Archives

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 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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Bronze, Silver or Gold accreditation, I have had a lot of success with helping clients to achieve this.

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.

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.

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.

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!