Previously MD of one of the first companies in the UK to achieve Investors In People status, and also Queen's Awards for both Export and Technology. Then founding Chairman of nationwide management consultancy.
Non-Executive Director of over 15 companies in the last 20 years and frequent business speaker.
Author of 'How to Negotiate Better Deals', 'The First-Time Sales Manager' and 'Developing Your Career in Management', and many tips booklets and business articles. http://www.jeremythorn.co.uk/top-tips/
What an excellent article!
With regard to the 'dark side' behaviours, I agree that 360 degree appraisal may be far less likely to pick these up - not just for the reasons stated, but because not all appraisers may be inclined to comment negatively, or even objectively.
Far better, quicker and simpler in my experience, and often more reliable, would be the Hogan Development Survey (HDS) - a psychometric instrument specifically designed to pick up potential 'dark side career derailers'.
This is a much less expensive on-line tool, whether for personal development, coaching or even recruitment, than 360 appraisal. Although it is self-scored by the participants, it actually measures what others think of us rather than what we may think of ourselves. (Also allied to this are the Hogan companion HPI questionnaire, to measure the 'sunny side' high performance potential, and the MVPI questionnaire that measures values and organisational fit. There is also a related 'Safety Report' to assess employees' attitudes to risk and safe working, especially helpful to assess those working in high-risk environments.)
If anyone wants to know more, I use Three Minute Mile in the UK to train users and help administer these Hogan reports - www.3minutemile.co.uk (0) 845 130 5927 - lwhom I find to be really helpful and knowledgeable.
Wise words! But the question is rightly asked: how do you get Owner-Managers to realise when the time is up for them to let go a little and let others do what they used to?
Having worked professionally with quite a large number of such people (whom I greatly admire, by the way, not the least in having been one myself!), I find it very helpful to clarify the well-published transition of *all* successful businesses from being 'Owner Managed' to 'Team Managed' in due course, with real live examples of both those who made this leap and succeeded, and those who didn't and failed.
Because so many successful business founders have had to live by their own wits and be self-sufficient, they often agree that this transition will be necessary one day, "but not just yet"!
So then I would most often invite them to identify their own skills and qualities, as (usually) highly enterprising, innovative and undoubtedly focussed business-founders, and those skills they might perceive of other professional managers, perhaps in their larger customers, competitors, suppliers or even neighbours whom they most admire, and invite them to identify the differences. Which of course are legion.
That is part of the job done, but only part because the typical response is "we can't afford the luxury of such expensive people", often accompanied by "they could never be as dedicated and committed as I am" and "they can't know the business like I do" - which may even be true.
So the crunch questions may well then be: i) assuming you want your business to continue growing, how will you ever know when the time comes to let go a little, and won't then be too late? ii) For example, what would happen to your business and all your investment of time, energy and money, if you ever fell under the proverbial bus, and how would your company and dependents then fair? iii) If you don't start to let go of some areas which others might look after rather well, why would your best people with talent stay with you? What's in it for them? iv) Have you ever thought who might succeed you one day, and wouldn't you feel easier if you started to identify some of them sooner rather than later?
But these are all rational, logical questions, and the real underlying issues are very often not logical but emotional, and commonly subterranean and unspoken. Yet they can't be dealt with until they are surfaced sensitively, acknowledged openly and explored realistically. Typical examples include: Will I still be just as valued if I start to let go, or will I be sidelined and eventually lose control? How might I maintain my status within my community? (Often far more important than many might think.) What if it all went wrong? What if it all went right - and what on earth would I then do with my spare time if I started to let go a bit? (Also a more frequent concern than many might expect!)
This journey can take quite a long time, and it needs a really trusting relationship to build this. This might be with a skilled consultant, coach or similar adviser, but often an experienced Non-Exec Director and/or facilitated peer-review group can be far more effective (and independent) in the longer term - and often less expensive.
I hope helpful?
-- Jeremy Thorn
Well here is a heading that must attract many readers! - but seemingly no reponses as yet?
As an interested outsider, without wishing to argue against a polled result however small the sample, isn't this survey finding at least partly due to the fact that, in many organisations:
- the HR function is often a 'Cinderella function', dumped on by many other managers who might far better have been advised to have taken a more proactice interest in managing their teams more professionally themselves in the first instance?
- the perception by many that 'HR' is one narrow area of expertise, rather than a vast conglomerate of widely differing professional skills and aptitudes that may have little in common with each other (ie no different from other professionas such as accountancy, the lawyers or engineering, for example), save only that they all involve 'people' in one way or another?
- the difficulties that any HR professional faces in acquiring broad ,useable expertise across all its many components, while also developing more specific professional skills in greater depth, *and* progressing their own career advance at the same time?
Actually, I blame many elements of the vast array of continually-changing Enployment legislation - hard enough to keep on top of even in more narrow and selective parts of HR! That, and the organisational challenge of using skilled HR professionals outside their own function to acquire greater experience.
Maybe *all* management trainees should have a detailed spell in HR before any promotion? That at least might prevent some in causing many of the problems which HR staff so often have to clear up afterwards!
- Jeremy Thorn
Great article - great replies!
Can I offer to bust two more myths with my own observations?
First, really great leaders *aren't* always the most senior in an organisation.
(Classic example - the Beslan siege, if you might recall it. Who led the unorganised but most effective response to a desperate and unfolding tragedy? Not the Government, nor any officials, but the parents of the children taken hostage.)
Second, of course effective leadership behaviours *can* be identified and mapped! The only problem is that they are organisation and culturally specific, and not necessarily translatable anywhere else.
(Which of course is surely why so many acclaimed leaders may well fail in their next organisation...)
Isn't that your experience too?
-- Jeremy Thorn
I agree with the points made, but what is recommended for the HR Director is just as applicable to the Non-Executive Directors.
And indeed, in really difficult circs, the HR Director is going to want their support and contribution - just as much as they may need their HR Director's!
I think David's point in his reply about 'job-enjoyment' (not 'happiness') is critical to engagement. It surely defies common-sense to think that anyone will engage significantly and productively with any organisation, where their job is down-right 'unenjoyable'?
So can a 'horrid job' actually be 'enjoyable'? You bet it can! Even though your 'horrible' may not be mine.
Depending on how we each are made, it could most traditionally be about shared goals, values and recognised achievement, reciprocated team loyalty - and even shared adversity. Think 'the Arned Services' as a great example, and many others. (I'd personally add many nursing roles and coal mining, as other interesting examples in completely different worlds. All jobs I wouldn't want to do myself, yet I know many personally who have said they truly *loved* their work!)
But it could be much more about personal achievement and challenges overcome. Think 'Accountancy', or 'Dentistry' perhaps, or 'Software Engineering', or even being an Olympic athlete? - in case that helps you to think usefully of roles you might personally hate, but which clearly can engage many others collegiately?
Or it could be just about 'control', (hmm, I'd better be careful here! Eg: some managers and many entrepreneurs?), or as a psychological subset, just 'free choice', which may well apply to many of us?
And of course it could even be more about some 'greater purpose', which may perhaps have none of the above qualities of a job. What about being a Bishop for example? - probably one of the least understood and most demanding of roles, even if that particular career-path may never have occurred to you! Or a Careers Counsellor a Fund-raiser or Politician?
However we are made though, I can offer a more global, generic shaft of insight. Job enjoyment and satisfaction, that may lead to 'engagement', to my mind requires at least all five positive answers below, typically known as 'Sapiential Choice':
1) I know WHAT my job is;
2) I know WHY my job is important, and how it impacts on the rest of the organisation;
3) I know HOW to do it, and others give me credit for this:
4) I am told WHEN I have done it well, and the consequences of this;
5) I know HOW I might do it even better, and am encouraged to do so.
How does that sound and feel to you?
This is not of course the full story. This doesn't cover the 'felt fairness' of comparative rewards, or even absolute reward versus perceived needs. It doesn't equally take into account any subversive elements of counter-ideology, the effect of historic promises broken, core values breached or insensitve approaches to wholesale change. But not a bad start?
I fully share David's comments. And for sure, if you want to be seen as competent, in any function, it is vital to have a strong team behind you!
Can I also suggest, two other tips for enhancing your internal profile?
First, focus on finding solutions rather than just problems? NOT always easily done I know, especially in the fast-changing HR-world. But that is what I think you will find Boards admire most in their senior HR team. (External lawyers are often criticised for being brilliant at telling their clients what they *can't* do - but they don't have to run the business! Your Board will almost certainly want to know what they *can* do!)
Secondly, may I suggest you try very hard to avoid being seen by your senior colleagues in other functions as a 'copper's nark'? I have seen too many good HR people, perhaps seeking to curry favour and grab the CEO's attention in particular, alert the Board to strictly local, minor issues and office-gossip that may far better have stayed local. The Board may delight in your inside knowledge on such occasions and your 'finger on the pulse'. But you may just as quickly lose the goodwill and trust of the senior functional managers you most need to serve.
All best wishes,
I find that building mutual trust, respect and integrity is vital for any collaborative 'Win-Win' deal, in any culture. Of course, one can never be assured that the other side actuially wants a collaborative deal, whether buying, selling or negotiating with organised labour - even though all experienced negotiators from both sides will know that the 'best net sum deal' requires both parties to move to a position of mutual advantage. And as workforces and their management most usually need each other's goodwill and co-operation, whatever the public rhetoric, that will most commonly be promoted by both sides listening to each other and aiming to address each other side's significant issues in good faith. (Not very different from negotiating a divotce really? Either side can take the other to the cleaners, but only for mutual disadvantage. And not necessarily a different suibject!)
As it happens, I have been running Negotiating workshops for over two decades now, internationally across most cultures, in buying, selling and managing employee-relations. What prompted me to do this was because I had to find out the hard way how to negotiate effectively. (It turns out that here is a vast body of academic reserach on this but, amazingly, it seems to be little read. That didn't stop me writing a practical hands-on book on this, I must say, but the knowlege is freely available for those who search!)
And the problems that arises most often in my experieince are that at least one side a) didn't know what they really wanted; b) wasn't sure what they had to trade to achieve their objectives; c) let their emotions get in the way; and d) - most importantly - didn't know 'how' to negotiate. They may miss well-intended but covert signals, not know how to make productive counter-proposals, they may make unsutainable claims and yet may offer hostages to fortune they will regret and cannot deliver, and mismanage the time available. Every professional negotiator#'s nightmare!
In the last analysis, you can't 'make' an unwilling party settle. But you can stay cool, calm and collected; say nothing you might regret later and ignore any personal insults; and 'stick to your last'. Insist on giving nothing for nothing in return, and above all, build on mutual respect and integrity. And remember? Like any relationship, no deal may be better than a bad deal!
I have long admired Prof Cary Cooper for his deep insight into OD issues and his practical common-sense. If I could start my career again, I'd love to do what he does, even half as ably!
However, I am not at all sure that his ideal model based on this interview would define the sort of organisation I want to be served by. Warm interpersonal skills are great, but as a customer I want to talk to somebody who knows their product, will go the last mile for me, understands my needs and has products/services I really want to buy, delivered reliably, and can make all this happen with mandated authority.
I have no issue with creating a vibrating enthusiastic organisation to deliver all his, stress-free, equality-sensitive and EQ-loaded, but could we not also focus on satisfying customers too as the first priority? I have never seen a 'happy' organisation short of work. And even in the public sector, which might never have to fight for 'work', I have never seen a fulfilled workforce with disatisfied users. (Ask around if you are not sure!)
I am certain that Cary Cooper might say that customer satisfaction comes from happy employees - and if he wouldn't, I would. But the reverse is not necessarily true. And the sooner HR departments understand that, most especially in larger organisations who may be most distant from their employers' clientele, I would suggest the more successful UK plc might be, in a very competitive international world that is eating our breakfast, right now...
But then, I am sure the wonderful Prof might have said all this if asked? HR can be great at Process, but what about Outcomes? |That's what your Board most wants, by the way, and your customers and stakeholders too!)
YAY to Christina! And this doesn't just apply to ourselves, but to all those whom we manage and have responsibility.
If you want a motivated and 'intelligent'/learning organisation, as I am sure we all do, can I promote the philosophy of 'Sapiential Control'? I know this is a rather unappealing name, but this is for free - and it works!
("Sapiens"? Latin for wisdom and knowledge. Origin? Japanese, I believe. But I got it from a deeply wise ex-SAS officer who moved into Organisational Development, Continuous Improvement and 'Total Quality' - one Eric Laws...)
All my own hands-on management experience leads me to believe that this is essential in any workforce, and yet is(strangely) counter-cultural for many organisations. It requires some degree of trust, sincere respect for those we employ, and a wise management! See what you think?
The thesis is that most people really do want to do a good job, at any level. (If you don't agree, read no further?) But they need to be allowed to do so, and the right conditions. Of course, 'management' must manage the work, but the rest of us must be allowed to manage our own jobs within that constraint. Of course, this needs shared corporate/organisational objectives, shared values, mutual trust, great communication skills and conduits, and all the rest. But it also requires each employee's 'sapiential control' of their own job, once fully trained, specifically informed by the answers to the following five questions:
- I know WHAT my job is;
- I know 'WHY' my job is, and how it impacts on all my colleagues. (Christina' point?);
- I know HOW to do my job - obviously?;
- I know HOW WELL I am doing - well, badly or indifferently - objectively and fairly (and regularly, not intermittently!);
- I know (or am encouraged to find out ) HOW to to do it EVEN BETTER.
All blindingly obvious? I always thought so as an MD - until I asked my colleagues across some 25 sites in the UK when I first came across this philosophy. Some managers resisted - especially first-line supervisors. ("What? - take away *our* control? You'll do us out of a job!") Now, some years later after talking with many other organisations, I know this is not at all obvious!
And what a breath of fresh air this approach can produce! People I was responsible for who had even quite 'ordinary' (if very important) jobs in my organisation felt able to contribute meaningfully for the first time. They knew very well what worked within their own jobs, and what didn't. But they claimed they had never been asked! (Not actually true in many cases, but they believed they hadn't been listened to - which was almost certianly true.) And in this new environment, they came up with more ingenious and productive ideas within their own spehere of action than many more highly paid managers had done in several generations. The principles of 'Kaizen' (little by little, small continuous improvements add up to vast leaps forward) - beautifully demonstrated.
Do try it? But please note: this process has to be driven, and fully supported, from the top! If the bosses don't really believe in it, why should anyone else?