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Ask Alan - Leadership


Q - Having moved from a small business to a corporate, I struggle to keep people informed about what I am doing as a leader. How can I help them to understand that actions are taking place, especially when the results are not obvious?

A - Firstly identify who really needs to know, and prioritise those people, so you can focus on the key ones. Then it is about discipline - making regular time to communicate with those key people, and being clear about what you want to communicate to them.


Q - Should we bother with appraisals? No one takes them seriously and no actions come out of them, so what is the point?

A - I am always disappointed to hear this view from a manager, and it is quite common.  It seems that the purpose of the appraisal has been forgotten, and it is just a tick box exercise.  My view is that “the appraisal” is the final summary of an ongoing discussion / review process that you hold with your employees throughout the year.  There are no surprises and the process should include a good deal of looking forward in terms of personal development and career planning (with actions!).  Managers need to be bold enough to influence the organisation to make appraisals valuable and enjoyable for all concerned.


Q - One of my senior team does some excellent things but, particularly recently, they are quite negative in most of the things they do.  How can I get back the positive leader I know?

A - How closely are you listening to this person now?  Or have you closed your ears to their negativity?  Spend some regular time with them, understanding their issues.  Help them decide the importance of each issue, and what can be done about it - can they resolve it, can someone else resolve it, or is it outside of their sphere of influence?  Be clear about what action is being taken, and by whom.  This should lead to more positive outcomes and therefore a more positive individual.  However, if the person continues to be negative, you need to have a performance management discussion with them - set expectations that continuing to be negative is just not acceptable, expressing the impact it has on those around them.  Ask them how they are going to be more positive and hold them accountable.


Q - One of my team is a good performer and gets plenty of positive feedback, but finds it hard to accept constructive criticism.  I see it as helpful, a way to develop yourself - how can I get them to take the same view?

A - I suspect your team member may be a perfectionist. I would start by finding out what they do with the positive feedback, as the answer may also be ‘nothing’. Perfectionists are typically tough on themselves, and external feedback tends to be ‘dumbed down’, whether it is positive or negative. You need to take things back to basics and help them to take all feedback on board, and to see it all as positive. Make sure constructive criticism focuses on an issue, it should not be personal. Potentially underlying the perfectionism is a confidence issue, so this will need attention on a little and often basis.

Q - My sales managers are not delivering their numbers.  How can I get closer to the sales teams without it feeling like I am micro-managing them?

A - You need to be clear about your expectations of your sales managers and coach them to get the best out of their teams.  You can get more involvement in sales if your role is clear - perhaps you want to each see salesperson in action (be at a client meeting), so your role could be as an Executive sponsor on the sale. More likely the team should be used to presenting their sales plans to you and your sales managers on a regular basis. Then you can ask them pertinent questions and coach them directly, while giving yourself more knowledge / confidence about progress towards targets

- Why don’t I get the response I want when I email my staff about urgent problems?

A - Firstly, put yourself in their shoes - would you respond well to an email “telling off”?  For me, email is a useful communication tool, at the right time.  However it is also my least favourite form of communication, for two reasons.  The English language can be interpreted in many different ways, which leads to much mis-communication.  Also when we read emails, we overlay our own emotional state on the message.  So you could write an email really positively, and the recipient could be feeling negative and will read it negatively.  Ouch!  

In short, if you have an important message to deliver to one person, or a small group of people, meet them face to face or pick up the phone.  If you must use email, make sure you follow up to check that the message was understood and received in the manner you sent it.


Q - There are some issues between some of my staff. What can I do to minimise and resolve conflict in the workplace?

A - Handling such issues with employees can be difficult. Be sure that all those in management positions are trained and able to deal with such problems. Discuss any issues with members of staff, allowing them to express their concerns. Make sure you listen carefully to what the problems are, your staff need to know they can talk to you and you will listen and help them to solve their problems.


Q - I’m so busy, but I’m worried that if I delegate the job won’t be done properly...

A - In any work situation there are tasks that must be done by certain people, however if you really look at your tasks honestly you will find that you could delegate more than you think. Yes, you have high standards and yes, your staff might not get it 100% right first time, but once you have briefed them (make sure you do this thoroughly) and helped them complete the task the first time (be open minded if they have done things differently), they will get better and better – maybe even better than you could have done yourself and you will be free to concentrate your efforts where they are really needed.  Ask yourself “if I’m doing the work, who is leading this team”.


Q - My boss has decided to change the way the sales team work and they've come to me complaining that they aren't happy about it. What do I do?

A - Within large corporations, senior managers can often find themselves caught between the decisions made by the board and how to get the best from their team in times of change. The responsibility for keeping their team happy and motivated whilst implementing to the ideas from above can leave any leader feeling somewhat isolated, with no obvious support mechanism. Read more about this in my Blog


Q - My wife is just about to join me as a partner and, naturally, we have different ideas and goals sometimes. What's the best way for us to work together as a couple in the business to ensure we are both motivated and effective in our roles?

A - I have worked with a number of husband and wife teams, many of whom have been effective and successful. But not without some challenges to overcome, due to the complex nature of their ‘multi-faceted’ relationships. To read more click here


Q - Should I let my team work from home?

A - The key thing is that some individuals love flexibility, others love being in the office and others like a mixture of both. So your flexible working policy needs to incorporate the needs of each individual, and what makes them tick. To read more click here


Q - One of my staff only listens to positive feedback and is ignoring the constructive criticism. How can I get them to improve their performance?

A - On further discussion, you are doing all the right things. You have given them a clear job description and objectives to meet. You know they are motivated by quality feedback, and you give a balance of this with improvement areas. But they are not taking the latter seriously. It’s now time for a formal performance improvement plan, and make sure you speak to HR so you follow the correct process.


Q - If an employee is regularly late for work, can I fire them?

A - Ultimately, yes - if you require them to be at work by a set time then they are not doing their job. However, this is usually a sign of poor motivation, so before you fire them you need to ask yourself (and them) “why”. It is likely that the job just doesn’t excite them, but they might have skills that could you used in other, perhaps even new roles. Or the job itself could be changed slightly to suit the employee and the business better. If you do fire them, always follow the correct process.


Ask Alan enables you, our clients, to ask any questions that arise following our work together, or any people related issues that you face in your day to day work.

If you are happy for us to contact you to discuss the issue in more detail remember to include your contact telephone number.

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