Who’s your critical friend when you’re at the top?











The concept of the ‘critical friend’ is something that’s booming in organisations, particularly among leadership teams. It’s that person you can turn to when you need someone to be completely honest with you and look at the organisation in through different eyes.

They should be neutral and, although the word critical is uses, this person isn’t there to judge you. It’s more about being truthful and challenging you. They can’t be a ‘Yes man’ who’ll simply agree with everything you say, but they have to feel comfortable enough to be able to speak out.

As the head of an organisation, finding your critical friend is really important, but perhaps it’s more difficult for you than it is for others. They can always turn to someone higher up the ladder they know well or have worked with before to act as a mentor.

So, if you’re at the top of the tree in an organisation, how do you go about choosing your critical friend?

The simple answer is there’s no simple answer. Actual friends can sometimes make good critical friends, but be careful of the ‘Yes man’ situation mentioned earlier. There’s also a chance you might fall out eventually so maybe this is best avoided.

Perhaps there’s a CEO or managing director of another organisation you can ask. Obviously avoid a direct competitor, but if there’s someone you know and trust well enough, this could be the answer. They’ll appreciate you thinking of them and like giving help and advice. […]

By |October 18th, 2017|leadership|Comments Off on Who’s your critical friend when you’re at the top?

To see or not to see – that is the question














Picture the scene – it’s a familiar one in hundreds of workplaces across the UK, if not the world. The boss comes in, says morning and has a quick chat with everyone. Maybe they stop and make a cuppa or a coffee for a few of the early starters. What a brilliant boss.

Then they go into their office and shut the door.

A few hours later the door opens and they emerge. Off they go to a meeting, or they’re on their mobile engrossed in what sounds like a really important phone call.

Then they go into their office and shut the door.

This pattern repeats throughout the day. And the week. Then comes the floor meeting when the boss takes half, or maybe, even a whole hour to give everyone an update, listen to whatever concerns people have and answer a few questions. They conclude the meeting with: ‘You know where I am. You can come and talk to me any time. My door’s always open.’

Then they go into their office and shut the door. (Guess they didn’t mean it literally.)

You get the picture. In a lot of organisations, some managers see having an office as a perk. They get to make it how they want and can work in peace. It’s a symbol of power and they think they’ve made it now they have an office. But the trouble is, an office can be really intimidating for anyone else in the organisation. Especially if the door’s shut.

It’s about being visible and accessible, which are both really important. The boss in this instance has got a […]

By |September 27th, 2017|leadership, news|Comments Off on To see or not to see – that is the question

Keeping your organisation in tune with your employee voice










If there’s one thing employees really value in an organisation today, it’s having a voice. And that voice being heard and taken notice of.

In fact, it’s often the only way they can be heard and get their point of view across in some organisations. This then leads to a workforce that feels more involved and valued because someone’s listening. Engagement then shoots up, as does creativity and productivity. Everyone’s a winner.

But it’s no good having an employee voice that rings out loud and clear if you’re not in tune with what it’s saying. Encouraging people to speak out is great, but it’s equally important to listen to what’s being said and act on it.

So how do you go about doing that?

The first thing to do is make sure your employees are involved in decision making, particularly when there’s changes happening that affect them. Ask them to offer their honest opinion on things. This is getting the employee voice set up.

Next, you need to assure them they’ll be listened to so they’ll open up. To tune into your employee voice, you really need to listen to what’s being said by everyone in the organisation. No-one’s point of view is more important than anyone else’s so take everyone’s opinion into account.

Once you’ve done this, you can see what your employees’ needs are in the organisation, and start to communicate what they are. More importantly – you can also start to talk about what you’re going to do to address them. This shows you’re really in-tune with your workforce and have properly listened to their voice.

It’s this […]

By |August 17th, 2017|leadership|Comments Off on Keeping your organisation in tune with your employee voice

What’s your strategic narrative?










Are you sitting comfortably…then we’ll begin.

You’ll recognise this sentence as the opening to most of your favourite stories. These familiar words let you know you’re about to be told (or read) something wonderful where you can get immersed in the words, and paint pictures of what’s happening in your mind.

That’s what stories do. They help you visualise things and make them real. They capture your emotions and make you laugh and cry – often at the same time. There’s not much else you can think of that you can say that about.

We’re talking about stories because to have an effective strategic narrative for your organisation, you need to know what its story is. And be able to tell it in a way that’ll engage and relate to people.

A strategy is a plan of action at a certain point in time, whereas a strategic narrative is the journey the business is on, so think about the journey your organisation needs to go on to get where you need to. It needs to be authentic and believable, so stick to the truth and don’t shy away from telling it how it is even if that sometimes involves negatives.

To start, try asking yourself these three questions: Where is your organisation now? Where do you want it to get to? How do we get there? This is your journey.

The journey need to be something achievable, so avoid setting grandiose plans no-one in your organisation will think are realistic. The most effective journeys allow for – and even encourage – people to learn and adapt as they go along […]

By |August 10th, 2017|change management, leadership|Comments Off on What’s your strategic narrative?

Getting your organisation Investors in People ready 1









You might remember a while ago we talked about why you should think about getting your organisation accredited by Investors in People (IIP). If you’ve not read that blog yet, you can catch it here, and then come back and read this.

We also said we’d produce a series of blogs about what you need to do if you like what you read and think you’d like to be a part of it.

So, true to our word, here’s the first of those blogs.

IIP has produced its own standard with three performance headings – leading, supporting and improving – with another three key indicators under each of these headings meaning there’s nine areas in total to talk about. Our blogs will concentrate on one heading.

This week, it’s leading and inspiring people, the first key indicator under leading. Here’s what IIP says it means:

Leaders make the organisation’s objectives clear. They inspire and motivate people to deliver against these objectives and are trusted by people in the organisation.’

You’ve probably got your own ideas about what makes someone an inspiring leader. It could be a sportsman who leads by example, or someone who’s achieved something against the odds. But in organisations, what does it really mean?

Firstly it’s not just those right at the top that need to be inspirational. It applies to anyone who has any sort of leadership role so they can get the best out of their people.

To successfully lead and inspire others, managers need to be able to motivate people so they want to give them their […]

By |July 18th, 2017|change management, leadership, succession planning|Comments Off on Getting your organisation Investors in People ready 1

Anyone for tennis?










It’s that fortnight in the summer again when strawberry sales reach their peak and we all tune in to watch the world’s greatest tennis players battle it out to become the All England Champion on the grass courts in London.

Whether you’re an ardent tennis fan, or an occasional enthusiast, the appeal of tennis is easy to see. During a typical match, you’re treated to great athleticism, sportsmanship, excitement, and the occasional shock. Whoever plays best on the day wins.

But have you ever stopped to think what it takes to be a top player, like Roger Federer or Serena Williams? And what you need to stay at the top once you’ve got there? You’re probably thinking of things like skill, desire, mental as well as physical strength, and staying injury free. These are all really important, but there’s one you might have overlooked – leadership.

Take teamwork – an essential part of leadership. No successful tennis professional has ever got where they have on their own. Although it’s the player who’s ultimately responsible for doing the business on the court, every single one of them has a carefully-selected team behind them.

There’s a coach whose job it is to help the player improve and iron out weaknesses, a medical team responsible for keeping the player in tip-top physical condition, and a manager or agent who looks after the player’s schedule and finances to name a few. Each member of this team has their own important role and they’re trusted by the player to do it to the best of their ability.

To be a champion, the player has […]

By |July 12th, 2017|leadership|Comments Off on Anyone for tennis?

Don’t let your own iceberg sink your Titanic











In business, many people think of their organisation as being unsinkable like the Titanic. It’s been built up over the years, is profitable and successful. What could go wrong?

You’re all familiar with what happened when the supposedly unsinkable Titanic collided with an iceberg, and the tragedy that followed. In the decades that have followed, many theories have been put forward about what caused the vessel to actually sink. At first, many blamed the Captain for the speed at which he sailed across the iceberg-packed waters.

Others thought it was the steel the ship was made out of that was at fault. Scientists found it was very brittle after they hit bits brought up from the bottom of the ocean and they shattered when hit with a hammer. This theory has now been debunked as bigger parts from the hull fared much better in the same experiment.

It’s now widely accepted it was actually the iceberg that scuppered the Titanic. The ship’s huge bulk meant it wasn’t very nimble and couldn’t get out of the way of big objects, like icebergs. And the only way of spotting big objects was by lookouts – another potential flaw – especially as it was dark. So when the ship eventually stuck the fatal iceberg, big holes were pierced in its hull and it filled with water and sank pretty quickly.

It also appears the design of the liner was it fault. It was constructed with huge interior compartments that meant it should’ve been able to stay afloat even when many of these compartments were […]

By |July 5th, 2017|leadership|Comments Off on Don’t let your own iceberg sink your Titanic

It’s OK to not know everything











Being a boss is a challenge. It always has been and always will be. When you’re at the helm of an organisation people look up to you. They expect you to set the direction of travel for the organisation and to guide it through the ups and downs.

But here’s the thing: it’s okay not to know everything. You might think that’s a strange thing to say. The boss is in charge. They’re the top man (or woman) and it’s part of their job to be fully aware of everything to do with the organisation, right? Well, yes and no.

You’ll face loads of situations where you might not know about something in an organisation. If you do, don’t worry about it – we’re all human and it goes without saying you’ll probably come a cropper at least once because you’re not as knowledgeable about one area as another.

Facing that moment of uncertainty is daunting. You want to show you’re the right person to lead the organisation, but admitting you don’t know something could be seen as a sign of weakness. What do you do?

First of all relax. Don’t stress about it. Many of the world’s most respected CEOs and leaders will have been in this situation lots of times and got through it. Think Marissa Mayer at Yahoo! She got things badly wrong with the direction of her organisation, but is still highly-respected as a great CEO. Plus she’s worth a cool $430m (according to her Wikipedia page).

Leaders like Marissa recognise that it’s okay to not always know everything, but still show really strong leadership. […]

By |June 22nd, 2017|leadership|Comments Off on It’s OK to not know everything

Why you should get your organisation ready for Investors in People










To be clear right from the start, we’re not an agent for Investors in People and don’t get any financial incentive for talking about them. But we do think being accredited by them is a really worthwhile thing to do for your organisation as it shows you’re serious about being a great employer who’s committed to your people.

You can’t just order an accreditation online or pick one up from your local supermarket. To be accredited at any level takes hard-work, and you need to be prepared to take a good luck at what your organisation does, how effective your leadership team is, and what you can do better.

Before you can even think about getting accredited, it’s worth knowing a bit more about what Investors in People look for and some of the things you can do to get your organisation ready. We can’t cover it in one blog so we’ll look to tell you what you need to know in a series of easily-digestible chunks to read. We might even put them all in one place as a handy guide too.

In this first blog, we’ll focus on why you should get your organisation accredited. We’re not saying every business should take that step as it’s not for everyone, but if you’re thinking of ways to take your organisation to the next level, it’s something you should explore.

So back to the why. Investors in People are recognised internationally as setting the standard in people management. Getting accredited means you’ll learn how to measure performance effectively, get better at recognising the talent in your organisation and […]

By |June 16th, 2017|leadership|Comments Off on Why you should get your organisation ready for Investors in People

I like the person but…



















Once upon a time, Britain used to be called a nation of shopkeepers. That’s not really true nowadays, but we are a nation of small business owners. And one of the great things about these organisations is that everyone knows each other, and there’s a real sense of camaraderie where you’re all pulling together towards the same goals.

However, what if you need to have a difficult conversation with someone else in the organisation that you’ve known for years – a friend or family member even – over their performance?

The dreaded ‘I like the person but’ syndrome is never easy to deal with, but in this type of workplace, it can be really difficult to get right as it can cause ructions and shake the foundations of the organisation. Things often get personal as people will take sides and have an opinion about what’s happening, even if they’re not aware of all the facts.

It’s perfectly natural to be scared of having this talk. Human nature is to avoid what we’re uncomfortable with. But you’re going to have to face it eventually, and it’s usually better sooner rather than later. Don’t just dive in though – take a more measured approach and pitch it as a two-way conversation where you’d like their take on the situation.

First you need to find out why their performance has dipped. Maybe they’re not challenged enough, or they’ve simply taken their foot off the gas because they’ve been doing the job for so long. It could be due to outside reasons, like family issues or illness.

Occasionally though, it can be […]

By |June 13th, 2017|leadership|Comments Off on I like the person but…