Delegate – Learn to Let Go

Delegation can be hard for a manager, especially those new to the role.  When your main focus has been on adding value through your technical value-add, moving towards a management role where you need to focus on other tasks learning to delegate becomes an important task to master.  Learning to delegate means learning to let go.

By letting go, you are now free to do these new tasks that your role demands.

Delegation involves coaching, feedback, tracking to maintaining progress, communicating and asking questions.  The aim is to build the capacity in others so that you can free your time on being a manager.

To delegate effectively:

  • Define the scope
    • The purpose, the big picture, stakeholder expectations, timelines and any shaping constraints
    • Do not fall into the trap of telling them how to do it; ask them for their ideas and approaches.  Encourage them to learn, try, experiment where possible.   Your role is there to support, coach and advise on the journey they take.
  • Select the individual / team
    • Play to the strengths of the individual or team. Assess the risks involved.  If the task is of high risk, this may not be the time to delegate.   Be aware of the demotivating impact of always delegating the same task to the same person.  Develops the hamster wheel effect.
  • Regular progress updates
    • You want to make sure that they are on rack and progress can be a mixture of formal and informal reviews.  Informal meetings can be powerful as they show openness; the meeting is seen as an opportunity and not as a threat

Delegating is not easy.  The first time is difficult.  But like most activities, the more you practise, the easier it becomes.

Pros and Cons of a Matrix Structure – Better Get Use To It

matrix-1799661_1920A matrix is a grid type organization that allows it to address multiple dimensions: Functions: product / service lines and geographies.  Typically an individual may have a mixture of reporting lines: both solid and dotted line.

Increasingly, large complex, global organizations have employed a matrix operating structure.  So why do it?

The advantages include:

It helps to break the silo mentality and structure, by

  • Increasing co-operation across vertical silos
  • Utilizing resources and talent where available 
  • Aids in delivering horizontal work, by
    • Serving global customers
    • Managing the supply chain more efficiently and effectively
    • Running streamlined integrated systems and processes
  •  Provides speed of response
    • The ability to respond to the importance of the global, local, business and functional requirements
  • Develops broader capabilities
    • Enhances capabilities that delivers value across the organization

A lot of these advantages can be categorized as being of benefitting the organization.

When focusing on the disadvantages, these can often be focused on the individual operating within the matrix and can include:

  • Goals are not clear
    • Who is doing what where are when. Often goals become misaligned due to a lack of communications, but also on not considering the bigger picture.
  • Determining who is in charge
    • The traditional organizational chart is of no use. We need to develop the matrix structure diagram by considering stakeholders, direct and indirect. Often these charts are fluid depending on what you do and the maturity of the activity.
  • Poor communication
    • The silo mentality takes over. What an individual needs to achieve can only be achieved through the combined efforts off the team, but if you do not know the formal and the informal members, then communicating becomes an issue
  • Lack of direct accountability
    • Going back to classic RACI model (Responsibility, Accountability, Consult and Inform) provides a process for identifying each contribution to an activity and decision-making. Knowing who is ultimately in charge, always helps!
  • Delays in making decisions
    • Often occurs because we do not know who is in charge. The other issue, becomes, who to inform and who needs to know when a decision is required.  Making a decision can often be easier than seeing it through within a matrix structure.
  • Increase in conflict
    • Created due to a range of issues goal misalignment, operating distance, lack of accountability. If you are operating in a matrix, and there is no conflict, then ask yourself if you really are in a matrix. The setup and implementation of a matrix, will result in conflict and potential conflict arising.  Managing the conflict in a proactive manner becomes key.








Customer Services – An Approach to Teamwork and Effective Communication

call-center-2537390_640When we consider the topic of customer services, we often think of organisations in a for profit world that are keen to impress their clients to extend their relationships.  The same ethos applies in a not for profit organization.

Often large organizations have many employees that never interact with their end “customers or clients”, but in fact deal mostly with their internal colleagues.  Whenever an individual creates an output that is used as an input by someone else, whether they are internal or external, they should be considered as a customer.

 By developing a customer centric approach, and ultimately creating a customer centric culture, the end benefits are clear.  You attain:

  • Teamwork by breaking the silo mentality
  • Communications that is enhanced by seeking feedback
  • Outputs are of value add in the eyes of our customers

A customer centric alignment focuses at the heart its customer and then everything we do is to manage the expectations of the customer.  When we make promises and then do not deliver, the customer does not forget.  A key component is on problem solving.  Consider why has the problem occurred and what can we do to prevent it from reoccurring.  This can only be achieved by working with the customer, showing you care and working with fellow colleagues to develop a customer orientated culture.

“Creating a customer orientated culture needs changes in behaviours and mind-sets.  Sweat the small things: following up on issues, being proactive, openly communicate and seek feedback.  When you add all the small things up, you develop real change.”


Developing Your Professional Services Capabilities

Professional services include a range of different occupations which provide support to businesses of all sizes and in all sectors. People working in professional services provide specialist advice to their clients, both internally and externally to their organization.

Professional services are critical to the success of the UK economy, representing 15% of UK GDP, 14% of employment and 14% of exports.”  Source:

In 2012, the U.S. professional services industry comprised about 760,000 firms with combined annual revenues of $1.5 trillion. The industry employed 7.8 million Americans.  Source:

Many individuals have embarked on enhancing and developing their technical abilities and competencies and have taken many courses focussed around gaining new insights and plugging technical gaps in their knowledge base.  All well and good but what about the other side of the scale?

  • The ability to work with productively with others
  • Understanding the business they work in and for
  • Managing their own productively and remain focused on outcomes
  • Becoming more commercially minded, without becoming a sales person
  • Identifying the needs of the customers, create win-wins and enhance mutual opportunities

These are some of the skills required to enhance individual capabilities, to increase their overall contribution to their organization.

I meet and have met many highly competent and technical individuals who are great when the emphasis is on their technical area of influence, but would struggle or find it difficult to operate and work with other stakeholders, contribute at team meetings, or simply operate effectively in front of customers.  These are important and necessary skills, often hidden and not as visible as the technical skills we often primarily focus on.

If I look at my own journey as a Professional, I spent my formative years focussing on my technical abilities (coding, project management, service delivery, stakeholder management etc.)  As my career progressed I moved into more roles that were primarily customer centric (both internally and externally) and had to develop a new range of skills that I learnt by reading books, trying new approaches, learning from mistakes.  I did my MBA in my 30s primarily to formalise my informal skill sets to increase and enhance my management and leadership abilities.

I am currently working on a new project where the PS Professional certification would have helped me in that journey, and believe it will help many individuals who want to enhance their overall skill set.

The certification focusses on five core areas, which when considered as a whole provides the overall offering a Professional can provide:

Athlete The foundations of being an Athlete are about being professional in how an individual present themselves and in what they do.  The key is the ability to plan and carefully prepare, combined with excellent time management skills.  There is a strong focus on both building and maintaining long-term influential relationships – both internally within the organization and externally with other stakeholders.

ExecutiveUnderstanding the nature of business is a key component to making a strong contribution.  There are a number of key components, which need to be understood and addressed which have an impact on the decisions a customer will make and on their direction as a business. For example, in addition to the important economic climate what are the social trends for that business? What are the effects of government and regulatory developments or what Innovations or technology trends will propel it? Do you understand the financial underpinnings of the organization?  Understanding the wider shaping factors is key and a real differentiator.

RainmakerA key goal is to make technical individuals more commercial and more sales oriented, even if they are not official sales people. The challenge with technical people is the need to be recognized as an expert, which leads to high level solutions, that a customer may not want need or are ready for.   This is at conflict with how you want to behave to develop effective outcomes with customers. The goal is to understanding what their business issues and drivers are and link them to something you can market and ultimately sell.

The secret to success is being really customer and sales oriented, with a true entrepreneurial spirit, a rainmaker (make rain where there isn’t any) who has earned the right to sell more.

AuthorityThe best professionals are experts in their particular field.  In essence, the Guru.

This is one of the most important aspects of developing and earning credibility, which can then be used to build trust.  People will judge an individual primarily on whether they know what they are talking about.  They will also be judged on how they demonstrate passion, a depth of knowledge, are able to tailor their message to the audience, have real credibility and are able to demonstrate it.

Catalyst The end game of any engagement is for the customer to get something implemented and eventually managed.  The biggest complaint customers have is that they were sold something that does not eventually work, or they had a very stressful time during the whole implementation process. The focus is to see things through the eyes of the customer and walk in their shoes. Understanding the operational environment, starting from the point of how something will operate, and reverse engineering the solution and associated activities to ensure that the customer experience is just as strong afterwards and during as it is at the beginning.

Creating the rounded Professional, one who has a strong technical background, balanced with the skills that this curricula provides, creates the professional of tomorrow.



Motivating Others

Motivation theory has been endlessly studied since the dawn of production systems in the early twentieth century.  There is one model that I use a lot though having not worked for a Premier League football team, am not sure if this would work there.

The approach is based on Hackman and Oldham’s five core job characteristic model (Hackman. J.R and Oldham, G.R Work Redesign. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. 1980):

If an individual or team are not motivated and you lead / manage them, consider if one of the following, is missing:

success-784357_1280.jpgSkill variety:  Individuals are motivated when they use their skills.  If you are trained, currently training, or have been trained, in a particular skill area, and do not get the opportunity to apply these new skills, then this will act as a potential de-motivator.  The issue we have in this large complex organisational setting, is whether we know all the skills and capabilities of individuals?  I was at a company where the person had spent over twenty years there.  Within that time, he must have taken countless courses and developed his skill set to no end, but where has this knowledge been captured and made available to others?  Now more individuals are placing information on Linkedin, but is the natural one place stop for the capture and dissemination of this information.  It boils down to this: if we do not know, how can we utilize the skill?

puzzle-308908_1280.pngTask identity: What is the visible outcome and can they link what they are doing to the bigger picture?  If you take a one thousand piece jigsaw set, and I give you a single piece and ask you what the big picture is, you will find it impossible to guess. The same applies to our work.  We need to know how our work contributes to the bigger overall picture of what we are all working together on as a team.  I worked with a project manager installing a large processing facility for the chemicals industry. Parts of the design work were done by teams located across the world far away from the actual physical installation.  So after we spoke about motivating the team, he started putting pictures of the plant as it was being assembled so that the design team could feel, in some small way, part of the overall project.

Task significance: Impact on others.  How does our work impact our stakeholders?  We often see our work through lenses but do not take the time to view it from the perspective of the user, the person who interacts and utilizes the product or service.  I have worked with a number of leaders within the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK.  I was told a story of a unit that worked with children diagnosed with cancer.  The team was shaped by a lot of team infighting, and the leader became fed up and at a team meeting put a video on of a child suffering, which led to hush silence in the room and inevitable tears.  That event made the team realize the significance of what they were doing, and why they could not afford to not operate as a team.

Autonomy: The freedom to plan and undertake the task and avoid being micro-managed.  Smart people want macro-management not micro-management.  As a manager give the parameters of a delegated task: the resources, time constraints, the definition of success etc.  Then let the individual get on with it.  They may not take the route you would naturally take, but perhaps you can allow this so that they learn by doing. Smart people want smart management! See the work of Dan Pink on this.

Feedback: Clear information is provided on the task performance.  We all love feedback, feedback-1186347_1280.jpgbut what do we mean by it?  Often feedback is often inferred as being either + positive or – negative.  There is no such thing.  Feedback is what feedback is – an opportunity to learn or improve – that’s it.  So we should be able to take both + and – feedback and not infer this in a binary mode and actually view it as a way of continuous improvement.  But to provide feedback, and actually make it useful, we need to make sure that there is another layer in existence before we offer feedback.  Trust.  If there is no trust between the individuals then they recipient will not take the feedback in its true sense.

I have used this model across organisations and it helps to identify root cause issues of dem-motivated individuals and teams.


Emotional Intelligence And The Impact On Management

Emotional Intelligence and Management

This is a talk I gave some time ago – still apt and applicable today and the subject gains more and more resonance.

In here I present some data that suggests that a measure of emotional intelligence [known as Emotional Quotient EQ] decreases with role / seniority.  It suggests that past management level, EQ falls.

I show this and get a reaction of agreement – based on what individuals have seen from their leaders.  But I really believe that the best leaders demonstrate not only exceptional strategic and business acumen, but also high levels of emotional intelligence.  At the end of the day, they only achieve success through the actions of others.  “Others” need to be motivated and inspired to create followers.  Perhaps we can use emotional intelligence to create willing followers?

Positive / Negative Feedback – Or Just Feedback?

Hackman and Oldham (1976) * identified five factors that enable a person to enrich their job and role:

  • Using a number of skills during the task
  • Completing the entire task rather than segments or small components
  • Understanding the impact of the task on the key stakeholders, both internally and externally to the organization
  • Providing the task holder with increased decision-making and autonomy in completing the task
  • Increasing the feedback provided during and after the task

Regarding feedback, is it positive or negative?  It is neither.  It is what it is, an observation of someone’s behaviour or performance. Good feedback should be given as soon as an event occurs – not at the end of the year during a formal appraisal session. 

Before we can either give or receive feedback between two individuals, there has to be a relationship between them.  If this does not exist then the feedback will not be internalized, or at worse, seen as an attack on someone’s character.

* Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1976). Motivation through the design of work: Test of a theory. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 16, 250-279.

Innovation Through New Voices

Gary Hamel . “Strategy Innovation and the Quest for Value.”
Sloan Management Review. Vol. 39, No. 22 (1998). pp. 7–14. suggests that in order to create an environment that thinks and seeks innovation, new ways, practices and methodologies, it needs to create five preconditions in the organization:

  • New voices: Creating an environment in which all can participate and are encouraged to offer insights, ideas, challenges to the status quo.  We are not all located in the same room, leave aside the same building, so this presents a challenge to an organization operating in the virtual environment.
  • New conversations: The development of dialogue at all levels in the organization looking at the known through new lenses. Asking ourselves why and seeking leaner, practices, products and services.
  • New passions: Giving the employees a stake in their future, motivating them to contribute and rewarding them for their inputs.
  • New perspectives: Get the team to look at the known through new lenses.  Perhaps we have simply missed the blazingly obvious.
  • New experiments: We should try new approaches, and if trialled at small-scale, what do we have to lose?  It it does not work, then study the lessons learned and use them in the future.  If it works, consider scaling up.

I have always been of the opinion that real change is simply the accumulation of small change.  Perhaps we need to use Hamel’s approach to create new approaches within our teams, departments and ultimately our organizations.

Considering Goals And Their Impact Over Time

My definition of what the aim of an organization is to “maximize returns for its stakeholders” .  But over what term?  When we say short or long-term what does this mean and what are the implications for sustainability?

I started thinking about this when reading a HBR article “Capitalism for the Long Term: by Dominic Barton:

If you take a typical business, what does long-term mean?  Three to five years?  This defines the strategic planning activities, allocation of resources, finance initiatives etc.  What about a ten or twenty year timeframe?   This is typically unheard off in the West, but pretty much par for the course in the East, for the larger organization.

So how do these fundamental views of outlook impact sustainability?  If we use the definition of sustainability as being the capacity to endure (, then having a short-term outlook (you decide what short-term means for you) will shape your view on all activities including the purchase and utilization of resources including materials, people, machines etc.  It shapes your finance initiates.  Is the organization seeking suitable short-returns that may increase its exposure to risk, in the pursuit of these returns.  This will shape an organizations approach to sustainability and all activities associated with sustainable practices.  

By its implicit nature, sustainability has a long-term outlook.  If we take the Bruntland Commission of the United Nations, March 20th, 1987, view of sustainable development as being the “the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, then a long-term approach is certainly viewed here.  So what happens when you are driven by the short-term?  The very nature of the markets in which you operate may dictate this and take this out of your control.  If the outlook is short-term, then what impact does this have on the sustainable considerations, your organization may be considering?  Are the organization goals at odds with each other (short-term metrics such as profit and growth versus long-term goals as sustainability)

Barton’s article focuses on the West near obsession on a short-term outlook and if we were able to adopt and consider a longer-term outlook, perhaps this would create better foundation for creating and sustaining growth, profits, allocation and utilization of resources, financing activities, use of personnel.  

If you are driven by short-term goals and measurement indicators, yet want to have a long-term sustainable outlook, what are you doing to maintain balance?

Core Values

If you are UK-based, you may not of heard about Zappos.  They are a fascinating online retailer and a book has been written by Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness.

Zappos website states explicitly there values – a message for their internal employees and externally to the environment in which they operate. They include

  • Deliver WOW Through Service
  • Embrace and Drive Change
  • Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  • Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  • Pursue Growth and Learning
  • Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  • Do More With Less
  • Be Passionate and Determined
  • Be Humble

These are strong, powerful values.  If you examined them you will probably determine your own “favourites”.  From a leadership perspective, I like “Embrace and Drive Change”.   We live in a world that is constantly shaped by change.  Change creates its own challenges and managing change it becomes a high priority for many organizations.  Will the rate of change slow down? 

“Pursue Growth and Learning”.  How will organizations differentiate themselves from their competitors unless they create new products and services which can only be achieved through a continuous program of development from within.  A Results Orientated Work Environment (ROWE), follows this principle.

“Be Humble”.  This is should permeate throughout the organization at all levels of management and is a personal value that comes from within.