A Manager for the first time?

Management help DVD

Recently I was working with a lovely team of people, some of whom had been in management positions for a considerable amount of years.  They started by going through our three day programmer which, for want of a better description, lets call ‘Common Sense Leadership’.  Now these were not junior managers in their first supervisory positions but reasonably senior in a large corporate.  Some of them had been with the company for considerable years, some had been only a short time, some had had experience in a broad range of industries and some stayed mainly in the current one.  There was considerable diversity within the group.

Now I really believe that this programme genuinely is just common sense and the principles really important to understand when you first start a career and most definitely before you first take on any sort of supervisory position.  So why was it that their reactions consisted so much of ‘I wish I had learned this years ago’?  The more I work in business the more I realise how scarily people often move up in an organisation – a bit like chucking someone in the deep end of a swimming pool before knowing if they can swim and hoping they will learn quickly enough before they actually drown!

Ask yourself for one moment what happened when you were promoted to your first supervisory or management position.  Were you given the opportunity to attend some sort of development programme that enlightened you about the different skills that might be useful now you were about to take responsibility for leading a team of people?   Were you given some insight into how you might develop each individual in your team how to step into their potential?  Or …….. did you go home on the Friday leaving your current position knowing you were to step into your new role on Monday and very much hoping that some sort of osmosis will occur over the weekend turning you from employee to manager?  Sadly, far too often I see the latter happen and when I run a programme find that people have been in management positions for a considerable length of time – sometimes many years – and had no opportunity to learn how to be truly effective and how to get the best out of the people who work for and with them.

So what can this result in?  That you subconsciously take on the behaviours of the person or people who are above you.  Fascinatingly enough, it can even be behaviours that you yourself don’t like.  What do I mean by that?  Lets say you have a successful and very autocratic boss who basically makes the majority of decisions, likes to have his ideas implemented and takes up most of the air space in meetings.  This boss basically drives performance and is successful doing it – he cares about people and believes that he knows the way to keep the business moving forward – he is involved in everything!  Now, you may find this incredibly frustrating and restrictive but because his strength and his decisions normally have a successful output you keep a low profile and just get on with it.  Without even realising you are doing it, there is a very high probability that you will now adopt a similar style when managing your team.  What I see when people are managed this way are those who become pussycats upwards and dictators downwards.

Obviously if you have a different type of boss the opposite becomes true.  The style I have just described is totally a management style and not a leadership one and if that is the style that comes from the very top then the culture is likely to be one that suppresses individuals thinking for themselves and holds back their potential performance. It is likely to be a culture that believes managers are there to motivate their people rather than breeding leaders who know that their role is to inspire each individual to motivate themselves.

Management help DVD

My DVD is on sale now and highly recommended for your newly appointed managers.

So – to come back to where I started – without some understanding and learning about what it is that can make a great manager and leader you may acquire habits that are not entirely useful so find out all that you can BEFORE you take up that amazing opportunity.  It will reward you many times over and allow you to choose who you want to be rather than copying a style that may not sit comfortably with you at all.  I have become so frustrated with this that I have now launched a DVD suggesting that, if you are promoted without any thought about how you might tackle your new role, what are the first steps you could take to give yourself the very best opportunity to become an outstanding manager. Click here to find out more.  Other DVD’s will follow suggesting the next steps that would allow you to develop even more of your leadership potential.  Watch this space!


Manager or Leader – which is best?


The other day someone asked me if I thought management was bad and leadership good and that was a bit of a wake-up call for me – was I getting a message across in a way that inadvertently was suggesting this to be the case.  So – I think I had better put the record straight and say very clearly up front that no, most definitely I am not suggesting that for one second.

I use this as a definition and have said it many times so forgive me for repeating it again here.  “Outstanding managers drive people to perform at the highest level they are capable of and it is very much about control.  Outstanding leaders inspire them to do it for themselves and it is more about freedom”.

So, assuming that you can ‘buy in’ to this as a reasonably comfortable definition, what am I suggesting is the real difference between these two styles and when might one use one versus the other?

There are many, many hugely successful individuals who use management as a style rather than leadership – they have teams that are hugely motivated, successful and continually get great results.  These individuals can go into an organisation and take over a poor performing team and can transform them into an excited, highly motivated group of people that keep delivering fabulous results.  How do they do it?  Mostly by sharing all the things that have made them so successful over the years, coming up with great ideas, and in many ways trying to give them all that is possible to make them as much like they are as possible.  And it works – and works well!  However, does it work forever, is it sustainable even when that manager leaves and does it really release the potential of each person within that team.  This is where I have my doubts.

The best example that I can give you of this is when I had a Regional Manager from one of our retail clients come through our leadership programme.  He was the highest performing manager in the company and his division always came in with the top results.  I did observe that their life balance for each of them was severely out of kilter, which personally I consider sad as having a really great home life is very important.  The majority of us work to live not the other way round.  He was getting really frustrated as he really believed that they could still do better and no matter how much he pushed and encouraged performance had reached a plateau.  They were still top of the ‘leader board’ but he knew they could go higher and deliver yet more.  He was demonstrating all the behaviours of an ‘outstanding manager’ and felt there really was nothing more he could do – he had reached the stage of feeling helpless.  Now, when he joined the company and taken on this team it was clearly under-performing so what he had achieved was excellent and he was recognised accordingly.

What were the behaviours that he was demonstrating – the major things that were impacting his ability to raise the performance even more was that all ideas for improvement were coming from him.  They were all coming to him with their challenges, opportunities and problems, either asking him for his suggestions or ‘running it past the boss’ before pushing the button.  On top of that all his focus was on where things were not as good as they could be with him giving advice as to how to improve it.  His communication was all about ‘let me tell you’ and was all coming from ‘I’ plus he was continually looking for what was wrong.  They had become totally reliant on him to the point that even when he went on holiday his mobile went with him and he remained totally available to them if there was something where they felt they needed advice.  If he didn’t get a phone call he would worry and call in to check on what was happening.  He had almost become addicted to being the No 1 and was determined to stay there no matter what the cost.

Working with him to prove how successful he had been to this point and now it needed a different style was interesting to say the least!  What was now needed was to enable each person in his team to think for himself or herself and be able to fly WITHOUT HIM!!  He now had to keep his mouth shut, give them no ideas of his own but keep asking them questions to help them find their own solutions.  And this was after they had had many months of never having to think for themselves so it was tough on them.  All his focus and communication needed to change to looking for and then telling them the things they were doing well, even the little things, plus having the majority of his communication about ‘you’.  He needed to become very skilled at listening and asking powerful incisive questions.  Just to put this in perspective, when he attended the programme and we measured his communicating behaviour he was 99% in the ‘I’ and 1% in the ‘you’!!!  He was scared s……s!!!

He did ‘get it’ and was determined to change his style even though he found it incredibly difficult in the early days.  He had habits that had been ingrained for years of driving performance and caring for his people so much that he wanted to help and guide them all the time.  He was also worried sick that now performance would drop without him driving it!  The reality was that for a couple of months performance did plateau – it didn’t drop but it didn’t improve – for the first two months.  After that it began to take off and performance went up gradually and then gathered momentum and exceeded by far anything they had every done before.  Motivation improved and people’s home lives became so much better which equaled a happier team.  What he was forced to realise was that what had actually been holding back the full potential of the individuals and the team was him!

So – coming back to where I started let me say very clearly that management was almost certainly exactly the right style for when he joined the company and took on a team that was under-performing and feeling pretty down and wanting some evidence that they could actually be good.  He did a fantastic job.  What he hadn’t realised was that he now needed to become a leader so that they could now grow into their full potential and, who knows, become even better than him!  To keep him on the straight and narrow he actually decided to become a trainer of the leadership programme so that he had a constant reminder and was setting himself up quite deliberately to then get feedback when he began to slip ….. as we all do!

Penny has worked with businesses like British Gas and Metrobank to inspire long lasting positive change within the company, in order to take steps towards success and leadership. Contact her at The Living Leader to book an appointment or to book her to speak at one of your events. She is also on Facebook and Twitter! Feel free to leave your thoughts and comment below.

Motivation – from me or you?


Today has been an interesting day with one small part of it challenging me and, as always, giving me yet another learning opportunity!  As any of you who read my blogs or have worked with me over the years know, I am a bit of a dog nutter – well, probably more than a bit!  There are not many weeks in the year when I am not visiting Peter Branch and Anji Forte at Newbury Lodge Kennels with one of my six dogs involved in some sort of dog training.  There is invariably one of them going through either their Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum obedience training and at the moment it is my little Molly.

Now, I guess I consider Molly my most special as she is the ‘follow-on’ from my very first long-haired Jack Russell, Honey, who started my passion for these little dogs 25 years ago.   As a breed they are feisty and courageous characters, little dogs who believe they are big dogs, very individual and with huge hearts.  She has already passed her Bronze and Silver and Peter persuaded me that taking her for the Gold would be good – for her and me!  Why is she such a challenge?  Because she knows exactly and very quickly what I want her to do, knows how to do it, and will happily do it ……….. when she wants to!

My big challenge is how to keep her motivated because she just gets bored and switches off.  When she is like that my temptation is to do all I can to keep her focus on me, keep her occupied and keep pushing her, and occasionally find it hard not to get frustrated with her when she doesn’t do what she knows perfectly well how to do.

Forget my dog training for one moment – does this sound a familiar story back in the work place?  When I was doing a webinar the other week I got asked a question that made me think.  “How do you get people to bring their passion and motivation back when they seem to have lost it?”  Much of the time we believe that one of the main things we need to do as a manager is take responsibility for motivating our team and we do all we can to inspire and drive performance.  Now I know that way of thinking is not useful because that means that I am thinking like a manager and not a leader so the risk with that is that I can actually become the blocker.  If I think of the difference between the two in very simple terms – ‘outstanding managers drive people to perform at the highest level they are capable of and it is very much about control. Outstanding leaders inspire them to do it for themselves and it is more about freedom.’

Let’s assume for one moment that I am a really successful manager, pretty senior in my business and continually get great results.  There is a strong likelihood that I will be full of great ideas, often sharing my thoughts and my suggestions based on my knowledge and experience.  My communication will largely consist of ‘I think, I suggest, I don’t agree’ and it will be that way because I care so much about them being successful and I want to help them – I want to give them the benefit of my wisdom.  The sad reality is that if I keep telling them what to do I am going to be inadvertently suppressing their thinking and they can never be better than I was yesterday.

The fact is I am very aware that it is not my role to motivate others because if I carry that as a belief I have to accept that when I am not there motivation is likely to drop.  I need to step away from management into leadership.  My role is to inspire them to motivate themselves and that means holding back on my thoughts, ideas and suggestions and changing the way I communicate.  It needs to become more of ‘what do you think, how might you handle that, that’s a great idea that you just had, let me be sure that I have understood you correctly ……… ‘.

So why did training with Molly today remind me of this?  Because I found myself trying to push her, using treats, getting frustrated and getting nowhere!  So after the break I did it differently and during each gap I played with her, talked to her and before each exercise asked her how she felt about doing it (yes really!!!) and stopped luring her with treats but saved them until she completed the exercise.  Result?  A different dog, excited and did everything successfully!

Penny has worked with businesses like Sage and Argos to inspire long lasting positive change within the company, in order to take steps towards success and leadership. Contact her at The Living Leader to book an appointment or to book her to speak at one of your events. She is also on Facebook and Twitter! Feel free to leave your thoughts and comment below.

Confidence – a myth or a choice?


Earlier this week I had a speaking engagement – a short one.  Well, meant to be 30 minutes but because of an over-run from the speaker before me ended up as 22 minutes!  Had I been in a position where I was using slides and timed myself to that structure I could have been in trouble – but – fortunately, whenever possible, I don’t speak that way.

Why is it that using slides and giving myself too much of a structure doesn’t work for me?  So many people who have to speak in front of large audiences cannot understand how I can just get up there without any notes and only a vague structure and free flow.

It took time for me to have the confidence to do it this way because much of my ‘education’ in public speaking was about the structure, the overheads, the practice and so on.   And it was not just about the big issue of finding the confidence but recognising that, for me, this was the only way to make it work successfully.  And yes, despite the cutting short with no notice, just a 5-minute card being shown to me, I did get really fantastic feedback.

Twenty years ago I would not have been able to stand up and speak in front of a group of 6, let alone the largest group where I have presented to about 1000 people.  At that time my confidence was so low that thinking I would have to speak in front of even a very small group I know that my voice would have been trembling, my hands sweating, probably close to tears and complete panic going on inside.  So what is it that changed?

I had one of those wonderful ‘ah-ha’ moments where suddenly something became very clear to me.  I won’t bother to share the whole story so you get weary reading this but suffice to say that my elder daughter had asked me to go and speak to some of her clients and I couldn’t let her down – even though at the very last minute she told me there were to be 40 people not 4!!!  As I was driving down to the venue a friend who was with me in the car asked how I was feeling about the upcoming talk and upon me saying I was terrified asked me why.  My response was long and crazy but included such things as – ‘they’ll think it’s a load of rubbish’, ‘I’ll forget what I have to say and they won’t understand me’, ‘they’ll blame Lucy for wasting their time to come and hear me’, ‘they won’t like me’, etc. etc.  I will never forget what he said to be next – it truly was like a silver bullet straight between the eyes!  He said ‘ why are you thinking about you?’

I realised in that moment that every time I had a confidence problem I was thinking about me, thinking about ‘get’.  I have no control over ‘get’ at all, I only have control over what I ‘give’.  My reputation is not inside of me and what anybody chooses to think about me is little to do with me and I certainly can’t control that.  My life changed in that moment and focusing on what I can ‘give’ became my life.

Think about it for one moment in very simple terms.  Imagine you are about to take on a new job and someone asked you to describe how you want the job to be.  I am sure you could come up with a wonderful list – a supportive boss, one who listens, great colleagues, a job that stretches me and allows me the opportunity to make a difference etc. etc.  Then ask yourself how much you can actually control that and the answer is not a lot.  However, ask yourself what you can give to that job to help it become the job of your dreams and you begin to realise how much you can give and influence it to be an amazing career choice!  How often do we focus on how we can get the best from our team, our colleagues, our partner?  Perhaps asking yourself a different question may be worth considering – ‘what can I give to my team, my colleagues, my partner to create the best relationships possible and free them to become the best they can be?’.

So – when I go on to that stage, all I think about after I have planned the first sentence is ‘what can I give to this audience, or a few people in it, that will make a real difference to the way they think and can add real value to their lives in some way shape or form’.  I let go of everything else and I speak from my heart with real authenticity, openness and honesty.  Do the nerves go entirely – most definitely not – but – when I am waiting to go out there and feel the butterflies doing cartwheels around my insides I ask myself ‘who am I thinking about right now?’  If the panic is beginning to set in the answer is always the same – my thinking has slipped to the wrong place and I change it and ask myself ‘if I knew that I can give some really great ideas to a few people out there what would I want to share and how might I choose to get the message across?’

Penny has worked with businesses like Sage and Argos to inspire long lasting positive change within the company, in order to take steps towards success and leadership. Contact her at The Living Leader to book an appointment or to book her to speak at one of your events.