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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.

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

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.

Social Responsibility

To follow through on my commitment to social responsibility, I volunteer 5 days every year to help young people with their employment prospects and act as an independent mentor on their cv and career planning.

Career Planning

A school leaver called Nathan came to me in some distress after being told by his careers adviser to get a job in a call centre.  I listened, created a safe and calm environment, encouraged him to take a deep breath, and then listened some more.  I asked him to look back at the achievements of his life so far, and there were plenty; we quantified these and included them in his cv.  I reassured him about how there is no need in early life for specific professional goals and we looked at some options.  He had never travelled outside the UK before.  He is now working abroad, filled with vitality and a sense of opportunity, and is one of the happiest people I know.

Student business start-ups

I have been a judge for UWE’s student business planning competitions, sharing as much feedback and “wisdom” as I could.  Many of the entries I judged have gone on to set up successful businesses.

Bridging the education – workplace gap

I act as a volunteer business expert for an excellent organisation called Working Knowledge which is well worth checking out.

Working Knowledge Expert
@WK_experts

Sharing knowledge

Another way in which I uphold my social responsibility is to make my knowledge and experience available for the general public to learn from.  I make no charge for writing articles like this one for the national Investors in People website,  In this way, people can find out what it’s like to a) go through the process, and b) work with me.  I believe strongly in the power of organisational development and want to share this passion.

Case Studies – successful business

successful business

Working to sustain successful business

I am at the service of any business or organisation that wants to grow and improve, sees the need for expert outside help and is prepared to invest in that help.

I have acted as business counsellor to the full spectrum of organisations.  From small businesses in distress to large national charities seeking to consolidate, I have a record of achievement to ensure your business success.

Looking back while writing these case studies, something struck me.  It was how many medium-sized firms there are which aren’t exactly struggling, they just want to stop firefighting, add some structure and thinking time, and prove to themselves and to the outside world what a successful business they are.

These are very short stories which I hope you will find as inspiring to read as I did to be a part of.

Legal Stuff

While I am a big believer in plain English, my legal adviser has suggested I adopt the following wording.  By instructing me to work with you, you are agreeing to these terms.

Standard Terms and Conditions of Business

Contract

Our contract will be based on these terms and conditions and the written proposal.  I will hold these costs for three months from the date of the proposal.  By agreeing to proceed you are confirming that you have read, understood and will abide by these Terms and Conditions and Cancellation policy.

Planning and Cancellation

Once dates are booked, I will hold them for you.  Any further meetings will be subject to availability and will be charged at the agreed rate for the work.  If you cancel any meeting which you have booked, and I am not able to replace it with another paying client, I will charge cancellation fees at my discretion to a maximum of :

o        15-10 days notice – 50%
o        10-5 days notice – 75%
o        Less than 5 days notice – 100%

Termination

If, for any reason, you decide not to complete the work, you must confirm this in writing.  I will charge you for the work completed up to the date this confirmation is received and any cancellation fees due (see above).

Project review

If the project remains partially completed and there has been no contact from you, I will request a meeting to review whether the work is meeting your needs and to plan new dates.  If I receive no response to this request, I reserve the right to decide at my discretion a project termination date and charge you as per the termination clause above.

Fees and Expenses

I charge mileage at 45p per mile, and train and taxi fares and subsistence at cost.  I will add expenses to the fee invoices at appropriate times.  If you have any concerns about the fees, please contact me as soon as possible and before the work begins.  If you continue with the work after the proposal has been received and agreed, it is understood that you have accepted the outlined costs.  Between us, we will identify and agree any variation to these terms and conditions before the project begins.

Invoicing and Payment

I will invoice you according to the payment option you have chosen and which we have agreed before work starts.  The terms of payment are 28 days.  I reserve the right to discontinue delivering services if payment is outstanding.

Confidentiality

I guarantee the confidentiality of all of your information, documentation and records that I have access to. I conduct myself at all times in full compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Copyright

The copyright in the content of any work produced during or as a result of work I undertake for you shall be the absolute property of Lance Cross Business Performance Ltd.

Unavoidable Circumstances

I will try to supply the services agreed to the best of my ability.  In the case of unavoidable circumstances, such as serious illness, I will complete the work as soon as practicable and will accept no further liability.

Company Law

English law shall be the proper law of the contract and all claims under the contract shall be settled by reference to the English legal system

Let a business guru help you improve your performance

business guru

Hi, I’m Lance and I care about making a difference.  I get my buzz from working with teams of people to improve their performance.  Businesses and not-for-profit organisations of all sorts benefit from working with me as their consultant, and consider me something of a business guru.  Recently I have achieved a lot with housing associations, builders, recruitment firms, engineers and social care charities.

If you are a business owner/manager, it’s likely that what you have achieved is a success, and you deserve congratulations for that.  Your employees have increased in number, you have survived some tough times and you have become much smarter in the way you do things now.

‘So why do I need a business guru?’

The simple answer is :  to gain some powerful insight into how the way you do things compares to best practice.  Here are the questions you face:

  • How can you stop fighting fires and  do what you had originally planned to do when you started ?
  • How do you reduce stress, look after strategy, get involved in the things you like doing and spend more time with your family ?
  • How do you sustain this for the future ?

The answer lies in thinking more deeply about the people in your team. My strong conviction is that there is always more potential to be fulfilledGiving your management a tune-up, helping everybody get along better and working on skills will make sure you capitalise on all the hard work you have put into systems, hardware and recruitment.

The results are that life becomes easier for everybody.  Your people care more about your business, become more professional and communicate better with each other.  Your stress levels reduce.

If, like me, you believe that becoming a better employer will boost your bottom line, and that fostering an increased sense of direction and togetherness in your team will lead to business success, let’s talk!