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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

Care Matters (Wilts) – Business Improvement

Business improvement - Care Matters

Care Matters (Wiltshire) Ltd is a medium-sized domiciliary care agency which has been operating out of Warminster for over ten years. The manager, Julie King, had heard about Investors in People as an effective business improvement framework, and was interested in finding out more. Always an employer who has been genuinely committed to her team, and already a successful business, she wanted to :

• better support compliance with Care Quality Commission standards
• bring more organisation and structure to systems for managing performance
• confirm her commitment to her team by gaining external recognition

Implementing Business Improvement

We started by arranging confidential one-to-one chats between me and each of her people – a face-to-face staff survey, in effect. This was a bit of a leap of faith on Julie’s part; it takes an enlightened attitude to be prepared to open up to criticism – however constructive – the business one has built up.

The output was a report reflecting perceptions of Care Matters as an employer, both good and no so good points. Julie and I then met regularly to consider consolidating those strengths in management practice and identifying solutions to areas which could be improved. We agreed simple ways to :

• communicate to the team what the business is aiming to achieve
• plan and evaluate learning and development
• redesign the Quality of Care survey of service users
• involve the team in discussions about team working and moral values
• deliver short in-house workshops on management skills for Julie and her team leaders

When we had worked together over a twelve-month cycle to put all that in place, we invited the award assessor in. Her feedback was glowing, especially around effective management, involved people, mutual support and respect, and commitment to high standards. Care Matters gained Investors in People accreditation “with flying colours”.

The agency has continued to grow, profits have risen, there is stronger resilience as it is better able to overcome market volatility, and business improvement has become a way of life. At the next CQC inspection, particular mention was made of the strong leadership and performance management practice in evidence. On top of that, they are a lovely group of people to work with.

 

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.

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.

About Me – business consultant

Bristol business consultant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I help businesses grow.  Some of my clients refer to me as their business guru. I facilitate team events and deliver strategy and change consulting, business performance coaching, management and personal skills training and Investors In People advice.  I am also a specialist assessor for the Health and Wellbeing Award.

At school and university I specialised in languages; the main thrust of my professional development has been in facilitation and consultancy skills.  I have enjoyed successful spells in general management, training, quality, network development and customer service.

I am a qualified trainer, a licensed Investors In People specialist and national level Business Excellence Award assessor.

Business coaching

My clients range across a wide variety of sectors.  Current clients include a valve maufacturer in Wiltshire, a marine engineer in Weymouth, a charity for people with learning disabilities in Bristol and a building firm in Royal Wootton Bassett.  Many of my client relationships have lasted over ten years.  I have twenty years of experience with Investors in People and continuous improvement, using a large kitbag of tools and techniques to help my clients improve their business results.

Previous roles include managing major improvement programmes at NatWest, setting up the local service provider network at Business Link Somerset, General Manager of Excellence South West for two years of its infancy and adviser to small businesses at Business West.

I have built up an extensive network of contacts for the sharing of learning and expertise.  My main background and passion is facilitation aimed at helping senior managers to gain insight for themselves and their people to achieve better business performance.

Happiness and Motivation – Managing people

This interactive workshop provides an opportunity for delegates to explore the challenges they face when motivating themselves and their team members. They will share these challenges and learn from each other in a safe, energising and fun environment. They will come away with tips and techniques to practice in the workplace, giving them happiness and fulfilment in their role.

Learning Aims

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

  • motivate themselves and their team effectively
  • build better relationships with other teams across their business
  • demonstrate a range of personal skills in managing people, to get the best out of their team members

For Whom

This session is designed for anyone who is interested in developing or refreshing their understanding of why it is that they themselves, and other people, usually aim to do a good job. It is a good eye-opener for people looking for greater motivation in their own role.  It is also for team leaders who have been managing people for a while and are looking for new ways of thinking to help them motivate others.

Content – Managing People

  • The philosophy and science of happiness
  • What makes us happy ?
  • Levels of happiness
  • Self awareness exercise : Career motivations
  • Understanding motivation – “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” factors
  • Empathy and sympathy
  • Helping people to feel valued
  • The real meaning of empowerment
  • What this means for managing people in practice

Righting Wrongs – complaint handling training

Turning complaints into business opportunities

However talented they are, sometimes customer service professionals find that things can inevitably go wrong.  They need a chance to stop and think through what they can do differently to provide an even better service to customers.  They need techniques for responding to people who express dissatisfaction in a way that helps both parties feel there has been a more than satisfactory resolution.  Starting with some self-awareness work, delegates will work on self control, enabling them to ease the fevered environment on the team and further improve the quality of the service they provide.  This practical complaint handling training aims to provide a supportive group ambience for agreeing and practising helpful skills.

Learning Aims

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

  • describe what needs to happen to manage personal confidence and impact successfully
  • demonstrate  relevant skills to enable them to deal with difficult situations and reduce stress for themselves and fellow team members while doing so
  • agree consistent standards for dealing with difficult people and situations
  • respond to customer complaints in a professional way that promotes a positive image of the business consistent with its brand

For Whom

This workshop provides complaint handling training for anyone who deals with customers as part of their job and has to cope with a commercial environment in which rising (and sometimes unreasonable) customer expectations are becoming the norm.  It has been created either to act as a standalone for people who find that meeting these customer expectations is becoming more stressful, or to complement any previous or existing customer care training.

Content – complaint handling training

  • Review of past experiences :  what happened, what was the result, how did we feel
  • Self awareness exercise :  boosting our own confidence
  • Managing our emotions and staying in control in stressful situations
  • Difficult situations :  defence mechanisms and barriers to a positive resolution
  • Taking the HEAT
  • Directing the conversation
  • Strategies for responding to difficult individuals and conflict
  • Providing mutual support within the team
  • Managing expectations and making it easier to keep promises
  • Practical exercise based on real scenarios
  • Strategies for responding to unreasonable requests
  • Following up in writing