Monthly Archives: April 2013

//April

He was so nice in the beginning!

Sometimes when you’re involved in a change project the people who seem the most supportive in the beginning turn out to be anything but supportive.

Last night one of my Bayard colleagues told me that when he explained to one of his client’s senior managers about the project he was planning and the benefits that it would bring, the manager was very supportive.

“Harley, you can’t imagine he was keen to learn more, he listened well and he nodded with (what I took to be) support and enthusiasm. But here I am now ten months later with my team on the point of delivery and he’s turned into a monster. Nothing is right. He’s complaining about this and complaining about that. He has even, at times, become quite aggressive and anything but helpful. I just don’t know what’s gone wrong”!

I told my colleague that I have observed this many times. At the beginning of projects we spend so much time with the resistors that we take any supportive person as a blessing and tend not to give them the attention they deserve. Now I am not saying this was the case here but, maybe this guy got left behind? Maybe in the beginning he really did agree with the idea but it was very high level.

Now it’s becoming real, he can see exactly how the project will impact on him and his people and he doesn’t like it.  Perhaps you didn’t tell him the real why of the project: to find efficiency gaps in the teams and to expose over resourcing across departments?

Give me resistant people any day, I prefer them, at least you always know where they’re coming from!

My colleague and I discussed his particular situation in some depth and we came to conclusion that he would speak with the difficult manager one to one, to be open but firm with him. To let him know that like it or not he would deliver and that although he would rather deliver with his support, he would still deliver without it. The goal would be to try and bring the difficult manager on side. And he would do this firstly by working out what exactly was on in his mind, by seeing it from his point of view and his only.

My regular readers will know by now, that I believe that in these situations it is a waste of time to reflect on your opinion because it is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is what the resistor thinks and to come up with a custom built strategy to turn him around.  

Tomorrow my colleague will send his difficult manager m an email with the title “I didn’t want to bring this up in the meeting yesterday but…”  And with the right body text (short but intriguing) he should get the half an hour face to face meeting he needs.  I bet that by the time it is finished the two of them might not be hugging but I am sure that the situation will be much, much better. And with a little bit of trust reinforcement it will get back on track again. How do I know this?  Because I have seen my colleague in action before – and once he he’s found the right angle, he never fails 

So hug your resistors and never take for granted unnaturally open and positive supporters, in time they may well become your worst nightmare!  As we all know; even good children end up behaving badly if they see the bad ones getting all the attention. Who knows what is on the mind of my colleague’s client? All I hope for is that by the end of the day, I will!

Have a good week,

Harley

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Speed limiter!

I have been using a piece of technology in my car that I have never used before. In fact until recently I didn’t know quite what it was or how it worked. It’s called a ‘speed limiter’. You’ve probably got one in your car but maybe, like me, you’ve never used it?

I am familiar with cruise control, I mostly use it in the Netherlands to make sure I do not go over the speed limit. But when you think about it logically, cruise control is the wrong tool to solve speeding problems.  Who wants to cruise when all you want to do is drive to the max?

Compare this with running a business, if you pronounced that you were ‘running your business on cruise control’ you would be laughed out of the building. I like driving myself and my teams to the max but the question is; what is the max and is it safe?

This is where the speed limiter comes in. You select the maximum speed you want to drive at and then you can do what you like, accelerate as hard as you want, you cannot go over the limit you set for yourself.  After a week of regular use the result is that not only do I get loads of nice electronic smiley faces thanking me for my compliance to local speed limits but also my fuel consumption has dropped dramatically! I feel like a significant volunteer to saving the planet.

I must admit, at first it felt really strange, my accelerator pedal spongy and unresponsive. I had to get used to not worrying that something was wrong. One glance at the dashboard told me that everything was fine I was just driving at my max. When this occurs I have two choices either to tweak the little joystick upwards and increase my maximum speed allowance by another 10Km per hour or to simply leave the joy stick alone and just sit back and relax and obey the law.

Nowadays I find myself driving to my limits and in doing so I weirdly seem to have more time for everything.   I arrive a little bit later it’s true but I am much better prepared.  Instead of listening to the radio, I now drive in silence; more focused on my driving. And all the while I am thinking through the challenges facing me at my destination. So when I finally arrive, I am much more relaxed and far better prepared for whatever may come my way.

You should try it sometime!

Have a good week,


Harley

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Two bosses better than one?

When it comes to parental responsibility and the repayments of bank loans and personal credit cards, both parents in a household take on equal responsibility under European law.  In practice, the majority of households do just fine with a leadership of two. So why does it seem to be so difficult for some business to handle the concept of joint responsibility when it comes to business units, departments and projects?  If you have the right partnership, two can do the job equally well, if not better than one?  

I am a big believer in down to earth, pragmatic management and it is obviously much simpler (on paper) with only one person responsible. But when one is lucky enough to have a good double act at ones finger tips, then my advice is don’t screw it, promote it. Dynamic duos in business can be refreshing and effective.

I remember an Architectural practice in the UK that had two leading partners, one had a natural gift for sniffing out money and clients while the other had great ideas and was an excellent motivator and manager of the creative team. The combination was electric. Both were equally responsible for the fortunes of the company and its employees. Quite simply, the company would never have been so successful without either one of them.

I, not surprisingly, believe in partnerships, in both my private and business life. The big problem I see in business is that too many people confuse status reporting from responsibility. Don’t rely on only one of the partners for the latest status report but go to the project manager or look in the company’s performance dashboards. They will give you the up to the minute, unbiased details.  When it comes to board room presentations, the best one gives it or, as applicable, it’s a double act.

So the next time you’re looking for a new department head, if there happens to be two people available that work incredibly well together, consider moving them both into the role rather than risking losing them both.

Couples have many advantages, not least being able to see issues from two points of view, increasing empathy and balance in the work place. In addition, however, a duo has the ability to unite in times of difficulty and can benefit from being able to motivate one group of people in different ways. Carrot and stick, good cop, bad cop – whatever is required.

But don’t just take my word for it, ask one of my Partners! :-)


Have a good week,

Harley

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How good do you think your idea sounds to someone else?

Imagine it’s the year 2000 and you are sitting in a TV program brainstorming meeting where you are being encouraged to suggest some ideas for new and exciting TV programs; programs that will attract millions of viewers. This is the scene; there are a few guys inthe room and a couple of women.

One of the women suggests the idea of a cookery program where the participants each have to bake a cake and the best cake maker wins a plastic trophy. Another woman suggests that you encourage people from all over the country to come together and see which of them can sew the best dress “You could add tips and tricks about different types of stitching and lacework” she adds. Think about it: If you had suggested these things you would have been laughed out of the room?!

And yet here we are in 2013 and recently 2.5Million people in the UK tuned in to watch the first ‘Great British Sewing bee’ TV show.  And 7.2 Million people watched a program about baking cakes, and a massive 30 Million people (half the UK population) watched a single episode of ‘Master Chef’.  Whoever could have predicted this?

The old sewing machine shop in the town was just about to close its doors for the last time but wait! A last minute absurdly weird and unpredictable craze for making your own sclothes has just emerged and very soon we’ll see sewing machines shops opening across the country, replacing the old CD record stores.

So the lesson is to look deep, understand why it is that these ideas work. Try to second guess whether your idea is going to embraced as something brilliant or laughed out of court is a complete waste of time. All you need to do is to think it through and if it sounds OK to you then remind yourself that it might also sound OK to someone else. Be confident,  proud and strong about your idea and most of all dare to share it. Don’t worry about the criticism, there’s no such thing as a stupid idea, just stupid people that don’t yet see it. And if no one does see it, just wait a decade or so, you never know, it might just sound good again. On the other hand…

Have a good week,

Harley

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Cutting up nice and closely to the trees

There’s a small orchard in Kent. It is a place of peace and tranquility. A local gardening firm is employed to keep it in good shape. They prune the trees and cut the grass. Time was, not so long ago, that everything was just fine – that is until the boss took over.

The person that used to cut the grass was an expert, he carefully steered his ride on mower right up to the base of each tree. He meticulously ensured that he never damaged the trunks, stopping just short every time. And if a low hanging branch was in the way, he carefully pruned it to just the right height. In fact, when he had done the job the orchard looked perfect.

The grass cutter was no ordinary man; he lived in a small caravan on a farm. He kept himself to himself and seemed to be content with what he had. Some would call him ‘simple’, others ‘a loaner’.  In any case, he didn’t fit in with the other guys in the gardening firm.

Today the boss cuts the grass. He takes almost as long as his employee did but he doesn’t get up close to the trees.  He says he hasn’t got time to prune the branches or to trim the ugly high grass he leaves behind around the bases of the trunks.

And if the owner of the orchard complains the boss maintains that she is lucky to have him come out and do the job at all. And when she asks ‘what happened to the nice young man who used to keep her orchard so neat and tidily in hand?’ The Boss replies. ‘He was a rare sort; I think he went away because the other men teased him too much’. And when the owner asks ‘So why didn’t you stop them and go after him and welcome him back?’ The boss replies ‘You can’t change human nature madam. Boys will be boys and men will be men. It’s not my job to keep the peace. And anyway there was only one of him and seven of the others.’

I heard this sad story only last week. It was told to me by the owner of the orchard. Like the owner of the orchard, I too, find it unacceptable that some employers neglect their duty to project individuals from bullying. I also find it a shame that we do not see more diversity in the work place. The right person in the right job can deliver such astonishing results.

Have a good week,

Harley

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