Right or wrong?

Ever find yourself in situation when you have a view and the majority disagree.

By majority, read here “everyone”.

In a business context, your corporate sense and leadership skills would result in a behaviour where you would listen and recognise that the majority rules. This would normally mean holding a mirror up to yourself and challenging your own views.

But what if you are right? “To find yourself think for yourself” – Socrates

Contribution

Management by walking around is a way for employees to have visibility of  the boss and it equally gives the guy or girl in charge a chance to engage with various members of the workforce.

Reputed occasions where the CEO points at an employee and asks “What have you contributed to the business today?”  are now modern folklore.

But I was wondering if we could apply this to modern world. How cool would it be to have an app that gave an outward projection of your efficiency?

Some sort of meter that hung like a virtual rainbow above someone’s head with a needle pointing to the efficiency rating.

I always try to judge people by their output rather than by how many emails they send me or by how many hours they work. Equally, it is human nature to raise questions if someone repeatedly leaves the office early or is unavailable on their phone.

I could really do with this app.Contribution to the company

Learning does not come for free- Changing behaviour & Change management – Success is failure

How many of you have heard an individual stand at a pedestal at some conference saying we have to brave enough to fail? Success is learning to fail quickly?

My tone is deliberately sarcastic as how many of you really work in companies that truly support this behaviour with complete end to end (manager/HR/board) endorsement of trying “something new”?

Usually change management programmes are assigned because existing company processes do not permit or empower the development of doing things differently or because the initiative is radically different to the existing company focus.

Change of Direction

The fact is very very few companies have set up their organisation in a way that ensures constant development of ideas contrary to the core business focus.

“We make 99.9% of our revenue doing this “….” and now we are going to pay an individual to do something on a long shot.”

Hmmm not a common occurrence.

That said, I have had the fortunate opportunity in my career to be involved in a few change management initiatives where something new is not encouraged by the hoi polio.

I have concluded that I keep being tasked with these projects either because:

  • I am good at it or
  • Flexible enough to take on the challenge or
  • There is no-one else either brave enough (read here naive enough)

I say fortunate because without fail they are huge learning initiatives that have always forced myself to develop in ways I could not possibly fathom at the outset.

On reflection,  I have also initiated some of these programmes so I am my own worst enemy – I just hate working in an environment or situation where I know that if we did things differently it would be “Better”.

Ok so let us say a peer/boss/group come to you and say “insert employee name here” we want you take on this initiative “X, Y, Z”

My usual response is to immediately question the desired outcome/timeframe/budget/support -> not about whether I want to do it. In my opinion if you are asked to do you don’t say no. A topic for another blog.

You must question this framework because all things being equal if your are given the task you need the tools.

Without appropriate budget, persons and alignment on deliverables and timing you are doomed to failure.

Tips for Change

My personal lessons in change management:

Lesson one – Alignment

  • Have scope and deliverables agreed by ALL stakeholders. Don’t let the chance for fame or doing something different to the day job cloud your business common sense.
  • Make sure it is embedded in corporate strategy or sponsored by a senior stakeholder.  Change management projects that come from the side are successful for as long as they are successful. If not endorsed by the core business watch all your supposed friends and supporter running for the hills when the project starts to hit challenges.
  • Any change management initative will hit challenges.

Lesson two – Storytelling

  • Change management requires consistent consistent consistent story telling to new audiences daily and an absolute personal willingness and ability to learn and apply that learning damn quick.
  • Working agile? Try seat of your pants bravado while holding a pair of twos bluffing a full house
  • Have Three slides MAX that are introduced in every meeting/conference call etc that highlights what you are doing and why. Make these visual with iconography and a catchy project name. Get people enthused and talking about your stuff in an exciting way.
  • Consistency breeds understanding and recall. As soon as people get bored seeing the same slides you have started to get through your message.

Lesson three – Simplify

  • A key skill I would cite is being able to consistently translate the journey of learning to your peers and superiors into digestible chunks.
  • It is all too easy to forget or underestimate the knowledge gap with your peers on your programme and what you have discovered and consider “basic” understanding
  • Something new is inevitably something foreign ->  also ensure your learning is understood by senior management in the equivalent of one image or 15 second elevator pitch.
  • Soundbytes are key. Personal example-> When explaining Search to management I start by saying did you know that half our web traffic comes from search? So if we do not have the correct SEO programme in place or correct messaging around our products in the website that matches what consumers are typing in Baidu/Bing/Google we lose the eyeballs of half of all our global consumers? I can still hear the sound of the ahas from the audience now.

Lesson Four – Listen

  • On the journey of change management there will often be an individual who says “that won’t work” or “that will take longer”.
  • Don’t pigeon hole them into the same box as the rest of the guys and girls who sit there with crossed arms as you explain what you are doing and why.
  • They are hard to spot but usually are highly intelligent and seen by others as “difficult” -> Listen Listen Listen and understand from these persons.
  • Swallow your pride – I have asked certain members of my team to give me weekly educational sessions on “new stuff” in digital. They are the experts, I am only a manager.
  • Always take on external expertise or advice. Especially applicable if these individuals have been on similar journeys.

Lesson Five – Bullshit

  • Probably not in any business manual but sometimes you do need to say “yes we have considered that”, “yes this is endorsed by x,y,z” at the point of questioning because if you do not you lose credibility and pace – particularly in group meetings. Just make sure you immediately resolve afterwards and check the question/align with key stakeholder x,y,z.”
  • Confidence breeds confidence. Any hesitation or erring will have people laughing at you in their heads or perceiving the programme as a waste of time or doomed to failure.

“I look at the world and notice its turning while my guitar gently weeps;  With every mistake we must surely be learning”

– George Harrison ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’

Ben

A Waste of Time

I recently watched the brilliant film “Up in the Air” which stars George Clooney as a serial corporate traveller. I found myself laughing out loud at the airport scenes where he educates his new colleague about which security line to choose based on the types of person queuing or what type of hand luggage to travel with -> all with the goal of saving time.

Wasting Time

Wasting Time

I hate wasting time. I mean I have an abnormal, unhealthy abhorrence of it. My rantings about this has led one colleague to nick-name me “Defense” in reference to the Michael Douglas character from Falling Down. I now keep my tirades bemoaning why does British Airways check your ticket when you board a plane when they have already checked it at the gate, to myself.

defense

Michael Douglas - Falling Down

Needless to say I was one of the very first people to sign up to the Iris scan for British Passport control which shortcuts the increasingly long  passport queues in favour of an automated scan of your retina.  Now you can find me on Thursday nights in Terminal 3 becoming very twitchy when a person stands in the perspex booth ahead of me and negotiates with the eye scanner for longer than the unsaid allowance of one adjustment. “move a little closer…move a little backwards”

I know I am not alone. The George Clooney character personifies the modern mobile office worker.  On the plus side, I have never taken any moment for granted. But I do find myself in that weird no-man’s land of wanting to make the most of my life counter-balanced with the need for security and routine.

I have a friend who has a beautiful tattoo on his wrist which transpires to be a foreign language and the words “One life. One chance.”  I asked him what he was doing working in a global corporation and he looked at me kinda funny.

Ben

Networking = No working

When I first started my corporate life, i.e. got a job having left university, I made a pretty quick emotive decision that networking/schmoozing/hospitality was akin to taking a backhander.

To this day I avoid any sort of hospitality or gift that is sent my way where the sender has no true connection or understanding or most importantly, history with me.

I have turned down tickets to the champions league final, a trip to Namibia, a week in LA during the Oscars and so on…Many great experiences undiscovered but I feel justified and untainted in a way my friends do not comprehend.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a paragon of virtue. I have flown in a private jet to the football world cup, driven many different fast cars, met famous people, walked down many red carpets. On reflection, these “jollies” were more often than not given by my company entertaining “our customers” rather than me being entertained.

Life is about learning. I love to learn and re-learn. So my personal takeaway is that life is too short to do business with people you do not like. So there is a justification to entertain your customers or rather the guys and girls you want to say thank you to for making your working life more enjoyable.

Schmoozing, working the room

Schmoozing, working the room

So what about schmoozing or as it is called in our web 2.0 world, “networking”? Again, I am peering through the looking-glass here as I use LinkedIn, am quite happy to have my name on a press release and have started considering giving a talk or two…but work a room?

I guess my problem is how many people do you know who are really good at “networking” and self promotion are also brilliant at delivering projects, making a difference, and effective at business? I have a natural mis-trust where people who spend a disproportionate time on “themselves” spend too little time on their real job.

I knew a guy who was a serial networker and had all the associated trappings (a huge amount of contacts, a very senior role and an inability to focus on any one task for longer than a nano-second). He was quite proud about the fact that he spent half a day a week on “networking” and managing his career, be that improving his CV, LinkedIn profile, or contact list.

You will quite quickly glean from these posts that I am results orientated in my approach and don’t suffer woolly in any shape or form.

Great at networking may get you the interview, but half a day a week improving your profile?, not the person for my team.

Ben

Management is dead – Longlive being a manager

From conversing with colleagues, peers and friends about management challenges, it strikes me that all issues they and I cite are not captured in any real definition of management that I can find either in traditional textbooks or even online.

Lets check out a definition or two:

  • Management: the acts of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives.
  • Management = planning, organising, staffing, leading or directing…all with the aim of achieving a goal.

Sounds all good to me, very helicopter view like. Simple in fact.

Yet my issue is that you can and must add another couple of lines to define modern management. Vernacular like “doing”, “executing”, “deciding” would certainly be present in my definition.

I have written about the challenges of building team morale when people work in silos. Silos are a natural by-product of a person’s skill sets being increasingly specialist.

When you coach individuals in this increasingly common scenario you find yourself leading/guiding/directing on matters you ultimately do not understand as well or in as much detail as your subdorinates. Those who cannot do, teach.

Let us reverse engineer that.

Siloed yet highly skilled individual, “Hey boss can you advise me on whether I should do ‘A’ or ‘B’?”

General experienced boss, “Hmm, would you mind explaining what ‘A’ and ‘B’ are”

30min later….boss declares, “Fascinating, really learned something there. What was the question again?”

Siloed individual, “Which one should I do ‘A’ or ‘B’?”

boss, “What do you think?”

Not uncommon methinks…

So today managers are doers or they are dinosaurs. That is, threatened by extinction. You learn by doing. The challenge is then a manager who is willing to listen and learn from his team becomes a very bad parent. Time management suffers as tasks like emails and reading relevant articles on the web are completed  in the evening while their individual team members clock out on time.

I would volunteer that if you are a manager today who manages to work the same hours as your team, you are either incredibly gifted in which case send me your contact details or you are a poor manager.  Poor in the sense that you make decisions on things you do not understand (put it all on black)  with no desire to learn more.

Being a poor Time Manager or gambling with being found out as ignorant on matters you are responsible for seems to be the choice these days.

Ben

Managing silos

Silos a pillar of strength and weakness

A known challenge of the work place is how to break down the silos between departments.

I volunteer that the dilemma of the modern workplace is breaking down the silos between individuals.

The skill sets of your team are increasingly varied and specialist. Even in the case of digital marketing, I have witnessed first hand that the social media expert does not understand the challenges of  running the in-house website and search and analytics are not understood by the campaign manager.

Team meetings and calls do little to infuse shared learning. While everyone nods and watches each member present on their area they do not truly “get it” and certainly do not live it.

I have recently uncovered a potential solution by accident.

We have embarked on a series of events to educate and train marketing persons in our business on digital marketing, our strategy, terminology, how to etc. This usually involves an individual from the digital marketing team travelling to a “region” such as Asia or North America and presenting to a group of ~30 local marketing persons.

This has “forced” the team of individuals to understand the disciplines of others in the team. Comments like “Now I get how this CRM programme works”, “I feel more informed about Search” reinforce that the previous team activities and meetings have been ineffective.

So a manager’s prerogative of “Please do not do email in the meeting” and “listen to what has been presented”, “actively contribute” is trumped by the individual’s fear at being found out by his or her colleagues.  Simply put, presenting to an audience of your peers on a subject where perception is that you are the expert, compels you to be more prepared.

Fear has always had a way of sharpening concentration.

Ben