and their membership of a group can be a big topic, largely due to the degree to which an individual retains their individualism or difference from others or decides to ‘join’ the group.  Interestingly, mature and high performing teams can include powerful and talented individuals but also be unified in commitment to the teams’ purpose, goals and values.  This team characteristic is a result of team building and an ongoing commitment to maintaining team effectiveness.

It is a useful investment in team development to address individuality and being an effective member of a team.  This can be facilitated by using a self-perception inventory such as Belbin’s Team Roles or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  Both inventories deliver positive descriptions of different people types that, in their own individual way, can contribute to team performance.

The process of a group of individuals undertaking an analysis such as that provided by Belbin or Myers-Briggs is usually very constructive because apart from the self learning provided, everyone develops a better understanding of why their colleagues see things differently.  This generally leads to group members recognising that the individual differences of their colleagues can provide a broader range of contributions to team performance.

The important issue to address and get accepted early by individuals and the group as a whole is that diversity is strength.  Critically, it is important for the leader to accept this dimension of team effectiveness so they do not surround themselves with too many of the same types.  Too many of the same tends to lead to dysfunctionality, sometimes manifested by ‘groupthink’, unproductive conflict or simply underperformance due to insufficient breadth of talent.

Practical Team Development

Developing a team from a group needs a piece of quality time in a suitable location where the group members can concentrate on the subject of team building.  Preferably, a 2.5 day plus residential workshop, designed with some structure to achieve the specific aims for the group, will set a direction for success.  The programme should address the topics discussed above and if the recommendation of a diagnostic is used, time must be included to discuss the findings and make decisions about addressing the opportunities.

Using experiential exercises can get the workshop off to a good start and set a practical tone.  Strategies for change need to be agreed and the process for maintaining and progressing team development established.  There are many useful tools that can be used to help the team develop, but success ultimately depends on the leader and the team members making commitments and agreeing actions to make it work for them and their organisation.

Follow-Up and Follow-Through

As with any learning, it is important to follow-up the original initiative; this to prevent the natural degradation of learning that occurs if no review takes place.  Of greater importance is to progress the development of team effectiveness by the team discussing implementation successes and challenges and engaging its full capability to achieve its goals.


Ensuring HR has Real Business Impact – Now’s the Time

February 12, 2014 - In Featured, Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness - No comments yet

The UK and US economies seem to be picking up and others are looking a little less sick although there is much more to do, including driving policies to build genuine sustainability and promote long term growth.  The financial crisis curtailed business investment and focused organisations on cost cutting and risk management.  The crisis also happened after years of short-term focus on results that prevented in many organisations the continuous investment in organisational development for sustainable high performance.

In 1997 Dave Ulrich’s article ‘A New Mandate for Human Resources’ was published in the Harvard Business Review.  In the article Ulrich observed that many of the ‘traditional forms of competition – cost, technology, distribution, manufacturing and product features – can be copied’ and that the only competitive weapon left is organization’.  It is this assertion that caused Ulrich to call for the transformation of HR approximately 17 years ago.

Where Are We Now? 

Certainly many organisations have set up shared service centres for HR administration and the title HR Business Partner is common place, but what do the non-HR communities in our organisations think, especially line managers?  We suspect it varies considerably, but some of the published survey findings suggest that the transformation of HR is incomplete.

Continue reading Ensuring HR has Real Business Impact – Now’s the Time.


EFFECTIVE MANAGERS COACH: Improving Organisational Performance

December 12, 2013 - In Featured, Managing Performance - No comments yet

The Business Case

The practice of coaching is readily associated with the world of sport where it is well established as a means of preparing sports people psychologically and physically  to perform successfully.  In organisations, the use of coaches to contribute to the learning and development of managers and professionals has grown substantially in the last two decades.  Some organisations have developed internal groups of managers to be coaches to less experienced colleagues.

Experience demonstrates that developing managers’ coaching capabilities enables them to manage and develop the performance of their people to achieve better results.  This managerial activity is a big contributor to developing organisational performance. Continue reading EFFECTIVE MANAGERS COACH: Improving Organisational Performance.


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