Tag Archives: leadership

The thing that most makes me want to punch a manager in the face

ImageThere are lots of things managers do that can infuriate you. Apart from being inept the thing that most makes me want to punch a manager in the face is when they make excuses for their decisions.

If you don’t know what that sounds like, it could be something like “we wanted you to take on that project but the deadline has moved forward”

It’s not you, it’s me.

Why do managers hide behind reasons out with their control? Or even worse use those reasons as an excuse. If you really want someone to be on a project then you will genuinely do everything in your power to get them on the project. And when you are using those reasons to cover up thinking that someone isn’t good enough then you are doing everyone a disservice.

Telling someone that they could have done A but unrelated B stopped them rather than saying they weren’t good enough to do A in the first place actually damages your relationship. You may have spared their feelings but without honesty you can’t effectively help someone to grow. And if you don’t help them to grow, they stop working.

Your opinion and decisions are what make you a leader. Nothing else. No industry knowledge, no strategy formulation, just your decisions. You may make decisions about strategy and you may have opinions on the credibility of knowledge which offer more to those that work with you, and for you, than just knowing.

So instead of thinking of reasons to tell your staff, let them know it’s your decision. You may need to justify it but at least your position will be clear.

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Negative staff – friend or foe?

As a manager or leader it is your job to coordinate employees and processes to gain maximum performance. You construct a plan to change things that you think need improved. You even spend some time putting together a communication strategy to appease staff of the downsides. You roll out the presentation and everyone sits quietly. You think to yourself you have done an amazing job. Just to clarify, you ask a few trusted employees for their opinion. Everything comes back glowing and further boosts your confidence. Things change and performance improves. You have done your job well, right?


Further down the line you find staff turnover has increased and satisfaction survey responses are lower. It couldn’t be the changes you made as everyone was happy with those. The staff must be having personal issues or there is something else causing the issue. You bring in an under performer for an improvement plan and they let you know that the changes you made have caused their morale to fall and the job intensity to increase. So why didn’t anyone say?

Were they afraid to? Is it easier to just keep quiet? 

Many friends and previous managers I have worked with don’t like to be questioned about their decisions or workings. In one role I held previously, the employee in question was told they would be ostracised from the team for being a troublemaker and going against management. This member of staff was quoted as being a negative influence on the rest of the team and that it should stop.

Whether it is positive or negative this person has influence. More than perhaps you initially would like. But what if that influence was positive? What if that person agreed with your ideas and was your evangelist among the team? What bigger impact would that person allow for? How much more successful would your change be?

Resistance to change is not a bad thing if you don’t let it become an obstacle. You think this person is being insubordinate and questioning you personally, they see it as questioning an idea. So here are my tips for embracing insubordination.

1. Take your ego out of the equation. This project may be your baby but when you take things personally, particularly criticism, you hold to your ideas stronger and creativity is stifled. Remember this is an organisational goal, not a personal one.

2. Enjoy the challenge. Yes someone is saying your ideas are flawed but celebrate the opportunity to push yourself and your ideas further. Don’t get put out. This is not an attack.

3. Welcome opinions good and bad. Actively seek them out. You may initially see a complaining employee but try to look at this as an employee who thinks it can be better and wants to do so. Employees don’t always say it right so help them to communicate right the next time.

4. Find out why it’s bad. You may have one view of a situation but that’s not the whole picture. The staff can open up a whole other view.

5. Be afraid of those who don’t communicate. They aren’t engaged and don’t want to participate in changes. Even those who complain want to be involved.

6. Delegate the challenge. If you have staff who don’t think an initiative is good enough then let them make it better. If they are directly affected then they have better insight into what is wrong. You don’t have to sweat over it all yourself. Keep on top of their development and initiative though, as you are still accountable.


Taking a more open view to challenging staff can spark creativity, innovation and diversity. And remember be afraid of the silence. No one likes a quiet business.

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Food and recognition

So I posted previously about active and passive recognition and it sparked up a conversation between me and a fellow student. We got chatting about personal active recognition, where a manger can go out their way to recognise your work going above and beyond what’s necessary. So I was asked the question “wouldn’t you get sick of constant recognition? wouldn’t it lose it’s value?”

So it got me thinking. If there was a great manager who kept on top of everything you did and congratulated every little aspect of your role, would it get annoying?

I guess there is no hard and fast answer to this one but I do feel that recognition is a bit like food. If you gave someone a buffet meal for 20 people would it keep them fed for 20 days? 

Definitely not! They wouldn’t be able to eat and digest all that food at once and then they would go hungry by the next day. 

On this note I really enjoy food so it got me thinking about how much food relates to recognition and have come up with some thoughts….

1. Make sure recognition is digestible and regular. Grand gestures at team meetings are sometimes too much and won’t mean as much as a weekly catch up and feedback on performance. You don’t want hungry employees

2. Recognition is like a soufflé. It’s really only good as soon as it is cooked. Soon after it’s loses it’s impact and deflates all together.

3. Recognition can be like dough. You can put the recipe together, spelling out what was good or bad, but it will take time to prove and be ready for cooking.

4. Recognition is like meringue. Overdo it and you lose the integrity. It takes practice to find out when to stop and move on.

5. Recognition is like seasoning. Only needed to bring something out. Sometimes it’s bold and punchy, like chilli and ginger, or it can be more subtle. It has to compliment the situation.

6. Recognition is like wine. Celebrating the end result but also knowing how the grapes improve through the process makes a better wine.

If you have anymore examples post them in the comments below

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Creating a noose to hang jelly – the Beecroft report

I find the Adrian Beecroft report fascinating (you can get it here: the Beecroft report, (PDF, 184 Kb) ). It says a lot of things to me; this man is very brave to challenge the working culture of the UK head-on; it might be a sign of desperation (in general) surrounding the recession; if these recommendations go through then the HR landscape will change drastically; and change management on a national scale is hard.

I admire this report for one main reason. It’s challenging. It provides a challenging viewpoint for all HR, managers and employees which turns UK employment legislation on its head. It’s challenging in its simplicity of rules. Employment law surrounding unfair dismissal is often misunderstood amongst staff, particularly employees who whisper of an elusive “workers El Dorado” where they can stick it to the man. Many have spoken of it, gone in search of it and never come back. The rules suggested by Beecroft would make the treasure map much clearer, stray off the path and you will find quicksand.

On the flip side it’s challenging in the wrong way as well. The role of HR would need to be restructured completely. Consistent performance management would become imperative to maintain trust in employers when dismissing under performers. With all these unsuitable employees leaving the company recruitment and talent management roles would sky rocket, employment law would shrink with less tribunals but the hidden change may be in reward. With less reason to motivate staff other than for the fear of dismissal why should companies  push to retain talent? If every company has the power to fire at will then the performers are rewarded by keeping their job. Granted it could boost profits for the company but with less financial reward for employees, the economy may not move any quicker.

The main challenge of implementing these suggested changes is: how do we control what happens next?

I get a sense of 1984 from Beecroft’s report. Not in it actions, but in the way it is written. Employees are not numbers, but actual human beings. While studying, a fellow student was explaining about absence management processes in their workplace. It included a regular “3 absences in a time period and a discussion is had”. They said it was well implemented but on looking at patterns there were a group of staff who made sure their third absence fell just outside the time period so it went undetected. Back on the organisation’s treasure map, the path may be surrounded by quicksand, but staff may just climb a tree to vanish. With these changes the system will be much clearer, and when it’s clear, people will begin to play the system. Does it mean organisations will get more out of their staff? Marginally, to make sure they aren’t dismissed. But will they be engaged to help the organisation succeed? Not unless they were before.

Somethings will never change, people will always try to outmanoeuvre the status quo. In fact, Adrian Beecroft has done it on a national scale. Now I’m not saying this is right or wrong but it has certainly grabbed peoples attention about issues in employment. And if the power to act out of line is reduced for employees. With these suggested changes, who will highlight issues to the organisation? With less reason to listen to the issues of employees, managers may hinder the growth of the organisation even more.





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