Chris Croft's Personal Blog

September 7, 2014

The top ten books that have influenced me most over the years are:

Filed under: Books and Culture, Happiness, Lists, Managing People — Tags: , , — chriscroft @ 6:05 pm

Scott Peck – The Road Less Traveled
Rupert Sheldrake – Seven Experiments that Could Change The World
Susan Jeffers – Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway
James Redfield – The Celestine Prophecy
Rohinton Mistry – A Fine Balance
Ken Blanchard – The One Minute Manager
Eli Goldratt – The Goal
Richard Dawkins – The Selfish Gene
Peter Senge – The Fifth Discipline
Stephen Knight – The Brotherhood
Marlo Morgan – Mutant Message From Down Under

Get them and read them!

August 6, 2014

Cost Reduction – what you need to measure

Filed under: Lists, Managing People — Tags: , , , , , , — chriscroft @ 9:41 am

I wrote this:

http://blog.vistage.co.uk/the-no-nonsense-guide-to-cost-reduction-for-clever-business-leaders

I hope you find it useful

 

CC

June 23, 2014

Which communication method to use?

Which communication method to use?

Use the urgency and the importance of relationship building to choose the best method.
Consider moving up a level or two on the arrows.

April 10, 2014

Making training more effective

Reasons why training sometimes doesn’t make a difference:

(or as much of a dfference as it could and should)

 

The main two are ‘me’ and ‘them’:

 

Me:  “I already do it” (but do you??) / “I already know it” (but you don’t do it!)

Them:  “I would like to do it but I can’t, because of…

a) not enough time

b) it won’t work in our system the way it is at the moment

c) my boss won’t allow it or will undermine it.

 

 

Actions required to prevent or counteract the above:

Managers of those being trained need to do this before:

  • Let each person know what they need to change – why they have been selected for the training.  We all have problems that were not aware of, and might do something about them if they were explained to us.
  • Say they want to see a list of planned actions after the training

 

And this after:

  • Ask the trainer what behaviour changes you could expect to see
  • Ask each delegate “What are you going to do as a result of the training?”
  • And “What are you planning to do as a result of the training?”
  • Later ask “How are you getting on with your planned changes?”
  • If they aren’t doing things right – tell them they need to change
  • Ask “What are the barriers to you doing the things you were shown on the training?”
  • Ask “How can I help with things you already/now know, but aren’t able to do, for whatever reason”
  • Show them / help them if necessary
  • Make sure you are a textbook role model yourself!

January 29, 2014

Net Promoter Score – what you need to know about how it really works

Filed under: Customer Care, Managing People, Uncategorized — Tags: , — chriscroft @ 8:59 am

I discovered something surprising about Net Promoter Scores and they way they are calculated.  The system is as follows:

10 – Promoter
9 – Promoter
8 – Neutral
7 – Neutral
6 – Detractor
5 – Detractor
4 – Detractor
3 – Detractor
2 – Detractor
1 – Detractor
And then your score is calculated by the ratio of promoters to detractors.
http://www.netpromoter.com/why-net-promoter/know/
So if you give your company a score of 8 because you think it’s good, you are actually NOT promoting it!  And if you give it six, because you feel OK about it, or 5 because you are neutral about it, you are actually detracting, and cancelling out one of the rare 9-10 promoters!
This means that if you want to say your company is good you have to give it 9 or 10, nothing else will do.
Conversely, although it’s fine to slag it off if you want to, don’t accidentally slag it off by giving it 5 or 6.
Also you customers and your team members (there is now a thing called an Employee Net Promoter Score) need to know that if they think the company is good then they have to give it a score of 9 or 10, nothing else will do, and that even a 6 is detracting from the score and cancelling our a 9-10.
Tell them this! I don’t think it’s cheating to tell them – they need to know the meaning of their vote.
The best way to do this is to give them a coloured sheet with green amber and red, to show what’s what.
If other companies don’t realise how it actually works, and don’t tell their customers and employees, then you’ll be ahead of the game.
Of course, ideally you’d get real scores of 9 or 10, but in the UK I think it’s hard – we like to keep a few points back just in case, and from a British person 8 is praise indeed!

May 30, 2013

Coaching – practical subjects to cover

Filed under: Lists, Managing People — Tags: , , , , , — chriscroft @ 3:05 pm

Here are some areas of management which I find people often need help with when I coach them:

Time: The five options when you’re too busy
The right way to delegate
Alternatives to delegation – when people aren’t quite ready to be trusted
How to monitor and control without interfering
Self organisation – what kind of lists work beset
Motivation- how good are you, really?
How can I motivate my team better so they work harder even when I’m not around
‘Monkeys’ (when your team give YOU work) and how to deal with them
Types of person and what motivates them
What to do if someone refuses to do a job
What to do if someone is OK but not really good enough
What should a manager be doing every day, every week and every month?
The four step process for telling people things they don’t want to hear
How to deal with hostile body language
Games players – spotting them and dealing with them
The management potato http://youtu.be/foroXR7KFa8
The cost of quality (maybe it would be cheaper to do things better??)
How to fend off an over-demanding boss
Managing a boss who doesn’t give any praise
Putting a financial case in order to make change happen
Meetings – how to run a meeting well, and what to do if they are badly run by someone else

May 14, 2013

100 ways to learn

Filed under: Accredited Courses and Training, Lists, Managing People — Tags: , , , , , — chriscroft @ 4:29 pm

This list was compiled by my colleague Jeremy Hamilton, and it’s brilliant
Contact us for details of how these activities can be done, or even, if you want us to organise one of them!

Formal arranged events

1. Induction courses
2. Briefing sessions
3. Bite size training
4. Short courses
5. Workshops
6. Modular courses
7. Seminars
8. Conferences
9. Refresher sessions
10. Professional skill courses
11. Formal courses
12. Adult learning courses
13. Higher Education courses
14. Planning for retirement

On-the job activities

16. Personal development plans
17. Checklists
18. Manuals
19. On-line help
20. Floor walking
21. Time out
22. Reflective practice
23. On the job training sessions
24. Observation
25. Shadowing
26. Trial and error
27. Coaching
28. Supervision
29. Appraisal
30. Stand in
31. Delegation
32. Job enlargement
33 Role development

34. Re-training

35. Job-swops
36. Observation and feedback

37. Making mistakes
38. National Vocational Qualifications

Self development activities

39. Taking tests
40. Benchmarking
41. Coaching
42. Life coaching
43. Buddying
44. Co-counselling
45. Mentoring
46. Journals
47. Books and other publications
48. Web-browsing
49. TV programmes
50. Videos
51. Voluntary experience
52. Sabbaticals
53. Career breaks
54. e-learning
55. Distance learning
56. Open learning courses

57. Project based post graduate qualifications
58. Research
59. Projects
60. Networking
61. Visits
62. Interviewing

Work experience
63. Back to the floor
64. Secondment
65. Job rotation
66. Task share
67. Trainee posts
68. Development posts
69. Project posts
70. transfer
71. Temporary move
72. Acting up
73. Promotion

74. Work experience in a similar organisation
75. work experience abroad
76. Supporting others

Group or team activities

77. Project group
78. Working party
79. Quality circles
80. Team building exercises
81. Drama based activity
82. Team based learning
83. Problem solving processes
84 . Creative processes
85. Discussion groups
86. Support groups
87. Action learning sets
88. Project boards
89. Partnerships
90. Acting as an inspector
91. Peer reviewing
92. Monitoring/ user groups
93. Simulation exercises
94 Management games
95. Communities of interest
96. Professional networks
97. Local government networks – blogs
98. Service awaydays
99. Focus groups
99. Story telling
100. Succession planning

May 12, 2013

Practical ideas for self development

Filed under: Accredited Courses and Training, Managing People — Tags: , — chriscroft @ 12:44 pm

Practical ideas for self development

Achieving Objectives
Write a list of your strategic objectives – ask your boss about these if necessary
Break each strategic objective down into the tasks that will be required in order to achieve it
Learn about project management – how to break a large task down, estimate the time required for each part, and produce a plan.
Monitor progress against your plan by colouring in a Gantt chart on your wall – is the coloured-in part (completed) keeping up with the “Today” line? This will allow you to spot problems in advance and forecast a new completion date

.
Building Motivation
Ask your staff how things could be improved – and do it
Ask staff what changes they would like to see in you – and do it
Think of something you can thank your staff for, as a team, and do it
Thank each of your staff frequently – “catch them doing something right” – make sure it is based on facts and behaviour rather than feelings
Have a weekly team meeting to discuss news and progress
Write everything down and remember to keep your promises
Coach staff / teach them new skills
Identify someone who you think is good at motivating staff and talk to them
Have lunch / do something sociable with your staff
Make sure to tell your boss when one of your team has done something exceptional

.
Commercial Awareness
Find out the costs of things – how much is an hour of someone’s time, a day of your office, each service interaction etc?
Make graphs (easy using Excel) of your finances – budgets and incomes, and put them on your wall – this will encourage you to think about them
Consider increasing the quality of what you do – what would it cost, and the extra cost be worth it?
Consider reducing the quality of what you do – how much would the saving be? Would it be worth doing?

Creativity
Do something new – tomorrow, …or today
Identify someone who you think is good at it and talk to them
Before deciding on a plan, ask yourself “Are there any other ways I could do this job?”
Ask your team for suggestions on how things could be done differently – and don’t criticise their suggestions
Identify a habit or routine of yours – and try changing it
Identify some creative people who you can use as sounding boards
Visit a different type of organisation and see if their different ways spark off any new ideas for you

Developing Staff
Set your team’s next development review dates
Have all of your team had some self-development this year?
Make a skills matrix for your team – what are the skills you want, and who has got what? Gaps: who can be developed to fill this gap, and/or which gaps can form a development plan for each person?
For each person in your team ask yourself “What can I delegate to this person that will enrich (rather than enlarge!) their job?”
Consider taking someone from your team along to a meeting with you
Rotate jobs around the team
Ask your team what they can coach others in
Find out your team’s learning styles
Identify one area for each of your team members where you can coach them in a new skill
Ask your team what was the last bit of development that they did and what did they get out of it?
Identify someone who you think is good at it and talk to them

Focus on customers
Meet as many customers as possible, as often as possible. Once a year is not enough!
If possible, try being a customer once, or for a day, or at least spend time working with the customers (internal or external) so that you can see what your service looks like from their perspective (for example a programmer would spend a day in Accounts, using the system).
Spend a day “back to the shop floor” – for example a programmer would spend a day on the IT help desk.
Find out what your customers want by surveys or one-to-one discussions.
When making a change, ask yourself “It may be good for us internally, but will it also be good for the customers?” Go back to your office and look at the last thing you changed – was it done for you or the users?
Ask yourself “What is currently annoying customers most, and what can I do about it?” Even if it is not in your area you can call attention to it or campaign internally to get it put right.
How do you monitor customer-satisfaction? As well as doing a once-off survey, set up a system of routinely monitoring outgoing quality and monitoring customer perceptions of quality.

Influencing Others
Identify someone who you think is good at it and talk to them
Observe people in meetings – what tactics are they using and how effective are they?
Practice trying to understand people’s motivations by asking them why they made a particular decision or choice
Practice being a good listener – this means not starting to solve their problem or formulate a reply until after they have finished speaking. Try not talking about yourself at all, but asking them more questions. If asked about yourself, give a brief answer and then say “But what about you?”
Learn about body language and then observe it
Think about a situation when you successfully persuaded someone and review how you did it – what were the effective actions?
Think about a situation where you failed to influence someone – what did you do that hindered you, and what could you have done better?

Information & Technology
How much do you know about IT?
Consider going on a course to learn about the basics / the finer points of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Internet searches, and any Harrow-specific systems

Managing Change
Make a list of the pros and cons of a controversial change.
Give the pros and cons scores and also weightings (how important is each factor) and multiply these – then add up the total. This won’t make the decision for you but t will help you to think about the issues.
Explain the reasons and the benefits of change to others – don’t assume they know these. But also be honest about the work to be done and the risks.
Before introducing anything new, ask as many people as possible- this takes time but implementation is much more likely to succeed.
When a change is forced upon you try to stay positive – ask yourself “What might be the benefits to me of this change?”
As with Project Management, divide a change task into parts, plan the time-scale, and monitor progress on a chart. Everyone involved will be able to see the progress made.

Managing Oneself
Keep a daily jobs to do list
Write everything down
Keep some of your diary free each day for jobs that will crop up – start to say no when your diary is nearly full
Have clear objectives, written down, for your work and your personal life
Book blocks of time into your diary when you will work on important tasks
Try to do some sort of self development every year
Ask your team and colleagues “How can I improve as a manager / colleague?”
Prioritise your work into:
– Small urgent tasks that I must do today
– Planning ahead-type tasks that are important – I must put some time aside in my diary for these
– Things that are not important but are fun – allow yourself a small amount of time only on these
– Crises – as well as dealing with them, ask yourself how you can avoid repeats

.
Managing People
Find out what everyone is doing, and what they think their priorities are.
Ask them to make a list of what they have achieved this week, tried to achieve, and what stopped them
Ask your staff what the barriers are, and try to remove these
Sit down once a week with each member of your team to review progress
Ask your team what standards they think you expect of them
Ask yourself “Are there any poor performance issues which are am avoiding confronting?”
Poor performers: discuss with them whether they are aware of it, and how can you help them to improve?
Poor performers: Talk to HR about it
Delegate more: is there anything that you are holding onto because you like it or because you are too fussy about it?
Delegate something that you haven’t delegated before – give up something!
What did you delegate last? Ask the person how you could have improved the way you delegated it?

.
Respecting Others
Practice being a good listener – this means not starting to solve their problem or formulate a reply until after they have finished speaking. Try not talking about yourself at all, but asking them more questions. If asked about yourself, give a brief answer and then say “But what about you?”
Ask yourself “What do I like about…..” and “What is their unique talent?” for every person who you work with.
Make a conscious effort to thank everyone you work with at least once a fortnight – find something they have done that is good.
Learn to really understand people who are very different to you by associating with them socially every now and then

Communication
Practice being a good listener – this means not starting to solve their problem or formulate a reply until after they have finished speaking. Try not talking about yourself at all, but asking them more questions. If asked about yourself, give a brief answer and then say “But what about you?”
Be concise – can you express your key message in only one sentence?
Use the Spelling & Grammar tool when using Word
Ask a friend to check your most recent document for jargon, passives, long sentences etc
Find an opportunity to give a presentation
Give a talk to your team on the department’s longer term plans
Tell your team about your work priorities

April 19, 2013

Practical actions to increase employee engagement

Filed under: Customer Care, Lists, Managing People — Tags: , , , , — chriscroft @ 12:15 pm

You can’t get great customer service, excellent quality of work, or creativity, without employee engagement. The people in the organisation have to care, otherwise you’re just going through the motions and you won’t survive.
There are lots of ways to STOP people caring – ignore them, reorganise them, freeze their pay, b*ll*ck them, etc. But a more difficult question is how to get them to engage with their work. Paying them a bonus isn’t the answer – that just makes them think about the money rather than the work, and there’s maybe also an implication that the work is so awful that you have to bribe them to do it.
So, how do we get people to care?

After 80,000 in-depth interviews with managers in over 400 companies, the Gallup Organization says that measuring the strength of a workplace can be simplified to these questions.

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
10. Do I have a best friend at work?
11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

from First, Break All the Rules, What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman, Simon & Schuster, 1999.

So we know how to measure where we’re at. I think the question then is, how do we get the scores on the 12 questions to be better? How do we improve in these areas, and if we’re already doing the right things, how do we keep them in people’s awareness day in day out, year in year out?

Here are some thoughts (it’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start and a work in progress)

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?



Clear job description, clear statement of how each person can help the organisation to achieve its strategic goals. Regular meetings where joint plans are agreed – probably weekly, so that people know what is expected of them in terms of actions and objectives.

Clear feedback on what’s good about their performance and what needs to improve, so that people know what is expected of them in terms of quality of work and level of performance. This could be done as an annual appraisal and regular reviews of progress against appraisal goals.

2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?



Apart from getting this right, it would help to ask people if they have the materials and equipment and then to listen to and act upon what they say. Also involve them in planning availability of materials and selecting which equipment to get.

3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?



Again this is part of the appraisal process – discuss with each person what they feel they do best, and compare this with what YOU their manager think they do best. They can’t do this all the time, but you might be able to plan a certain amount of it into each day, and to evolve their job towards doing more and more of their agreed area of excellence. Make sure they know you are doing this, and discuss with them the longer term plans for how you will get them to be doing more and more of it.

4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?



This one is easy – thank everyone once a week! Find something they have done that’s good, and tell them. This requires knowing what they are doing, which probably involves Management By Walking About every day, but you can do that. Even plodders do good things every now and then, and need recognition for sticking at their task. Even people you don’t like need to be thanked. Even people you think are lazy need it, because that’s the way to encourage them to gradually become motivated. In fact, if they are lazy, maybe it’s your fault! Maybe you have failed to hook their enthusiasm?

5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?



Management by walking about, talking to everyone ideally every day but certainly every week, and ask questions and listen, really listen to what they are saying. Take some time with them if they need it. Your time is something that you can give away, that people really do value. Maybe sit and have a cup of tea with them. And act on what they are saying. Remember (maybe even put a note in your diary) and ask later if their cat is OK again now. Send flowers to the cat’s funeral.

6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?



Again a good appraisal system will help with this. How important appraisals are! Discuss the person’s future goals and plans with them, and what the organisation wants for them, how these two can overlap, and what skills and knowledge they will need, and how these will be developed. Development doesn’t have to be expensive; apart from training, face to face or on-line, they could be assigned to work alongside someone to learn from them, you or someone else could coach them in something to do with their work, and they could have a mentor (you or someone else), to help them think about their future more generally.

7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?



Everyone should be involved in decisions wherever possible. Suppose you are going to repaint the office, and you don’t really care about the colour (or even if you do) then instead of just picking a colour like the decisive person you are, it would be better to ask the people in the office what they think, have a discussion as a group, or even delegate the decision to them. How often is a machine bought without the person who is going to use it even being asked? At the very least have a vote occasionally and let everyone put in their opinion.

8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?



This one overlaps a little with Question 1, and the answer is to have a clear statement of how each person can help the organisation to achieve its strategic goals. And regular meetings where joint plans are agreed – probably weekly, so that people know how they can contribute to the overall plan.

For projects a Gantt chart could show the whole project and how and when each person contributes to it.

For processes each person should have ownership of part of the process, and maybe KPIs for their part of the process. Ideally their performance would be shown in financial terms – your section has made 20 tonnes of widgets this week and that has contributed £30,000 to the profit of the company. You have booked in 400 customers this week and those customers were worth a total of £40,000.

9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?



Quality should ideally be measured and publicized, with any problems examined and put right for the future by bringing in better systems and improved skills. Quality would be owned, so that each person has ownership of something, for some aspect of quality. But to get a higher score for this question it’s probably also necessary to hold regular meetings, perhaps quality circles (a team solves one big problem) or quality improvement teams (a team works on improving processes slightly, across the board).

10. Do I have a best friend at work?



How can management make this more likely to happen? Probably by encouraging team work (where teams solve problems together or deliver tasks and projects together), setting up a work environment where people meet as many others as possible (job rotation etc), where they get some time to talk with each other as they work, or during breaks, and where there is a physical environment that encourages socializing – maybe a coffee area, with free coffee. Also perhaps some social activities or even team building events outside of work. There could also be notice boards and intranet sites where spare time activities are encouraged and shared – the company chess club, the company dog training club, the company walking or foreign travel club – so that people with common interests can find each other and get together.

11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?



Clearly this is an appraisal question – what are your plans for the future, and how are you getting on at the moment in your work, etc. You can’t score on this list without a well designed and fully implemented appraisal system. So there should be both informal chats about progress and a more formal appraisal based one. And remember that appraisals aren’t a one a year shock immersion, they should be a drip feed of reviewing progress against the agreed plans.

12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?



Again a good appraisal system will help with this. How important appraisals are! Discuss the person’s future goals and plans with them, and what the organisation wants for them, how these two can overlap, and what skills and knowledge they will need, and how these will be developed. Development doesn’t have to be expensive; apart from training, face to face or on-line, they could be assigned to work alongside someone to learn from them, you or someone else could coach them in something to do with their work, and they could have a mentor (you or someone else), to help them think about their future more generally. You could even have a chart on the wall of everyone’s names, and what they are planning to learn this year, and a bar showing their progress so far.

It’s all standard good management processes, but how easy it is to forget all this stuff when you’ve got the usual every day pressures of jobs to go out, people off sick, emails coming in, and a boss wanting things done right away. But in the end the above list is vitally important – it’s the difference between the team doing everything for you, and you having to push it all along yourself.

April 16, 2013

Managing Upwards

I would divide this into two parts: general good practice when dealing with bosses, and dealing with problem bosses.

First there’s communication style
– Ideally you would tailor your communication style so that they find you easy to deal with, perhaps even like you! Are they in a hurry and wanting a quick summary or are they a thoughtful, detail person?
– Make sure you don’t become high maintenance. Don’t take up too much of their time, don’t check everything with them before you do it (unless they want that!), don’t send them big long reports or emails to read, don’t phone them at times when they are busy or tired or thinking about something else.
– Don’t always come with bad news and problems

Then there’s influencing
a) what’s in it for them, what do they want or need? They have weaknesses too, if you think about it – they need to you help them and do things that aren’t totally in your job description, maybe do longer hours every now and then, they need you to stay motivated in order for you to be creative and work hard, they need to look good to their peers and superiors, they don’t know all the answers so they need your help, etc), and…
b) what style of influencing is best for them? This depends on the type of person they are – are they influenced by facts and logic or by emotions and excitement? Are they risk-averse or are they impulsive and brave?

As bosses become more difficult then the main principles of assertiveness also apply to bosses as well as anyone else – use the 4 step process which is to

1) Understand their situation and say that you do,
2) Say how you feel (worried about letting the side down, feeling demotivated because you don’t have enough effect on performance of the job, etc, so not whingeing or negative but still concerned and not completely happy – this is a powerful second step since they can’t ignore it), then
3) what you want to happen – this makes it easier for them since you are giving them a solution, and makes you look positive, and
4) asking them if they agree, can they see your point of view, is the request reasonable – this commits them to a solution, and enables you to find out if there is any resistance in order to be able to handle it if necessary.

But if your boss is really bad, (as in psychotic / psychopathic / damaged / sadistic / useless, etc, and there are lots of these about), then there are only three options:

train your boss to behave better, using the four step process described above (may take repetition and persistence!)
leave (there’s always another job out there, you have to believe you’re worth of it, and there’s no harm in looking. The times I’ve been pushed I’ve looked back and thought I should have jumped ages earlier! If I had just had the courage!
cease to care … and they should be done in that order – doing a job you don’t care about is the worst outcome! If this happens they’ve won and you’ve lost.

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.