Can Your Star Performer Drive Change?


If you are managing a growing business, and your workload is rising, you know that sooner or later, you and your management team will need more leadership capacity, you will need to develop another leader.  As a key stakeholder in this new leader’s success, you want to be confident that your rising star will be a great people manager, but you also know that great leaders need more than technical skills; they need to learn how to get the most from their team.


Great people managers connect with their teams with ease. They use their people skills to create an environment for trust, respect, motivation, and ultimately, for productivity. They don’t insist on telling people how to do their job; they “simply” lead.

The question is: Do you want great managers in your business?

  Continue reading

Now That’s a Scary Step

Man jumping over gap

“I’ve been promoted!

 “I’ve been working hard for this for a long time, and now, at last, I have my first real management position. I’ve stepped up into leadership and I’ll be managing people for the first time in my career. It feels amazing and I’m so grateful to know that all my hard work has been recognised by senior management. What a relief!

 “A few of my friends asked me if I really knew what I was letting myself in for, but I dismissed their questions. Of course I know; ‘this is management and of course I’m ready’ I said to them. My boss and his peers know I can do it and that’s enough for me.

“But that was 2 months ago, and I certainly don’t feel the same now. I guess you could say that the honeymoon is over and I’m at an all-time low. My team – and I thought I knew them – all seem to be different towards me. They are expecting me to blow their trumpets for them. They want me to tell all the other managers how good they are and how much they deserve a big pay rise for their hard work. I’m now responsible for 6 projects, not just the one I had last year. I’m finding it hard to keep up with the reporting, the score cards, the dashboards, and the corrective action plans needed to prevent further delays to delivery. And next week is the start of the next budget and salary planning cycle, so I need to be prepared for that too. I know I’m new to this and I know my boss wants me to succeed, so I don’t want to let him down. Continue reading

What’s my WHY?

breaking the shellThrough my career at HP (now HP Enterprise), I had the privilege of working for some truly great managers. They had the gift of connecting with me so that they could understand me, motivate me, trust me and support me. They made very clear what they wanted, and set out objectives and measures, but they didn’t insist on telling me how to do my job. And yet they seemed to make it so easy when they inspired me to deliver my best work, to learn, to develop, and to grow my engineering contribution.

Eventually, I reached the point where I wanted to go beyond purely technical work, the point where I too wanted to lead a team of technical people and be another great HP manager. But observing those management skills and putting them into practice were very different, and as I discovered, making that step from engineer to people manager was the hardest career transition of all.

I was struggling, trying hard, but getting nowhere. I was trying to be what every stakeholder wanted me to be, and I lost myself in the process.

I forgot to be just me, and that process of losing myself, I created 6 months of stress. Continue reading

The (HE)ART of Letting Go!

trapeze-smallWe all reach a point when we realise that we have to delegate. We have to relinquish some responsibility to someone else in the team, because we simply cannot do it all ourselves. If we want to grow, if we want our staff to grow, we have to hand bigger things over to them, and give ourselves the time and the energy to do something of still higher value; strategy and change management for instance.

As an R&D manager at HP, I realised that there are really 2 parts to this process of delegating and “letting go”; there’s the ART of doing it, and there’s the HEART of doing it.

The ART: Managers are responsible for getting results through the combined efforts of the people in their teams. They create the right environment for success, and develop the values and the culture, so that everyone knows how things get done. Clear team goals are cascaded from the overall business strategy and work is distributed according to skill set, competence and experience.

There will also be some framework for managing performance and holding regular reviews or appraisals. A coaching approach to performance management plays a key role, and Continue reading

“I’d like to share some feedback”

talking on stairsImagine you are just about to share some feedback with an employee. The feedback could be very positive, or it could be – as HP often used to say – a “development opportunity”. After you have asked the employee to come into your office, there are two ways they might react to your request. Their line of thinking could be either;

  1. “Oh my God, this could be bad, what have I done now?” or,
  2. “Here we go again, another rant on its way, good job I am used to it.”

In the first case, the result is stress. Your employee’s thoughts create a chain reaction; they imagine the worst, they change their physiology, and get prepared for a defensive response, while their mind begins to close down to any possibility for learning.

In the second case, they have already switched off any opportunity to really listen, their engagement takes another downward notch, and again, the possibility for learning has gone.

Both types of response are possible if your relationship is weak, and trust is low or missing altogether.   Continue reading

The Power of Purpose

800x600xApollo-11-launches-from-Pad-39A-Kennedy-Space-Center-13-32-00-UTC-16-July-1969_jpg_pagespeed_ic_d-udV7Qj86Do you recall that story about President John F Kennedy and the janitor at the NASA Space Centre in the early 1960’s? Kennedy had made a declaration that the USA would put a man on the moon during that decade, and he had the will to make it happen. While at NASA, he asked a janitor what he was doing as he carried his mop and bucket around, and the janitor replied: “I’m helping to put a man on the moon Mr President.”

Establishing a Purpose for any organisation is essential; it answers the big question: “Why are we here?” It also gives everyone concerned a sense of belonging to something bigger and more important than any individual, whether the CEO or the cleaner. That something creates engagement, motivation, commitment, a willingness to go the extra mile. You could say it’s rocket fuel. The point about the janitor at NASA is that a clear sense of purpose transcends all hierarchy in an organisation. That janitor knew that his contribution was just as important as that of Neil Armstrong or Gene Kranz.

But how do you define that Purpose for your team, your company? First of all it’s worth investing the time for your leadership team to make your Purpose clear, because you want it to last, and you want it to be crystal clear to everyone.   Here are some suggested questions Continue reading

Got a Maverick in your team?

A good telling off

There was a great article in Director magazine this month from their Information and Advisory Service.  The writer used Bond’s wayward character from Skyfall, when he played dead and started a boozy retirement near a tropical beach; hardly a model employee of the UK government.

Of course, M needed to talk.

I guess you don’t have 007 in your team, but there probably is someone that you need to have a difficult conversations with, clear the air, and get them back on track.  And you know that if you delay this conversation, things will only deteriorate, they may just chip away at your credibility as leader, and before you know it, set a precedent for unacceptably poor behaviour.

So, what are you to do?  First of all, be prepared.

There’s a 5 step process for this type of conversation which I covered in my workshop this morning, “Coaching Others to Be Their Best”.  Once you have clearly identified the message you wish to give, Continue reading

Threatened by the cold?

scarf_totall_1As the weather changes and the cold winds blow, you might reach for a scarf to give you protection, warding off the threat from the cold itself.  But the cold weather is not the only threat that you experience; in fact the cold weather is possibly one of the easiest threats to deal with, just pick up your scarf and out you go.

Like it or not, aware or unaware, we all face threats many times each day as we interact with others at work, at home, buying a car, or looking for a bargain.  It’s all because our brains are wired for survival and we subconsciously perceive what we see and hear as potential threats.  Walking to work, you won’t bump into a hungry tiger, but you may have a challenging conversation with your boss, and (unfortunately) your physiology will respond in just the same way; a series of internal events causes your thinking brain to close down as you prepare to: Continue reading