Great bosses have great people because they set out to serve those who work for them. Make time to get to know those who work for you, their talents, aspirations and skills. Only then can you ensure that they are doing their best job, benefiting you and the business.
To people who work for you, you are really important. This means how you speak and react is also important. Do not forget it or you will make some big mistakes that lose you trust and respect.
Mistakes are a useful means of learning. Begin from the stance that no one makes a mistake on purpose and you will help a person learn and avoid the same mistake in the future. Punish, and they will give up trying.
Look for the right job for each person. The person who struggles in one job could be a absolute star in another. You may not have the wrong person: it may just be the wrong job. Your task is to support them in finding their true place.
Tell the truth. Everyone knows when things are not right, so you lose credibility if you back away. And people resent having to pick up the shortfall for persistently under-performing colleagues.
Celebrate every success, even small ones. It need only be a ‘Thankyou' or ‘Well done', but it will always be appreciated. Give your time and encourage the team to have fun together - it will benefit the work and effectiveness overall.
As a manager you have a responsibility to hone the talent that comes your way. Be the‘grit in their oyster' and develop the pearl. It will enhance your reputation and further the work of your team, while building the capability of the company.
Thirteen years ago, Roisín took a vacation job on the Asda checkouts. Thanks to their constant search for talent, she now reports to the HR director and is facing her next challenge. She was not at all sure that this was what she wanted, but she agreed to try the graduate scheme for six months. Through careful nurturing and attention to her interest levels, she has been stretched and developed to fulfil the potential that was clearly there.
A wonderful part of the great manager task is to be the grit in the oyster by challenging the comfort zone. High-potential people will not stay in the same role forever. They want to push the boundaries and discover just how much they can achieve. Ignore them and they will go to competitors to improve their CV. Keep the challenge coming and they will stay and move through the organisation.
Roisín never had time to get bored. Every year to 15 months she was given a new challenge. Not only was it exciting, she began to see that she could make a difference - and this is a real turn-on for talented people. She trusted those who managed her, understanding that they would serve both her and the business. So even when the next step was not totally to her liking she recognised it had positive intent.
This approach is not without its hazards. Sometimes aspiration outweighs potential and a person just cannot reach the required standard. Asda believe it is their fault if they place someone in a job they cannot do. If work is assessed regularly, this is unlikely to happen, but it is always a risk. Then the person has to be realigned to their own personal level of excellence. To ease the transition, they may be put on to a separate project before returning to the right job, but it does not always work and people do leave.
It takes a big-hearted person to develop another. Success can mean watching your subordinate pass you by, encouraging others to take on tasks that would otherwise make you shine. However, take on people better than yourself and your work will thrive. Become known as a top talent spotter and everyone will want to work with you.
Think about every person who reports to you. What talents do they have? Let your mind go wide on this, without limiting to the present skill set.
Who are your high-potential people? How seriously do you take this responsibility? Where do you consider these people could go to in the next five years? Talk with your HR representative or boss about their capabilities.
Use your network in the company to find out what challenges are on the horizon that might stretch them.
Be on the lookout for talent in other departments that might be equally challenged by a stint with you.
Align all this to the business need. Clarify when you can most easily let a person move on without putting too great a strain on the work, yourself, or others in the team.
Honda has always been considered a maverick company in Japan. The company has trouble recruiting the skills it needs and so has become expert at developing talent in-house. And this includes 30 colleagues who are dedicated people managers, honing the talent and skill of managing people.
Management is a skill in its own right. Specific skills can be picked up along the way as managers move around the company. Pauline Wiseman, the present head of HR, previously ran the Honda Institute and prior to that was head of finance - a job she actually arrived prepared for. Her job is to manage people who have the required skill. She just has to create space for them to do the work.
When you have an expert team, the manager does not need to know everything about the task at hand. This is the exact opposite of many companies in which the boss has done the job before you, and so knows at least as much as you do. As many of you reading this book will know, this can be a real drawback. The temptation to become totally absorbed in minutiae is so high that managers can be a real interference in the development of their people.
When Chris Rogers was made corporate PR manager at Honda, he was taken to his desk and left to get on with it. No one showed him the ropes; he had to work it out for himself. So he followed the Three Realities:
Go to the place.
Know the actual situation.
In other words, get in amongst it to understand where you are and what is important, and then involve the people in moving forward. When Chris has problems he looks to Honda philosophy and wonders what Mr Honda would have done. This company exists through excited, enthusiastic people, and it is managers who enable them to move forward. Without these expert people managers supporting an environment of excellence, you would not be driving your snazzy new Accord.
Next time you face a challenge, try the Three Reality principle:
Go to the place - do not try to work it out from a distance. If your team has a problem, make sure you are where it is occurring.
Know the actual situation - do not rush into action. Pay attention to what is happening and see what the obstacles are. The most important job may be to remove these, rather than to take action.
Be realistic - using the information gained from being at the place and knowing the actual situation, be realistic in your assessment and judgement.
Running a business means facing problems: no one is exempt. And because all problems involve people at some level, it is how you behave that makes the difference.
Ironically, those companies where the guiding principles do not relate to people are most likely to put tough decisions on the back burner. Poor performers are left to languish in a non-job or carried by the team. Everyone knows what is happening, and respect for the management drops a little for each day it continues. The implicit message is that you can get away with murder, so the level of excellence drops down to ‘good enough'. If people are not the most important asset, you can talk yourself into being far too busy to deal with the problem.
Great company managers are not allowed that ‘luxury' - company principles demand they treat every person with respect. Mick Kent claims that
There are two decisions when dealing with people: first, what is right for the organisational principles, objectives and goals. This is the prime decision. If you have tried everything to bring a person up to standard, but it has failed, then you have to exit them.
Then you are on to number two. Treat that individual in the best way you can - as you would expect to be treated. Don't mix these two things up. Bend over backwards to be as generous and humane as possible - so that person walks out with their head held high and they maintain their dignity as an individual.
Mick is very conscious of removing blocks to high performance - a major part of the job when managing people. Keeping someone in the wrong job creates a blockage for the team and the company, and so must be attended to if everyone is to remain positive and motivated. When the only way is out, your job is to help that person leave in a way that enables them to take on the next job with as much confidence as possible.
If you have an under-performer in your team and you are not addressing the problem, this story will have struck a chord. It is difficult, but you do no one a service by ignoring the truth. If the right job is not in your company, you have to act for the sake of the business and the individual.
Talk with the HR department and begin the process.
When the time comes, be honest with the person - outline the problems that have led to this. Make sure they fully understand so that they can choose a more appropriate job in the future.
Say what you have appreciated about their work and presence. Remember: they have to go on to other work - help them see where their talents lie.
Do all you can to ensure that the best possible package is provided.
Get support internally from people who have done this before and understand the emotional impact on the manager.