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Alliance Homes Group – Mature People Management

Maturity Doesn’t Always Come With Age

Mature people management practice hinges on how you do it, not how long you’ve been doing it. And it starts with values.

When we think about a mature person, we usually imagine someone who has learned from experience over many years. But when we apply the word to people management, it doesn’t always work like that. It’s perfectly possible for long-established businesses to get stuck in an entrenched mindset where development, change and ‘enlightened’ thinking are simply not on the agenda. On the other hand, there are relatively young organisations out there that have embedded a set of values into their development strategy, demonstrating a truly mature approach to people management.

People management

Values for identity, quality and purpose

A west of England community-based social enterprise providing housing management, care and support, maintenance, and green energy solutions, Alliance Homes Group is a great example of this.
In 2006, it had just split away from the Local Authority, where it had been a directorate merged with Adult Social Services. As an organisation now standing on its own, the team at Alliance Homes Group faced a great many challenges, including how to change their culture from one dependent on the public purse to an independent, energetic and enterprising service provider with its own recognisable brand.

One advantage Alliance Homes Group had was the enlightened thinking of the Chief Executive, Clive Bodley, and his senior team. Their primary focus was on customers and service users, so a great deal of work went into developing a set of customer service values, with some high-quality training to support this. Cleverly, they made these values applicable to Alliance Homes Group as an employer as well. Through facilitated staff events, they involved their people in creating and expressing a set of words they could apply internally as well as externally.

With those values and commitments in place, published and owned by everyone, they had a solid foundation from which to develop. And develop they did. Strategic planning, role descriptions, appraisals, training and communications have all been planned and implemented with explicit links being made back to the values.

Surveys and employee voices shaping improvement

One demonstration of how their emotionally intelligent approach is working is how the employee survey has come to be treated by departments like HR, Finance and IT as a customer satisfaction measure. They agree improvements to the service they provide internally in just the same way as the customer-facing teams do in response to the survey results they receive.

Alliance Homes Group were committed to consulting with the whole team on a five-year corporate plan and putting in place their own systems to implement it. They formed a Performance Management Group to oversee the whole process at corporate, team and individual levels. They recognised the need to evaluate as they went along, and invited me to carry out an internal perception-gathering exercise.

An online appraisal system was designed, with ratings against a comprehensive list of competencies. But there were issues. Although there were many performance metrics in place, people weren’t making the best use of the information these provided. So we streamlined the process into a crystal-clear traffic light report approach, published to both customers and staff.

Another issue Alliance Homes Group faced was people not being clear about the role of managers, and having an inconsistent understanding of what was expected of them. To address this, Alliance Homes Group rolled out a modular management development programme with additional coaching elements, which, over time, led to a real change in managers’ behaviour. One of the administration team told me, “I feel inspired – my manager supports me and is willing to share his knowledge and experience to help me progress.”

To accreditation and beyond

In 2010, Alliance Homes Group felt it was ready for Investors in People accreditation, invited the assessor in and achieved Bronze on its first go. But as with many businesses where excellence in people management  is embedded in everything they do, the improvement didn’t stop there. Despite a major restructure, which led to a lot of pressure on Alliance Homes Group’s HR team (three TUPE projects in a single year!), the organisation continued in its commitment to developing its culture and its people.

“We were due to be re-assessed at the end of 2013, so 12 months before that Lance carried out an informal audit for us to benchmark where we were,” explains Amanda Strange, Assistant Director of HR. “Following the audit, Lance identified the areas where we needed to focus our efforts, including evaluation systems, all-staff communications about strategy and values, team meeting agendas and developing a people policy, all of which we worked through.”

The shift from local authority department to independent organisation may have been difficult, but it enabled Alliance Homes Group to decide what sort of business it wanted to be and to create a workplace culture that reflected that. Much of what they do now would have been far less likely in their former guise. They are open and transparent within their team. As one employee explained, “It’s amazing that we’re given all the information about figures – we’ve never had that before”.

They delegate measurement and reporting across their team to create a sense of ownership. They hold regular team meetings, inviting guest speakers from different teams to talk about what they do, to improve cross team understanding. What’s more, they invest in skills for the long term and think innovatively about learning solutions, with options including job shadowing, mentoring and on-the-job coaching. “I prefer learning practically rather than in a ‘chalk and talk’ situation,” explains one team member. “The shadowing opportunities have been great for this.”

These achievements have been made possible because of the all-important values. If there’s an atmosphere of trust, then so much more can happen. People share more, challenge what needs to be improved, and come into work with smiles on their faces. Faith in human nature becomes a virtuous circle. That’s got to be good for customers, right?

Time served vs. maturity

To talk about mature people management is to talk about values and the atmosphere they create. Shaping your values with your team and embedding them in your business is the first step to maturity, because it breeds a workforce that is more engaged, responsive and committed – which in itself can take your business to new heights. And you don’t have to have been around for decades to do it. You just need to mean it, and follow it up with actions that bring those values to life.

Just like Alliance Homes Group did.

It’s Time for a Proper Chat – Appraisal Skills

It’s Time for a Proper Chat – Appraisal Skills

Whatever name your organisation gives to appraisals – time outs, performance reviews, one-to-ones, job chats – the time may have come when they need to become more meaningful and more effective.  Managers need to think differently about how they are done.  This thought-provoking session turns the traditional view on its head and suggests that, for everyone but new recruits, the most effective method is to encourage people to assess their own performance and to set their own goals.  That way, there is more accountability and less paperwork for the manager.

Learning Aims

By the end of this six hours of appraisal skills training, delegates will be able to :

  • deliver appraisals effectively and confidently
  • demonstrate the skills to enable them to give and receive constructive feedback
  • agree clear goals
  • manage underperformance in a positive way

For Whom

This one-day workshop is for people whose role includes managing and appraising other people.  It acts as a useful refresher to complement any previous or existing training in managing performance, and acts as a standalone for people who have had little formal management training.  It is particularly useful for those who spend most of their time doing the technical side of their job and are expected to complete performance reviews for their team.

Content

The material is adapted to each organisation’s process and culture.  As well as some appraisal skills teaching, delegates will learn by increasing self awareness, discussion, practising scenarios and active fun.

  • The relevance of a good appraisal process – why they are a good thing
  • Situational leadership self awareness exercise – flexibility in leadership style
  • The outcomes of a good appraisal
  • Listening, questioning
  • Giving and receiving constructive feedback
  • Setting goals
  • Creating the right environment
  • Levels of happiness; motivation and empowerment
  • Managing underperformance
  • Your organisation’s process and paperwork

Investors in People – what is it?

Investors in People

On the business networking circuit and online, I have become known as The Investors in People guy.  Investors in People is not all I do – see my What I Offer page – but I believe in the principles of the framework and its power to make life easier for my clients.  As it is a ‘business to business superbrand’ it deserves an explanation.

What Investors in People Is

It is a structured method of measuring the extent to which four key ingredients of success apply.  These are:

  • Clear goals
  • Learning is part of the job
  • Good leadership
  • Involved people

If you think these apply to you at all levels – individual, department/team and organisation – you are most likely already an Investors in People in most respects.  You should bear in mind, though, that most of the evidence is gathered by talking to your people.  It is therefore perception-based.  There is often a gap between the reality which managers see and that which the rest of their team perceives.

Many of my clients use me as their adviser as they follow the best practice disciplines.  They do this to gain insight, with no intention of seeking accreditation, and that is fine.

How Does It Work?

The best way to demonstrate is by example, so see the case studies for Care Matters, Elmtree Garden Contractors and Rise Technical Recruitment

Moving Up a Level

An Investors in People organisation meets all the requirements of what we specialist experts call the Core Standard.  To provide extra stretch and challenge against world class best practice, there are additional elements to the framework.  The number of these additional elements dictates whether an organisation is Silver, Gold or Platinum.

Investors in People Gold

The Reasons for ‘doing’ Investors in People

In ascending order, these are:

  • to get the badge.  The accreditation is a sign of quality which gives many organisations a marketing edge.  Many suppliers to public sector bodies or large corporates need to show evidence of a quality system in their framework documents.
  • to become a great place to work.  The science of happiness tells us that all of us should be mindful of the need for personal fulfilment and motivation in our lives.  Looking forward to coming to work, and enjoying the company and mutual creativity of our colleagues, ought to be a natural state.
  • to achieve better results.  Investors in People is hard-nosed in relating the way you lead, manage and develop your people to your business objectives.  For example, if a training course is not helping you achieve what you need to, why are you doing it ?  It is all about unlocking the potential of your team, increasing its focus and improving communication and teamwork.  As a result, your capacity to achieve excellent performance is greatly enhanced.

What Investors in People is not

  • prescriptive – it doesn’t tell you what to do, it asks searching questions so you gain insight about your management practice, facilitating a process of finding solutions
  • bureaucratic – Investors in Paper! – only two documents are required: a business plan and a training plan
  • an open cheque book for training – direct spend on training often decreases because you get better at in-house coaching etc
  • an easy option – it is a serious strategic approach to achieving better performance
  • about pay, terms and conditions, disciplinary/grievance procedures, health and safety, hiring and firing
  • a touchy-feely bolt-on HR initiative

Want to learn more ?

You can either book a consultation visit at no charge or, if you have a group of people, request a workshop

Elmtree Garden Contractors – strategy consulting

Elmtree Garden Contractors - strategy consulting

Elmtree Garden Contractors – strategy consulting

A well-known family firm established in 1969 with a name in the Bristol area for landscaping and grounds maintenance for housebuilding and construction projects.  When I started working with them in early 2010, the founder had taken a step back from the business and his son, Paul Lynch, had assumed the position of Managing Director.  He was keen to put in place a set of properly-structured processes to manage the performance of his then 17 people, and to learn all he could to enable him to feel fully in control.

There has always been a stated commitment to Quality, Service and Reliability, and the firm was already known as one of the better employers in the sector.  What I found when I spoke to everyone who worked there was that :

  • there were very few measures and targets to back up the claims about Quality, Service and Reliability
  • people did not feel they were informed about business performance, strategy and goals
  • Paul and the foremen had had no training in team leadership, meaning they were struggling with the problem of being ‘mates’ with their operatives at times when they needed to keep an objective distance
  • people wanted the occasional chance to have a proper one-to-one chat with the boss

At our strategy consulting sessions, Paul was very positive about moving forward with my suggested improvements, and we worked together on an action plan that had to take account of the seasonal cycle of the trade.

We developed an aims and objectives document, written for the team and using a very simple version of the Balanced Scorecard, that set out what Elmtree was aiming to achieve over the longer and shorter term.  Once this was drafted and discussed with the team, everything else we did could be geared towards achieving the objectives.

I joined team meetings to support the communication of everything that was going on, including how each operative could get personally involved in generating new business leads.  This reduced the pressure on Paul to take responsibility for all sales and marketing operations.  I delivered short in-house skills workshops for foremen on motivation and team building.  I came to see Paul for strategy consulting sessions every six weeks in the winter months to help him keep on track.  I supplied guidance and templates of some 1-page forms so he could get a straightforward system of one-to-one job chats going.

When Elmtree went for Investors in People in March 2012, they achieved the award easily.  The team had spoken in glowing terms about how things had improved and the positive effect these had had on teamwork, communication and customer service.  The resulting benefit to profitability came directly from these.  At a difficult time for the sector :

  • operatives have been kept within the team instead of being laid off during the quiet winter months
  • relationships with main contractors have strengthened
  • new recruits have joined so the team has grown to 28 people
  • valuable contracts have been won and new services launched

Update :  In early 2015 Elmtree underwent their Investors in People reaccreditation.  They gained the award at Silver level, showing how markedly they have moved forward.  The assessor’s feedback highlighted particularly strong practice in :

  • planning – employee participation in the development of company objectives
  • values – regularly involving the team in discussions about what these mean in practice
  • learning and development – the quality of on-site training

Palm Equipment – management training

Photo Palm-equipment-europe

Palm Equipment International – management training

A Clevedon-based manufacturer and supplier of kayaks and related gear with 45 people, which responded to a mailing about the Coaching For High Growth scheme.  I visited the senior management team to find a business that was building a great reputation worldwide and making money, but wasting resources through firefighting its way through lots of problems.  It had become successful through its technical excellence but the training it had done had not been in the essential skills for working with other people nor in management and leadership.

I started by having one-to-one chats with a representative sample of people and identifying the main issues.  I set these out in a report which the senior management team and I debated and which they then used as guide to help them prioritise their business planning.  The funding scheme mentioned above meant they got all this at no charge.

The next stage was to agree some objectives for a series of four half-day in-house management training workshops – necessary because of shift patterns – and design the training to meet them and to suit the audience.  The sessions were aimed at boosting self-awareness of different styles of leadership and team roles, and gave hints and tips on motivation, coaching, assertiveness and delegation.

Two groups of ten senior staff, including the directors, participated.  They made public commitments on what they were going to do differently back in the workplace and accounted to the group for this at the next session.  The feedback acknowledged the workshops as “very thought-provoking”, “a great contribution to our successful business” and “made a big difference to the smooth running of the place”, and I have been asked back to do some more work on skills development.

Can’t we all just get along ? – assertiveness skills

However good they are at their job, sometimes people find that things are all getting a bit much.  They need a chance to stop and think through with their peers what they can do differently to ease the fevered environment on the team and further improve the atmosphere.  The team can then become more productive and focus on achieving its goals.  This practical session aims to provide a fun and supportive group ambience for discussing and agreeing helpful techniques for overcoming these challenges.

Learning Aims

By the end of the session, delegates will have :

  • increased their understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses
  • recognised what needs to happen to manage personal confidence successfully
  • practised relevant skills to enable them to deal positively and assertively with real situations in the workplace and reduce stress for themselves and fellow team members while doing so
  • agreed consistent standards for resolving problems within the team

For Whom

This assertiveness workshop is for people who deal with a host of different – and sometimes conflicting – priorities as part of their job and have to cope with an environment in which rising – and sometimes unreasonable – expectations are becoming the norm.  It has been created to help people who find that meeting those expectations and getting along with their colleagues is becoming more stressful.

Content – assertiveness skills

  • The need for assertiveness skills in the context of business ethics and performance
  • Review of experiences :  what is happening on the team, what are the results, how do we feel
  • Definition of assertiveness skills
  • Recognising aggressive and passive behaviours
  • Boosting our own confidence
  • Difficult situations : defence mechanisms and barriers to a positive resolution
  • Managing our emotions and staying in control in stressful situations
  • Positive ways to challenge unreasonable behaviour
  • Practical exercise based on real scenarios
  • Tools and techniques for building our own assertiveness skills
  • Providing mutual support within the team

My ethos – business coaching

business coaching

 

My ethos is Straight Forward Thinking.  I set clear standards and measure my own performance to back up exactly what this means.

Business Coaching

In all the business coaching and training I give, I promote the idea that what really sets great leaders apart is their capacity for humility and empathy.  I try and practise what I preach.

Straight

I do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.  I am open and transparent, I keep you informed about everything that is going on, I speak plain English (if you catch me talking management gobbledygook you have my permission to have at me with a big stick) and I am mindful of your operational realities.

Forward

I support you in looking to the future with optimism.  I will get you to focus on defining clearly what it is that you want your business to achieve, and help set up simple systems with which to measure whether you are or not.  I will look at all the management information available and interpret it so you make the most of it for forward planning

Thinking

I will challenge you and I will inspire you.  With a fresh angle on how you give your people what they need to do their jobs well, you will think in new ways about your role, learn and decide for yourself what needs to change.  A meeting with me is a chance for you to stop the day-job, to take a deep breath and to reflect.  I help you gain powerful insights into how the way you do things compares to best practice.  As a result, you will take the wider view and enjoy the journey.

Business Training

Business training

Every piece of business training I do is designed around each client’s specific needs.  For a list of the sort of topics I cover scroll your mouse over Business Training above.  If you prefer downloads here is a selection :

The Secrets of Successful Teams   download pdf

Righting Wrongs   download pdf

Isn’t it just common sense?  download pdf

Happiness and Motivation   download pdf

Can’t we all just get along?   download pdf

Protecting sensitive data   download pdf

It’s not our job to sell, is it?   download pdf

Business training – other topics

  • Team leadership skills
  • It’s time for a propoer chat – appraisal skills
  • Presentation and personal impact skills
  • Managing workplace stress
  • Writing in Plain English
  • Telephone / email communication skills
  • Problem solving tools and techniques

The payback on business training

My experience tells me that a traditional one-off one-day course rarely pays back the investment.  An approach that has really worked for my clients is : three or four half-day workshops about 4/6 weeks apart, with practical tasks set in between and experience shared of how those tasks went and what the group members learned from them.  They then become accountable to each other for follow-up implementation of the learning in the workplace.  The learners go on a journey together and work out for themselves how to achieve their objectives and those of the programme.

The result is that people actually use the knowledge and skills they have learnt.  I then work alongside many of my clients to give guidance on how to evaluate the outcome of this business training in a straightforward measurable way.

Prices

Prices start from as little as £25 per delegate for a half-day workshop.  There are quite a few variables to consider, so why not, get in touch for a no-obligation chat, at no charge ?

What I offer

Management skills – my range of services

management skills

Consultation visit – no charge

I will come to your place of business to get to know you, find out what’s going well and not so well and listen carefully to your ideas.  I set no time limit on this and I make no charge.  I then go away and prepare a crystal-clear proposal based on your requirements.  It will outline what I will do for you, how I think we can address any management skills issues appropriately and how much it will cost.  The proposal acts as a starter for ten in our further discussions.

Leaving A Business Legacy

I provide a lot of support to owner managers who wish to gradually exit from day-to-day involvement in their business and would like to see it continue as a healthy going concern.  An increasingly popular route is via employee ownership, whereby they sell the business to the employees on e.g. a ten-year loan (“deferred consideration”), which is very tax-efficient from both standpoints.  Where I come in is in educating the employees and future leaders in the commercial acumen and business skills they need to take the reins.  There are significant cultural changes that need to happen to make sure the transition works.  I facilitate these, and act as a Trustee to make sure the Directors in the new structure are accountable and that governance is sound.

More information is at http://employeeownership.co.uk/about-the-employee-ownership-association/

So, if succession planning or exit planning has been on your radar for a while and you would like a no-obligation chat to get things moving, I would love to hear from you.

Developing Your Organisation

Planning a change ?  See the need for a shake-up but want to make sure it works ?  Wondering what to do about your working culture ?  I have coached over 300 clients in thinking through what they need to do.  I’ve seen a few of them tumble into huge traps, and a great many others show how good they are.  I can share these experiences and this insight with you in review and action planning meetings either one-to-one, with senior management teams or with dedicated project teams.

Through carefully-planned workshops and events, I facilitate discussions to agree what the values of the tean are, and the practical behaviours to support these values.  I get key individuals to express their commitment to these.  Beacause the values come from the words used by the team itself, they carry a great deal more weight than the normal values statements seen on the walls of many corporate offices.

I have successfully completed major projects to overhaul appraisal systems and introduce 360 degree feedback systems.  I have adapted these methods to create simple, straightforward versions for smaller organisations.

With my experience of representative groups such as Works Councils, many clients have benefited from using me as independent facilitator when such groups meet either for the first time, when there’s a major change or when they are taking on a major cultural project.

Troubleshooting / Counselling

What a lot of my clients seem to appreciate particularly is my expertise when human relationships run into difficulties.  Key people not talking to each other, conflict in the workplace, jealousies or “silo thinking”, these are all problems I have taken on gently but fearlessly, and with positive outcomes.

Testing The Culture

If your business proclaims its quality, service, excellence or being the best, you really should have a way of proving that you are at least moving in the right direction.  To your clients and your employees, when thinking about how happy they are with you, reality is nothing; perception is everything.  Before planning any change, get an independent specialist to gain real insight into what they are really thinking.

There are many ways to test perceptions, chief among which are one-to-ones, focus groups and questionnaires.  We will agree in advance which combination of these is right for you and I will set up everything that is needed.  The output is a report which we use as the basis for your culture change programme – with management skills training likely to be high on the agenda.

I am licensed to use a great bit of survey software that produces attractive, high-impact reports that really help management to decide on how they will respond.  This puts the spotlight on the managers’ role in the process of follow-up improvements.

Team-building events and outdoor activities

outdoor activities

When you’re trying to communicate an important message to your team, there’s no substitute for a get-together where people can speak up, get to know each other better and share views.  Also, the importance of sharing a meal together is not to be underestimated.  Arranging and facilitating one of these events involves more than you might think, so get an expert in.

Let me show you what can be achieved in just one day !  I am partnering with a really top class outdoor activities provider, so if you’re after a team awayday with added value that makes a big difference, I would love to talk to you.

I am a big believer in the power of laughter and physical activity, so I have a wide range of games and exercises which always generate a big buzz.  I am expert at extracting the So What For Our Business from these when the time comes for the group to reflect on the point of these activities.  The result is that no one leaves thinking that the event was Just A Jolly.

Management skills training

people skills training

Being a leader; managing people.  Not an aspect of the job that some people relish, but it is a skill that can be developed.  The bespoke in-house learning events which I design, deliver and evaluate for you are aimed at creating a relaxed, non-threatening environment which acknowledges the experience and existing management skills of the participants.  They are based on real issues that need to be fixed in the workplace, and focused on improving effectiveness.

If you are to motivate your people, you need to understand them, and if you are to understand others, you need to understand yourself.  That is why I use a wide range of simple self-awareness questionnaires that act as eye-openers for managers to gain insight on :

  • Leadership styles
  • Working styles
  • Career motivations
  • Sources of authority
  • Belbin team roles
  • Learning styles
  • Emotional intelligence

… and more

Developing Your People

I never expect anyone to come to me to be trained.  Instead, I will listen carefully to what you need and design a series of bespoke learning workshops for you.  You can have this delivered in house, and can be confident that it will be enjoyable, as my main belief with training is that it must be based on active fun.  See my Training page for a list of topics.  I also do one-to-one coaching.

I maintain a library of learning resources which acts as a toolbox we can dip into whenever appropriate.

Health and Wellbeing

You can find a full explanation at http://lancecross.co.uk/business-performance/health-and-wellbeing/.  This is a framework/standard I am accredited to use to carry out an assessment of all the activities an organisation offers to promote health and wellbeing in its workforce.  The output is a detailed report comparing these activities to best practice.  It is very valuable in gaining insight so my clients can keep improving.

Investors in People – Gaining the Standard

This proven management framework is now recognised as a business ‘superbrand’.  15,300 organisations in the UK are accredited Investors in People with many more working with the Standard.  Whether you choose to go for the Award or not, I will act as your no-nonsense guide as you follow the management disciplines the Standard sets out, focusing relentlessly on valuable insights and measurable gains for your business.  I have a 100% record – as a result of my advice and guidance, every client has gone on to successful accreditation.

Investors in People – Maintaining the Standard

If you already have the award, you may be wondering what next ?  The answer is plenty.  Winning the award is an early stage of your journey, and I will help you decide what to do to keep up the momentum as your business continues to improve, and make sure your good practice doesn’t slip between award assessments.

Investors in People – Raising the Standard

Investors in People

There is so much more to Investors in People than the core Standard.  The ‘Your Choice’ parts of the extended framework can be really illuminating if you want to be tested at a more advanced, more stretching level.  This is a chance to gain further insight and grasp hold of the practical meaning of areas like developing values, working together, different approaches to training and setting meaningful objectives.  If you are interested in Silver, Gold or Platinum accreditation, I have had a lot of success with helping clients to achieve this.

Mid-project review – no charge

Rather than press on with a set programme which was first agreed months ago, I will check with you that what I am doing for you still meets your needs.  I recognise the need to keep talking, adapt to circumstances and to make sure the work (for example, on management skills) is going in the right direction for your business and having the desired effect.  I will discuss with you successes and difficulties you are experiencing and make any necessary changes to the programme.  I make no charge for this visit.