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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.

Hft – Leadership Qualities in Everyone

Why leadership means more when it’s spread out

Hft

When it comes to effective leadership, the spotlight turns not just on the team at the top. Encouraging leadership qualities in employees at every level can have a powerful impact on performance.

If you google ‘distributed leadership’ you’ll get such a plethora of articles and images it’s almost impossible to work out what it’s really about. The idea has been around for some years now, but only an enlightened few organisations have managed to successfully put it into practice.

One of them is Hft, a national charity providing local support services for people with learning disabilities. And while Hft sits firmly in the social care sector, the principles and approaches for encouraging good leadership behaviours in staff across an organisation apply to us all – multinational or microbusiness, profit-driven or charity.

Steady under pressure

As in many other sectors, Hft operates in a world where outside pressures can set the agenda and influence how the organisation operates, from central and local government to regulators and the families of the people they support. But despite the huge pressure to focus on compliance, Hft has held steady in its commitment to its team, understanding that they hold the key to creating the best experience for the people they’re there to support.

For Hft, individual leadership comes in the form of each member of staff working with another support worker to draw up a client care plan, inspiring them to stick to it and helping them to achieve great things. A few years ago changes in legislation introduced the need to have a care plan for each person Hft supports, so they responded by designing a special training programme which enables them to delegate responsibility to the support workers themselves.

This meant everyone in the organisation had to think in unfamiliar ways about their role in helping the people they support to gain more independence. The main problem lay in switching from care provider to facilitator – as one support worker put it: “people deserve more than just care.”

Initial research revealed that Hft was already doing well with working in partnership, being creative and flexible, aiming for the best and having a genuine passion for what they do. So the next step was to build on these existing strengths by painting a clear company vision and sharing it effectively with their employees. Hft Centres across the country set about designing their own interpretations of this model, so it was always relevant. “They’re quirky, but they really work for us,” says one Hft employee.

Initially seen as “more paperwork”, the subsequent response was extremely positive as it allowed support workers to think deeply about the aspect of the job they found most rewarding – seeing people flourish and gain independence. “We call it person-centredness,” says Paul Twynam, Leadership and Management Specialist at Hft.

The roots for success

Organisations wanting to reap the benefits of distributed leadership will need to make sure they create the right environment for it to flourish. Looking at the Hft example, the roots for success include:

· Thinking very carefully about the different communication needs of different groups of staff, and adapting the channels to suit
· Consulting with staff on all major decisions and explaining the bigger picture, via their Partnership Forum and team meetings
· Encouraging managers locally and at the top to create an environment where people feel trusted to make the right calls about how they do their jobs
· Designing the delegation of accountability into all training, and providing ample support during the transition

Taking this approach allowed Hft to achieve great results in a sector where costs are being squeezed and inspection regimes are tough. And when it comes to fully invested employees, the positivity of Hft’s people speaks itself: “The way Hft does things is how it should be done in the 21st century,” says one Hft employee; “I’m really proud of our approach to supporting people” says another. The longer-term impact on Hft’s working culture means:

· The organisation is freer than most to take strategic decisions without being tied by outside factors
· The organisation is able to plan and manage major change programmes, knowing that their people have the mindset and competence needed for these to work. In the last year alone, there has been a merger and a new strategy launch
· Compliance problems are reducing
· Sickness and absence rates are lower than the UK average for the sector

Across all sectors, being a leader involves developing a vision and inspiring others to achieve it. For example, in the construction industry each contract manager, using the specification as a vision and the programme as a roadmap, has to inspire colleagues, partner contractors, tradesmen and clients to buy in to the suggested ways of achieving that vision – on time, to spec and within budget.

It’s not our job to sell, is it ? – Selling skills for operatives

“It’s not our job to sell, is it ?”

In a small or medium-sized business, the pressure is on to win new work.  The Director in charge of sales and his/her team do what they can to bring in enough at least to keep everyone busy.  The difficult job of identifying opportunities to explain how great the product or service is can be so much easier if the whole workforce is involved as well.  This session covers the basic skills people need to make optimum business use of the sense of pride in doing good work for a good company.

Learning Aims

By the end of the session, people will be able to :

  • Demonstrate a good understanding of the demands on everyone in a small business
  • Take responsibility for their own contribution to developing the business
  • Explain some tools and techniques which will prove helpful to them in taking advantage of new leads in the future
  • Take forward some ideas the group has had for generating more new business leads

For Whom

This half-day workshop is for people who have not had any selling skills training but deal with customers as part of their day-to-day job.  These may be site operatives, customer service officers or anyone who answers the phone.  It acts as a useful eye-opener in how to spot opportunities to promote the company and encourage anyone the delegates come in contact with to do business there.

Content – Selling Skills

  • The importance of everybody getting personally involved in promoting our services
  • What are we expected to sell ?  Who to ?
  • Identifying opportunities
  • A good answer to the question “What do you do ?”
  • What information we need to get from potential customers
  • The techniques for “closing the deal”
  • Features and benefits

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

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.

Rise Technical – Investors in People Gold

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Rise Technical Recruitment – Investors in People Gold

Of the thousands of Investors in People organisations in the UK, about three percent are Gold; almost all of these have been working with the Standard for many years.

The fast-growing specialist recruitment firm already had a high-profile in the Bristol business community.  The founding directors, Jeff Leng and Ben McCarthy, had featured in the local media for their ambitious and skilled entrepreneurship.  When I was invited in, it was already a successful business, a great place to work, with phenomenal levels of professional ethics, customer service and team motivation.

When we discussed Investors in People, the original intention had been to gain accreditation against the basic Standard, firstly to gain the “badge” as a marketing tool, and secondly to support the ambitious plans for continued expansion.  When I spoke to the people that worked there, it soon became obvious that there was a great deal more in place than the core Standard seeks evidence for.  There was therefore every reason to suppose that the firm could match up to the rigour of Investors in People Gold.  We decided to go for it.

Not everything was perfect:  The team were rather vague on what the top-level business objectives were, more could be done to promote the learning culture Jeff and Ben were seeking to create, and team managers’ skills needed further development.

We worked together to design a series of management skills workshops based around the contents of their operational manual.  I delivered these in bite-sized sessions with lots of practical tools to help make the models in the manual come alive.  We did some serious thinking about how strategy was communicated and the link between training and business targets strengthened, and I gave them tools to help.  I would go to see Jeff and Ben every 3 or 4 weeks, and at every meeting they had always completed the actions agreed at the previous meeting.

When the award assessor came in to Rise, he had no hesitation in awarding Investors in People Gold at the first time of asking, only 9 months after our initial meeting.  The score out of 10 achieved for being a great place to work was between 9 and 10.

The sense of pride in the team has risen even higher than it was.  As their adviser, I too am proud of what they have achieved.  Major credit goes to Jeff and Ben for their positive, responsive and enlightened attitude.  They are quick and effective in implementing improvements, crystal clear on the business benefits of Investors in People, and are well set to be the fastest-growing independently-owned firm in their sector.

Developing Your Team Leadership Skills

This interactive session allows team leaders and line managers to further explore aspects of their role as a leader and role model. It builds on the basics covered in any previous management training to add some deeper reflection on developing people, managing change and improving personal impact. In a facilitated environment, most of the learning is done by sharing real experience in the workplace and learning as much from the group about team leadership as from the trainer.

Learning Aims

By the end of the session, delegates will be able to :

  • explain some techniques to manage and motivate themselves effectively
  • describe the influence which further improving personal impact and communication skills has on projecting a professional image to team members and customers
  • demonstrate a range of team leadership skills to get the best out of every team member

For Whom

This workshop is designed for anyone who is in charge of a team and wishes to develop or refine the team leadership skills needed for the people management side of their role. It is a refreshing thought-provoker for those who have been managing people for a while.

Content – Team Leadership Skills

  • Self-awareness exercise : learning styles
  • Applying knowledge of learning styles to the people you manage
  • Sources of power and authority
  • Inspiring your team through the power of positive thinking
  • Showing trust and respect as steps to successful delegation
  • Personal presentation – your image at work
  • Controlling your voice, body and brain under pressure
  • Understanding the impact of change on individuals and helping them to cope
  • Improving personal impact and effectiveness
  • Developing toughness : staying in control and making decisions in fast-moving situations

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 ?