Posted on

Training and Development: What a Manager Needs to Know

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


As a manager, you will experience pressure to send your people on training from at least three sources:

  1. Your HR, Learning or Training Department colleagues, who believe in training and maybe even have it as their corporate raison d’etre. (This, by the way, is not to suggest that training is  something to avoid or be unenthusiastic about)
  2. External training and development providers, ranging from the huge mega-corporations of training to the one man or woman training bands (can a band be one person – or is that a soloist?)
  3. Your staff who may variously want to develop their skills, build their career, stretch their mind, or have a day out of the business doing something different.

[Declaration of interest: the author is one of those training provider soloists – training is a good thing – buy more]

Question 1: How to decide what training to procure for your staff, and whether to procure it

This is the first of two critical questions on this topic that a manager faces. The answer is that you need to think in business case terms:

What are the costs and

What are the benefits?

On the costs side, you need to weigh:

  • cash cost recharged to your budget (and to the business as a whole)
  • time out and disruption to work
  • costs of any cover
  • time to manage the process of making best use of the training (see question 2)

On the benefits side, you have:

  • potential for enhanced skills, behaviours and performance
    This one is critical and linked to the ‘what training’ part of the question
  • morale, motivation and confidence boost
  • effect on staff retention
    This can work both ways, but if you are worried about the cost of losing a trained staff member, consider the cost of keeping an untrained staff member!
  • informal networking and thinking time can generate creativity and new solutions or ideas

So, what training? The best approach is to commission the training you need, rather than procure the training that is offered. Sit down and list out the performance and behaviour changes you most want and most believe will deliver the results your team is required to produce. That is your training brief.

If you are unable to commission to a brief, then do the same, and compare what you have with what is offered. If the match is good, then move on to consider the other aspects of your business case: if not, say no.

Question 2: How to get the best value from training you have procured for your staff

Training has most value when it is applied mindfully as soon as possible and as frequently as possible, once the trainee returns to their workplace. So:

Before the training, sit down with the trainee and discuss with them what they want to get from it and what you want them to get from it.  This will prime them to spot what is relevant.

Put in place a plan to use that knowledge as soon as the training is complete – or even during the training if it is an on-going programme.

Once the training is over, meet up again. Ask what the trainee experienced, what they learned and how they propose to apply it. Discuss this with them and then review the plan you set up in advance.

Provide support for making the opportunities and frequently review how the trainee is applying their new knowledge or skills. Continually stretch them and give praise and recognition for valuable changes.

Development: it is more than just training

When thinking about developing your staff, there are literally dozens of interventions beyond ‘sending them on a course’. Yet that is always the default option in many organisations.  Here are a dozen to start with.

  1. On the job mentoring or coaching
  2. Job swaps
  3. Programmed reading and discussion groups
  4. Action learning
  5. Online learning tools
  6. Online reference tools
  7. Workplace seminars
  8. Work shadowing
  9. Case study or project work
  10. Supervision and reflection
  11. Professional communities – including online
  12. Conferences

Further Reading

Share this:
Posted on

Dealing with Difficult Behaviour

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Let’s get one thing straight: as soon as you start to think of a colleague, a team member, a boss or one of your direct reports as a ‘difficult person’ you are lost. There will only be two options: you or they will have to go.

Luckily, there are truly very few difficult people. But that does not mean that you will not have to deal with your fair share of difficult behaviours. It may be the dark side of management, but as night follows day, it will always be there; part of your portfolio of responsibilities.

Exercise 1: Difficult Behaviours

Make a list of some of the types of difficult behaviours you have had to deal with. For each one, ask yourself: ‘what might be at the root of this behaviour?’

This question is crucial, because nice, easy-to-get-on-with people sometimes behave in difficult ways and there is always a reason. And when you have a good idea what the reason is, you will soon have some ideas about how to tackle it.

Three Tips

Here is a way to help you. Ask yourself, truthfully, whether you have ever behaved a bit like that. You probably have at some time; even if it was in your childhood or teenage years. What triggered that behaviour in you?

Another way to think about what is going on is to try and think of a time when someone you know well behaved like this. It was not their usual behaviour, so what was the cause?

My final tip is to imagine a child behaving like that in the playground. What might be going on?

Here are some behaviours to practise on…

Difficult Behaviours

Dealing with the Behaviour

Since it is the behaviour that you want to deal with, be sure to start from a position of respect for the person. Address simple, one-off behaviours as soon as you can and start from the supposition that the person may not be fully aware of their behaviour or the effects it is having. So non-judgemental observation can often be enough to raise awareness and trigger a change.

For longer embedded behaviours, you would do well to prepare in advance. Start with an assessment of what you want from the process – a minimum standard of behaviour, for example – and plan out how you will handle the situation. If you do not have good, strong, objective evidence of the behaviour and its impacts, gather it now.

It is often best to arrange a meeting on neutral ground, like a meeting room. Certainly it must be somewhere that offers privacy. Start your meeting by establishing rapport and letting the person know that you value them. Your temptation will then be to deploy the first killer word…

But

As soon as the word ‘but’ appears, the other person will forget all that has gone before and think ‘okay, here it comes, this is what it is all about.’

This is what it is all about, but you do not want to lose the value of what has gone before. Find a way of bringing up the topic without a but or an implied but. My own favourite is something like this: ‘there is something we do need to discuss.’ ‘Discuss’ makes it a joint endeavour, ‘something’ sets it in the context of a larger ‘everything, and ‘do’ whilst emphasising the point also hints that it is hard for you – which it is.

Head on

Be clear and direct (but not blunt) in your description of the behaviour and the impact it is having, then check whether the other person recognises the situation. This non-judgemental approach takes a lot of the personalisation away.

If they largely accept your observations, they will probably be willing or even keen to deal with the behaviour. Invite them to offer reasons and to work with you to address it. In doing so, you must address the second killer word…

Why

Reasons are important. Unfortunately the most convenient word we have to probe them is ‘why’. And no word gets more personal than ‘why’, so you are likely to get a defensive response. Instead, try better questions like: ‘can you tell me what might be causing this behaviour’ – placing the cause outside of the person.

Sometimes someone will not accept your observations about their behaviour, and maybe even reject the need to address it. This is not acceptable. You need to be firm, clear and respectful in telling them what needs to change and why. Without making threats, set out the consequences for your organisation, for yourself, and for them if they don’t make the changes.

Do not threaten and do not negotiate beyond the outcome you planned on – instead, suggest you get back together in 24 to 48 hours, when they have had a chance to think through what you have discussed. This puts you in charge, and throws the responsibility for the next move onto them.

The Secret

Handling difficult behaviour is uncomfortable. The secret is to plan, to stay calm, and to maintain equal respect for yourself and the other person. You won’t always be able to change the behaviour and may need to escalate the process (see Let’s sort out poor performance, Part 3: The Alternative). But on most occasions, a light but controlled approach will work wonders.

Further Reading

The Problem Behaviour Pocketbook

Tackling Difficult Conversations Pocketbook

…and, if all else fails:
The Discipline & Grievance Pocketbook

You may also like the following Pocketblogs:

How to Manage a Challenging Conversation
An earlier part of this series, it offers you a seven step process to help you prepare for your meeting.

How to Understand your Toddler
Actually, not just toddlers… Icek Ajzen’s theory of planned behaviour will help you understand behaviour and therefore some of the levers to change it.

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right
Mediation may be an option to help gain a resolution, and this blog describes how it works.

Share this:
Posted on

Coaching: A Manager’s Best Tool

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Your job, as a manager, is to coordinate people and resources to get work done. Important parts of that are:

  • getting the most from your people
  • getting things done ever-more effectively and efficiently
  • developing your team’s capacity and capabilities
  • motivating people to work at their best

and so on…

One management skill has emerged as the solution to all of this. It does not stand alone, but over the last thirty years we have learned its power to enhance individual and organisational performance. That skill is coaching.

Coaching is not new

The best managers, leaders, and teachers have been doing coaching for years – hundreds and thousands of years. What is new, is that the process and techniques have been studied, systematised and turned into a thousand books, articles and training courses. This means that coaching is no longer the preserve of the few who figure it out for themselves and have a natural talent: anyone can learn it, practise it and master the skills.

At its best, coaching is a valuable conversation that lets one person figure out what they need to do to get the results they need.

The Principles of Coaching

The core principle of coaching is respect for the person you are coaching. As a coach, you need to assume that the other person can find the solution to the challenge they are working on, whether it is a workplace problem, improving under-performance, or preparing themselves for a promotion.

To support this, the fundamental skills are

Questioning – asking good questions that increase the other person’s awareness of their situation and help them perceive things in a new way

Listening – so that you can ask questions founded on exactly what they say

Patience – giving time for the other person to work out solutions for themselves

Trust – recognising that they will make mistakes, but that is a valuable part of learning

As a manager, you need to balance opportunities to learn (sometimes by making mistakes) with the need to manage risk. But the thing that surprises most new coaches is how often the coaching process finds a good solution first time – and often a better solution than the coach themself would have thought of.

The Process of Coaching

There are a lot of methodologies for coaching – many of them proprietary. Most of them offer an acronym to help remember the areas for questioning and exploration. These are:

Coaching Process

One acronym is, in some ways, the obvious one: COACH

The COACH Coaching Process

Further Reading

Coaching is one of the most discussed topics on the Pocketblog. You may also like the following Pocketblogs:

An Infinite Number of Coaching Acronyms
So you can see how different models follow the process above – and find the acronym you like best.

Keep it SIMPLE
A look at the Solution Focus approach to coaching.

Who is getting in your way?
The ideas of Timothy Gallwey who many regard as the originator of modern coaching as used in the business and management world.

Let’s sort out poor performance, Part 2: Turnaround
An example of how coaching fits into the pragmatic world of management.

The Awesome Power of Mentoring
Mentoring is often discussed in the same sentence as coaching. Find out what it is and how it can work for you, as a new manager.

Questions, Questions, Questions
…is about the art of – questions!

and

Listening
is about listening

Share this:
Posted on

Setting Good Goals

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Goal setting is such a fundamental part of management, that we sometimes forget what it is for.  It has become embedded into formal processes that can distance us from what we are doing and turn good management practices into form-filling, box-ticking routines; devoid of any real meaning or purpose.

So let’s be explicit about what goal setting is for

We set goals for others so that they will know when they have achieved what we want.  We set goals for ourselves, for the same reason.  Goal setting is therefore about:

  • Giving a clear direction and reason for work
  • Giving an equally clear indication of when to stop
  • Being explicit about what triggers the reward – which may only need to be a thank-you
  • Setting a standard of achievement, on the route to mastery
  • Motivating people to achieve what is needed

SMART Goals

There are a lot of formulations of SMART goals – most typically:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

All of these are designed to remind users that good goals are explicit about what is expected, balance challenge with realism, are rooted in what is important, and have a time-scale attached.

What, Why, When, What if?

Good goals need to answer these four questions:

  1. What do you expect of me; precisely?  I need to know what you want in enough detail to be able to meet your expectations.
  2. Why are you asking it of me?  Without a sense of valuable purpose, I shan’t be motivated.
  3. When do you need it by?  So that I can schedule the work into my diary and assign it the right priority.
  4. What if things don’t go according to plan?  What resources can I draw upon, what help will you offer, what compromises are appropriate and what are not acceptable, what authority do I have to make decisions?

The key, however, to good goals is that they must be agreed between you, the manager, and the person for whom you are setting the goals.  The best way to get the commitment you need is to express the goals clearly, put them in writing and then to look your colleague in the eye, and ask: ‘do you accept this goal?’

When goal-setting becomes a formal process it loses its power.  Make good goal-setting an everyday routine – part of your day-to-day management of your team and of each individual.  Formal, annual or quarterly goal setting will then feel easy – it will set the strategic context for your day-to-day management.

Further Reading

The Performance Conversations Pocketbook

The Motivation Pocketbook

Performance Management Pocketbook

Feedback Pocketbook

Share this:
Posted on

Positive Organisational Scholarship

Positive Organisational Scholarship

Positive Organisational ScholarshipThe easiest way to understand Positive Organisational Scholarship is to think of it as the systematic study of Positive Psychology, at the level of an organisation. And, if you need a primer on Positive Psychology, take a look at our article.

A lot of the formal descriptions of Positive Organisational Scholarship (POS) use dry academic language. Put simply, it’s the study of what makes members of an organisation perform at their best levels, by focusing on what they do well.

Continue reading Positive Organisational Scholarship

Share this:
Posted on

Solution Focus: The Future Beats the Past

Solution Focus: The Future Beats the Past

Solution Focus: The Future Beats the PastYou can focus on the problems you have. Or you can focus on the solutions. As big ideas go, they don’t get much simpler than solution focus. It’s simply a binary choice to focus on the future, rather than the past.

Solution focus has its origins in Solution Focused Brief Therapy. But therapy isn’t what we specialize in here at Management Pocketbooks. So, instead, we’ll turn our attention to what managers can learn from the ideas, and put to use in solution-focused problem solving and coaching.

Continue reading Solution Focus: The Future Beats the Past

Share this:
Posted on

Management By Objectives: Delegating Outcomes

Management by Objectives

Management by ObjectivesPeter Drucker is the originator of Management by Objectives. It’s a Big Idea that, in various forms, still dominates much of the corporate world.

It’s not sophisticated, nor very clever. It is the simplicity and directness that makes Management by Objectives a powerful tool for any manager. However, as a corporate culture, it may have passed its sell-by date.

So, let’s see what Management by Objectives is, how it works, and what its strengths and weaknesses are, in today’s world.

Continue reading Management By Objectives: Delegating Outcomes

Share this:
Posted on

Hierarchy of Needs: Motivation Stack

Hierarchy of Needs

Hierarchy of NeedsAbraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one of the world’s best-known management and psychology models. And the internet does not need another detailed article about it.

But, the hierarchy of needs is a Big Idea. In fact, it’s a Big Idea structured around another Big Idea, with a third Big Idea built in, all of which sit on top of an important point.

The truth is that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs well and truly earns its fame among management models. This is despite a welter of critiques and failings, and a series of later and more rigorously researched theories and models.

So, this article is going to take a rather different view of the hierarchy of needs. But one that will be instructive, nonetheless. Here, I want to break apart the Big Ideas buried in Maslow’smost enduring work.

Continue reading Hierarchy of Needs: Motivation Stack

Share this:
Posted on

Big Five Personality Traits

Big Five Personality Traits

Big Five Personality TraitsThe quest to understand human personalities has been going on for 3,000 years, or more. The Big Five Personality Traits are just the latest in a long line of models that take us towards that understanding.

And, it would be as absurd to think that the Big Five Personality Traits will be the last word on the matter as it would have been to stick with the four humours. But perhaps what the centuries of scientific development, and acres of statistical analysis, can assure us of is that we are honing that understanding.

How like the Big Five our 22nd Century model will be, we cannot know. But, for now, the best representation we have, of the fundamentals of human psychology, are the big Five Personality Traits. So, what are they?

Continue reading Big Five Personality Traits

Share this:
Posted on

Key Performance Indicators: KPIs

Key Performance Indicators - KPIs

Key Performance Indicators - KPIsKey Performance Indicators – or KPIs – stem from an insight that is most often attributed to Peter Drucker, in his 1954 book titled, ‘The Practice of Management’:

‘What gets measured gets managed’

That attribution may be contested, but the central assertion seems pretty sound. If your organisation measures performance against a specific metric, then its managers feel an incentive to manage their parts of the business, so that they perform well against that metric. KPIs are nothing more nor less than the key – or most valuable – metrics.

Continue reading Key Performance Indicators: KPIs

Share this: